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117 Seiten, Note: 1,1
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
2.1 Lost in Negation: Definition(s) of Atheism
2.1.1 Theism, Anti-Religion, Nones
2.1.2 Positive and Negative Atheism
2.1.3 Agnosticism, Apatheism, Apostasy
2.1.4 Philosophical Blossoms of Atheism
2.1.5 Atheism and Secularism
2.2 Atheism in Numbers: Data and Patterns
2.2.1 Methodological Problems
2.2.2 Atheism Worldwide
2.2.3 Atheism in the USA
2.2.4 Social Profile of American Atheism
2.2.5 Summation and Interpretation
2.3 Yesterday's Infidels and Today's Scoffers: The History of American Atheism
2.3.1 In the Beginning: Constitutional Regulations and rational Religion
2.3.2 The nineteenth century: Europe buries God
2.3.3 Deed without Creed: American Nonbelievers push Social Reforms
2.3.4 Survival of the Fittest: Science versus Religion
2.3.5 Atheism among Minorities
2.3.6 The twentieth century: Dawn of militant Atheism
2.3.7 Modernity in the Courtroom: The Scopes Trial
2.3.8 Money talks: “In God We Trust”
2.3.9 American Atheism organized
2.3.10 The New Right: One Nation under God, finally
3.1 Herding Cats: Problems of Organizing Atheists
3.2 Linking Up: Atheism Reorganized
3.2.1 Member Organizations: Who's Who in the Secular Coalition for America
188.8.131.52 The Atheists
184.108.40.206 The Humanists
220.127.116.11 The Secularists
3.2.2 Endorsing Organizations: Backdoor Men of the Coalition
3.2.3 Missing Links: Freedom From Religion Foundation and The Brights
3.2.4 Interim Result
3.2.5 Social Networks: Getting Acquainted in the Cyberspace
18.104.22.168 Meetups Dot Com: Local Atheist Organization
22.214.171.124 No God Blog Dot Com: Major Organizations Online
126.96.36.199 Why Does God Hate Amputees Dot Com: Personal Web Pages
3.3 Reaching Out: No more atheists in closets
3.3.1 Freethought Action: Ads and Billboards
3.3.2 Morality Projects: Thank God, my Neighbor is an Atheist
3.3.3 The OUT Campaign: Scarlet Letter A
3.3.4 Selling Atheism: Visibility and Merchandising
3.4 Building Up: The Community of Reason
3.4.1 Religion is Bullshit Dot Com: Profanity
3.4.2 Losing my Religion Dot Com: Support Groups
3.4.3 Foundation Beyond Belief Dot Org: Atheism Welfare
3.4.4 Darwin Day Dot Org: Calendar for Atheists
3.4.5 Secular Celebrations Dot Com: Atheism and the Circle of Life
4.1 Identity: Atheism as a Social Movement
4.2 Orientation: The Age of Science
4.3 Mission: The Secular Model
6.1 Primary Sources:
6.2 Secondary Sources
illustration not visible in this excerpt
“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good.”
“America is a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers.”1 (Inaugural Address of President Barack Obama)
“This is a war that can only be won by the gradual erosion of ALL religion by mocking, satire and criticism until religion is sidelined as a silly freak activity. The Islamic extremists who come to murder in the west will lose support only after moderate Islam has lost support. That will only happen in the west when moderate Christianity has lost support.”2
(Facebook user Gary in the group “Atheism”)
A specter is haunting the United States of America - the specter of atheism. More than ever, those who do not believe in God are linking up and speaking out. Polls like the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) report that the nones in the population nearly doubled: from 8% in 1990 to 15% in 2008.3 Furthermore, local and national atheist organizations have united to form the Secular Coalition for America (SCA). They file lawsuits and lobby in Washington for the rigorous separation of church and state. Fed up by the Bush administration’s embrace of the religious right, especially in the post-9/11 era, atheism is now a viable alternative in the United States. A spate of polemic pamphlets of the so-called “four horsemen”4 also popularized the notion that non-belief is not just an argument: In 2004, author Sam Harris proclaimed The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, then in 2006 Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by philosopher Daniel Dennett, The God Delusion by biologist Richard Dawkins and Harris' follow-up Letter to a Christian Nation spoke out while in 2007 journalist Christopher Hitchens revealed: God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Just like their titles imply, religion is presented as a sickness, as, quite simply, the root of all evil while the authors do their best to disprove any kind of deity with scientific methods.
