“Woodstock For Atheists”–NPR’s Reason Rally Article

Not a bad article, actually. With all the usual stuff you’ve come to expect in the comments. (more…)

I do have a quibble with Hemant, though–he misrepresents the study he mentions, when he says that “one [poll] showed that people think an atheist is more likely to steal than a rapist.” The study used a fairly standard procedure which takes advantage of the “representativeness heuristic”, in order to tease apart the factors behind the prejudice. The search for the causes of anti-atheist prejudice did *not* rank-order all sorts of unseemly types and find that people think worse of us than of rapists. PZ does a good job of dissecting the study here; there’s a better analysis out there somewhere, but I have forgotten where for now.

Anyway, Hemant misrepresents it (he is most certainly not alone in this; that interpretation was the lede for a great many articles), and in a manner which makes our image much worse than it actually is.

Anyway, go and represent us well in the comments!


  1. Randomfactor says

    As I understand the study, considering an atheist as a hypothetical actor in a situation causes people to make the same logical mistakes in judgement as when they consider a rapist in the same situation.

    But that’s hard to state succinctly except maybe: Atheism bothers people.

  2. Maz says

    “Reason” Rally. Ugh. There is plenty of reason in many religious traditions, and non-religious people probably aren’t better on this score, on average. Someone needs to stand up for those who disagree with the vocal, unified view held by a group of people that includes both vehement atheists and oppressive religious folks (mostly found among Christians in this country): That anything less than an extreme view is a diametrically opposed one.

    OK–that was a shallow, extremist claim on my part, and I retract it. I do think that there are atheists who need for there to be extremist religious people, and vice versa, and that vehemence on either side has been fueling vehemence on the other. I think one can fight oppression by people who want to impose their religious views on others, even believing that there are no gods (why are Western atheists always a-monotheists?), without thinking that it’s important to convince others that there aren’t any gods. Neither extreme view is right for a pluralist, diverse society.

    OK. I said it. Now pile on, folks. :-)

  3. Rieux says

    Maintaining that 2 + 2 = 4, even in the face of (a) crazy blithering fanatics who shriek that it’s 6 and smugly self-righteous persons who scoff at all the “extremists” around them and profess to be bewildered that we can’t all just drop the “vehemence” and agree that it’s 5… is not, in any useful sense, “extremism.”

    Go buy Greta Christina’s new book. She’s written one or two entire chapters for you, Maz.

  4. HA2 says

    “(why are Western atheists always a-monotheists?)”

    We’re not just a-monotheists, we’re atheists. However, we live in a society which is pretty much dominated by monotheistic religion, so those are the religions which we end up speaking up against.

    “that vehemence on either side has been fueling vehemence on the other.”

    Evidence? I mean, religion’s been around, and very vehement and potent and powerful, for thousands of years, literally. It would seem very strange to blame any of the current properties of religion on atheists, considering how it’s been around in its present form for so long.

  5. SallyStrange: bottom-feeding, work-shy peasant says

    “Plenty of reason in religious traditions” BWAHAHAHAHAH Ahh hahahahah

    hee hee


    Sure, sure. You know, just enough reason to keep up with science as human knowledge and culture advance, but not so much that they stop believing in totally unreasonable things like gods and souls and whatnot.

  6. David Hart says

    Maz@2: “Neither extreme view is right for a pluralist, diverse society.”

    Wait – neither the view that at least one god exists, not the view that no gods exist is right for a diverse society? Surely you’d agree that at least one of those views has to be incorrect – and why on earth should anyone be obliged to shut up about it and not make their case for why theirs is the view that accurately reflects reality?

    You wouldn’t say that neither the extreme view that there are over a hundred chemical elements nor the extreme view that there are only four was right for a diverse society. You wouldn’t say that neither the extreme view that diseases are caused by natural phenomena such as pathogenic microbes nor the extreme view that diseases are caused by witchcraft or demonic possession was right for a diverse society.

    In either of these cases, and also in the case of the gods/no gods debate, one of the ‘extremes’ is actually the correct position.

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