Since the USA is a nation at war, the language of the (anti-)religious debate, it seems, has become militarized, too: The atheists line up as “allies in the battle against creationism”5, they started “the fight to keep God out of science”6 while atheism is “perhaps our only chance for peace.”7 In an article for Wired Magazine, Gary Wolf dubbed this aggressive pro-science/anti-God movement “New Atheism.”8 Dawkins, the most prominent atheist of the four, explains the movement's point of view at large in a CNN interview: “I am an atheist with respect to the Judeo-Christian God because there is not a shred of evidence in favor of the Judeo-Christian God - or indeed any other god. [...] Neither I nor any other atheist that I know ever threatens violence, we never threatened to fly planes into sky- scrapers, we never threaten suicide bombs. We are very gentle people.”9
Finally, atheism did go uptown: All of the five books mentioned above were best- sellers in the Anglo-Saxon language area, enjoyed an enormous media attention and attracted many imitators10 as well as counterparts.11 The success of this “mass-market atheism”12 continued at the box office with feature films like The Golden Compass (2007) and wannabe-documentaries mocking religion such as Religulous (2008). Atheists gave their visibility a boost with advertisements on American billboards13 and public buses in New York City saying “You don’t have to believe in god to be a moral or ethical person.”14
The New York Times reported about friendly atheists “volunteering at food pantries, picking up roadside trash, and earning atheist groups recognition on adopt-a-highway signs.“15 The public visibility of the growing community of atheists reached its climax when President Barack Obama included for the first time in history ‘nonbelievers’ among American beliefs in his inaugural address. His acknowledgment recognized a group of people who had previously been invisible in American politics. To this day, non-believers are still stigmatized. The frequently quoted Bible passage above captures the essence of how atheism is seen in society. Atheists, surveys show, are “the most mistrusted group.”16 They are branded antisocial, unnatural and unpatriotic; disbelief is associated with immorality, communism, and nihilism. Sociologist Phil Zuckerman reports about findings where “people gave lower priority to patients with atheist or agnostic views than to Christian patients when asked to rank them on a waiting list to receive a kidney [while] other surveys have found that most Americans would not vote for non-religious presiden-tial candidates.“17
The appeal of the New Atheism to a mainstream audience led philosopher Ronald Aronson to interpret this intellectual movement as a “cultural signal of the end of the right- wing/evangelical ascendancy.”18 On the one hand, the New Atheists are appreciated because they “foster a renewed sense of respect for science (especially when it comes to culturally controversial topics such as the origin of life and humanity, embryonic stem-cell research, and global climate change), spur on social progress, and empower the growing but reviled non-theistic minority to find its voice in America’s public square.”19 On the other hand, their black-and-white simplicity is criticized. “The New Atheists,” Zuckerman reviews, “throw the baby out with the bath water in certain instances.”20 Atheist and philo- sopher David Eller even sees them as just “profitable and vociferous,”21 an outdated model of heresy with nothing new to offer at all:
The poorly-named new atheism may actually prove to be the last shots of the old atheism - the last arguments, the last struggles against someone else's god(s), the last nay-saying. The future of atheism is not in disproving god(s), but, as with the nontheistic and pre-theistic religions, in not talking about god(s) at all. It is in creating new institutions, new practices, new habits, new celebrations, new ways of life that have nothing whatsoever to do with god(s).22
What Eller describes as ‘the future of atheism’ has been labeled “new new atheism”23 by Peter Steinfels in the New York Times. It recognizes people that are not arguing against the belief in God, but whose atheism is inclined towards a multicultural approach. These atheists want a secular America acknowledging the separation of state and church, as Religion Dispatches argues: “They [new new atheists] worry, that Obama’s renewal of the Bush Faith-Based Initiative in the new Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships has not ruled out proselytizing and discriminatory hiring for religious social service programs that are granted Federal dollars.”24
In order to avoid the still stigmatized and negative-sounding term atheist, Paul Geisert and Mynga Futrell relabeled the people free of supernatural authority as Brights in 2003. With the support of Dawkins and Dennett, the two Californian activists established a movement for all those whose “ethics and actions are based on a naturalistic worldview.”25 The aim of this think tank is to get atheists, freethinkers, and humanists under one roof and “to refurbish the image and broaden the civic influence of those who don’t believe in God.”26 In addition to supporting several national and international organizations, atheists have established their national lobby, think tanks, social and dating networks, college groups, radio programs, summer camps, and even their own “out” campaign, inspiring people to come out of the closet as atheists. All these aspects shall be addressed in the following paper that argues the social movement of contemporary atheism as one secular community - let us call it the Community of Reason27.
Odd as it may sound, this paper is not interested in the existence of God or gods.
Neither will this paper be a work of advocacy of atheism nor of religion and faith but a not tendentious culture-scientific study on contemporary atheism in the USA and its model of secularism as it is presented in the Internet. Only recently, a growing body of research and scholarship has begun to emerge that focuses specifically on the non-religious. Among them, Atheists: A Groundbreaking Study of America ’ s Nonbelievers by Hunsberger and Altemeyer, Secularism and Secularity: Contemporary International Perspectives edited by Kosmin and Keysar, The Cambridge Companion to Atheism edited by Michael Martin, and the essays of the two-volume set Atheism & Secularity edited by Zuckerman mainly supply this paper with their findings in order to explore, analyze and discuss the state of contemporary atheism in the United States of America.
The first chapter explores the recent findings within three categories: definition, statistics, and history. The exploration of what atheism is will be continued by an approach to the theism that atheism stands in contrast to, with the argument of agnosticism and the different interpretations of secularity. Furthermore, it is necessary to explore the different philosophical sprouts that feature atheism in order to reach a better understanding of the topic. The following statistics give an overview of recent numbers and patterns on atheism worldwide and, of course, in the United States. Of particular interest are the different interpretations and evaluations these findings offer to certain groups of interest. Since atheism has been around as long as the belief in gods has existed, the exploration of the history of atheism will be limited to its emergences in the United States. The focus is on political and social actions as well as the difficulties faced by people branded atheists. This is relevant to put the current phenomenon of atheism into a broader context and to under- stand the bad reputation, ongoing insulting and fearing of atheists.
Chapter two serves to fill a gap in analyzing the linking up, reaching out, and building up of the Community of Reason online. The atheist’s use of the dominant communication vehicle of our time, the Internet, has been completely ignored both by scholars and publishers.28 The multifarious yet unified American atheism advertises itself on blogs, homepages, social networks and self-made podcasts or YouTube videos. The online presentation of atheism is just formidable. Therefore, this paper avoids any deeper introduction to the mechanics of the Internet and Web 2.0 but straightforwardly analyzes the political, social, and cultural issues atheists put online. The analysis starts with the general problems of getting atheists organized and the introduction of formal organizations and how they managed to link up. It follows an analysis of their online public relations in order to gain more members and to help the community to grow. The final part of the analysis takes a look on the secular guidelines and ceremonies the community has to offer as their model of secularity.
The two chapters that explored and analyzed the contemporary online atheism are tied up in the final chapter. There shall be a rather critical discussion on the community's identity, orientation and mission. It will come out that hard secularists respectively militant atheists, like Gary in the third quotation, are the dominant voices in the debate of making the United States more secular. The discussion will classify their atheism, estimate in how far it is a question of a civil rights movement and what is missing in their model of a secular nation.
The chapter is concerned with those broad topics of atheism that are relevant for this paper. The exploration of atheism will be therefore limited to the atheism of the United States of America. What kind of theism is opposed, how many non-religious people or atheists are statistically known and how did atheism develop in the history of the United States. This exploration is important for the later discussion and interpretation of the atheism analyzed in the following chapter.
On the face of it, atheism is an easy to define term. The word derived from the Greek a - for no/without and theos for god to describe a person that believes there is no God or gods.29 In a single word: godless. However, upon deeper inspection, things can get complicated. Scholars, clerics and atheists themselves all make a fuss about the proper definition of atheism. The problem of orientation among the many phenomenons atheism can occupy is due to atheism being “a collective term, not an essential concept.”30 Without diving too far into the philosophical deep waters, this chapter shall give the necessary overlook about the theism the contemporary atheism opposes. It will discuss the world views or positions connected with or motivated by this atheism and its general relation to the concept of secularism. The sources of definition mainly stick to leading philosophers of contemporary atheism - Michael Martin, David Eller, and Julian Baggini.
Developed in the history of Western societies, atheism depends upon the context of the times - which god or gods are worshiped by the majority of the populace but whose existence is denied by the atheists. For instance, in ancient Rome, the early Christians were originally condemned as atheists because they did not worship the Roman deity Jupiter and his fellow gods and goddesses.31 Today, belief in Jupiter is not the default religious orientation. Ironically, Christianity is the main theism or religion most Western atheists oppose in contemporary America. The modern theism is described by Martin as a “belief in a personal God who takes an active interest in the world and who has given a special revelation to humans.”32 This theism stands in contrast with deism, the belief in God as the great clockmaker who created the world and then had no further interaction with it. This theism is also limited to a single God, therefore it is in contrast with the polytheism of the ancient Greek as well.33 Finally, this theism is in contrast with pantheism, the view that God is identical with nature.34 The affirmation of such an interventionist deity is the central core of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The belief in this traditional all-good, all- powerful, and all-knowing Abrahamic God is rejected by all various kinds of contemporary atheism.
The meaning of atheism at the time, however, is extended beyond the question of God's existence. By now, atheism is accompanied, as Baggini describes it, “by a broader rejection of any supernatural or transcendental reality (i.e. immortal souls, life after death, ghosts).”35 Atheism is therefore commonly understood as the denial of religion in general. Eller argues, that the phenomenon of atheism becoming a-religion or anti-religion is due to the long-lasting overgeneralization of theism in Western society:
Through most of Western history people have only known one religion (Christianity) or even only one variety of that religion (Catholicism) […]. 'The Church' sought, and for the majority of the Christian era achieved, a monopoly of religion. People knew about Judaism (also theistic) and occasionally about Islam (also theistic), so it seemed to them - and was urged to them - that religion was theism and that theism was religion. Even worse, religion was monotheism, and monotheism was religion.36
The consequent rejection of atheists to believe in anything spiritual or beyond empirical evidence includes the transcendental conceptions of Hinduism and Buddhism as well. Paradoxically, even atheistic religions such as Jainism and Confucianism are rejected. This approach is not maintained by Martin. Although the theological beliefs of a religion must be opposed, he claims, “this is compatible with an admiration for other aspects of the religion.“37 In Martin’s opinion, atheism and religion do not necessarily stand in opposition to one another and therefore atheism does not need to be anti-religion.
In 1968, G. M. Vernon called the people with no ear for the metaphysical argument “the religious nones.”38 Kosmin and Keysar refer to Vernon's term and define the nones as “those who profess no explicit religious identity or affiliation, those who substantially avoid public or private behavior associated with transcendental ideas.”39 Furthermore, they argue, these unchurched people are not a homogeneous group. Only small proportions are die-hard atheists and “all but a negligible number of Nones are, in one way or another, 'religious' or 'spiritual.'”40 Therefore, Kosmin and Keysar support Martin and argue that atheists are wrongly lumped together with people indifferent to religion. However, the term atheism is of such great popularity that its undifferentiated use carries on. The level of anti- religion that becomes hostile to religion is then again even called “militant atheism” and is characterized by “a desire to wipe out all forms of religious belief.”41
Next to the term ‘nones,’ the expanded atheism that points to the falsity of all religions has numerous other synonyms attached to itself: unbelief, disbelief, a-religion, or irreligion - the negative prefix changes, but the song remains the same: religion, no thanks! Contemporary atheists identify themselves with these terms and use them without any closer differentiation. This paper sticks to the term atheism referring to people that deliberately negate the existence of God or gods as well as any concept of spirituality.
As was suggested above, understanding of atheism varies between thinkers and positions. Contemporary atheists argue that atheism only denotes a lack of theistic belief, rather than the active denial or claims of certainty it is often associated with. Martin defines atheism entirely in terms of belief. He refers to the classification of the Catholic school philosophy and distinguishes between positive and negative atheism. This distinction is not judgmental in terms of good and bad atheism but sticks to the original Latin translation of the words meaning set and not set. This distinction is sometimes also called strong (positive) and weak (negative) atheism. Negative atheism is simply the lack of theistic belief, it does not imply that no such entity actually exist. Positive atheism is the asserted disbelief in God, it is stronger in the sense that it claims belief in God or gods is unjustified and false.42 This approach to a variety of atheistic positions serves the different conceptions of a theistic God. Martin explains: “Thus, a person might maintain that there is good reason to suppose that anthropomorphic gods such as Zeus do not exist and therefore be a positive atheist with respect to Zeus and similar gods. However, he or she could, for example, be only a negative atheist with respect to Paul Tillich's God.”43
This elaborate position is rejected by Eller. For Eller, the distinction is simply between theism and atheism. He confronts the false dichotomy of not believing in God or gods and believing that there is no such thing as God or gods: “Either one claims that there is such a thing as god(s) and believes in them, or one claims that there is no such thing as god(s) and does not believe in them.”44 Eller argues that atheists do not believe in the non- existence of God or gods but simply lack a god-concept: “atheism says one thing and one thing only: that there is no such thing as god(s).”45 However, Eller offers a distinction, too; namely between anthropological atheism and argumentative atheism. The first being “the lack of any god-concept in a culture or religion” and the later “the rejection of the god- concept proffered by the theistic religion in one's culture.”46 This serves Eller's hint to the numerous religions in the world that are natural atheisms since they do not include a god- concept - in contrast to the Western societies where theism is the default position and atheism a minority position. Logically, for Eller the two approaches negative and positive atheism are only necessary for argumentative atheism but are inefficient for the proper understanding of atheism in general.
Another use of positive atheism is supported by Baggini. In his approach positive atheism is understood as an affirmative outlook and makes a stand against the prejudice that atheism could only exist as a parasitic rival to theism or spirituality. In contrast to the militant atheism, this positive atheism shows an understanding that religious people have reasons to believe but claims that “atheism is the view best supported by the evidence of experience.”47
In 1869, the English philosopher Thomas Huxley invented the term agnostic to express his idea about the limits of human knowledge:
Agnosticism is not a creed but a method, the essence of which lies in the vigorous application of a single principle. [...] Positively the principle may be expressed as, in matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it can carry you without other considerations. And negatively, in matters of the intellect, do not pretend the conclusions are certain that are not demonstrated or demonstrable. It is wrong for a man to say he is certain of the objective truth of a proposition unless he can produce evidence which logically justifies that certainty.48
Huxley's term was taken up by Herbert Spencer to postulate that the existence of God is unknowable. The American religious historian Sidney Warren made agnosticism a center position on a belief spectrum with atheism on its left and theism on its right end.49 By 2006, Richard Dawkins talked of agnostics as “namby-pamby, mushy pap, weak-tea, weedy, pallid fence-sitters.”50 Obviously, the term has been hijacked from its original meaning to its current use. From a scientific method it is now in popular usage to define a person who says he does not know if there is a God or not.
This etymological evolution of agnosticism is supported by Baggini. Agnosticism, he argues, is “the suspension of belief or disbelief in God.”51 For Martin, as well, agnosticism is a position between believing or disbelieving that God exists. He furthermore distinguishes two kinds of agnosticism: skeptical agnosticism and cancellation agnosticism. Referring to the ‘side’ the unsettled person leans, the first kind describes the view that there are “no good reasons for believing God exists and none for believing that God does not exist” whereas the cancellation agnosticism is the view that there are “equally good reasons for believing both theism and atheism.”52 Eller rejects all these new approaches. He denies that agnosticism is either a belief or a third position on the theism/atheism spectrum or that there is a spectrum at all. Eller rather refers to the original formulation of Huxley and interprets agnosticism as “a means of arriving at a position.”53 Furthermore, he asserts that agnosticism, since its hesitating and thinking also means not believing in God or gods, is “in the everyday sense implicit or tacit or tentative atheism.”54
There is an urgent need for a term describing a person who has not yet made up his mind about the existence of God. Rationalist, as suggested by Stein,55 might serve that need in a less confusing way than agnostic does. However, agnosticism made its way into the popular usage and is supported by many scholars. Therefore, the term shall be used it this paper to describe the ‘fence-sitters’ as well.
Apatheism is similar to agnosticism in that it is also neither belief nor disbelieve - but simply the lack of interest towards the question of God or gods. This I-really-don't- care-approach is also called ‘practical atheism’ and offers the same amount of disinterest towards both theism and atheism. This distinguishes the practical from the theoretical atheism, which explicitly posits arguments against the existence of gods, responds to theistic arguments, offers therefore theoretical reasons for rejecting gods and represents atheism knowingly as an attitude towards life.56
Apostates belong to the large group of nones. In the book Falling from the Faith - Causes and Consequences of Religious Apostasy, apostasy refers to those people “who held a religious identity at one time, but who now have rejected that identity.”57
Atheists frequently attribute to themselves a range of terms that suggest numerous beliefs about the world. Among them the most common are: humanism, materialism, naturalism, rationalism, and scientism. These sophisticated philosophies shall be explored briefly focusing on their relationship to atheism. For Baggini, humanists are “simply atheists who believe in living purposeful and moral lives.”58 Although his understanding of atheism and humanism is coterminous, he just avoids the ambiguous term humanist for less confusion. He acknowledges the phenomenon of people calling themselves ‘Christian humanists’ as well as the trend of anthropocentrism that some humanists celebrate.59 Eller interprets the term equally: “Let it be said that not all humanists are atheists […], but presumably all atheists are humanists, since what else could they be?”60 Materialism (or physicalism) and naturalism are stronger than atheism, Evan Fales explains: “They [physicalism and naturalism) entail atheism, conceived (minimally) as the denial that there is an all-powerful, omniscient, perfectly good disembodied personal being who has created the physical universe. Naturalism and physicalism are, therefore, natural allies of atheism, and offer a philosophical framework within which atheism finds a natural home.”61
Baggini adds: “Most atheists are physicalists only in one rather general sense. That is to say, their atheism is motivated at least in part by their naturalism, a belief that there is only the natural world and not any supernatural one.”62 Baggini points to naturalism as the heart and root of atheism and goes one step further: for him naturalism is rooted in rationalism which is therefore even more fundamental to the origins of atheism. Therefore, a naturalist atheist does not have to be a physicalist but will be a rationalist.
Since a tool to the rational explanation of the world is science, atheism is often mis- taken to pay tribute to a supposed superiority of science. Especially in the contemporary debate about the existence of God, scientism - the view that especially natural science has authority over all other interpretations of life and can proof facts beyond its scope - has rebound. Such scientific thinking is often identified as an ideology or even a kind of creed. In his dissertation Science as Religion - Scientism in the East German Process of Secularization (Wissenschaft als Religion - Szientismus im ostdeutschen Säkularisierungs- prozess), German sociologist of culture Thomas Schmidt-Lux argues that the scientific world view within the atheistic GDR ideology did not only aim to provide the people with cognitive faculty but “simultaneously had in mind to alienate them from the churches - in the broadest sense science should replace Christianity.”63 In order to push secularization, science was propagated and forced as superior idea to religion. Scientism was the important movement in the process of making East Germany more secular. Schmidt-Lux centralizes the characteristics of scientism to three dimensions: “Scientism is therefore understood as a totalitarian world view that rises in reliance on scientific principles and in explicit competition with (in the European case) Christian religion to the exclusive claim to the instruction for action, meaning and interpretation of the world.”64
Although atheism is only a presupposition of the philosophical outlooks explored above, it is often falsely defined by theists and other disputants as a self-contained belief system, a religion itself. This misconception about atheism is refused by all scholars. “Atheism is not a faith position”, Baggini makes clear, “because it is belief in nothing beyond which there is evidence and argument for.”65 Baggini points to an etymology nuance and distinguishes between belief and faith: the first is an opinion, the last one a mutual trust. Martin agrees and feels sure to proclaim: “Atheism is not the religion of the past, the present, or future because it is not a religion at all.”66 Eller, one more time, expresses his discomfort with the term belief: “Absence of a belief, even active rejection of a belief, is not itself a belief; if it were, then believers would have more not-beliefs (i.e., in other religious entities across the world) than beliefs”67 In other words: Atheism is as much a religion as bald is a hair color - as a fond drawing of contemporary atheist goes. The point scholars make is, that atheism does not have a doctrine at all and atheists certainly do not deny that gods exist, they just refuse to believe - like the animist who lacks any notion of God or gods. Or, as Eller's favorite example mocks the debate: “The rejection of the Santa-belief is not the belief in no-Santa.”68
In his book Living without God - New Directions for Atheists, Agnostics, Secularists and the Undecided, Ronald Aronson uses the term 'secularist' to “embrace all the atheists, agnostics, skeptics, humanists, unbelievers, or freethinkers, the number of Americans who find 'meaning and value in life without looking to a god.'”69 Alas, this desirable roundup is far too ambiguous. Kosmin and Keysar point out that “both secularity (as a description of individual orientation) and secularism (as a description of society) are far more complicated, even paradoxical, than had been recognized.”70 Since there are many ways of being secular, the relationship between atheism and secularism is more than complicated.
Phil Zuckerman defines a secular person as “someone who is non-religious, irreligious, or generally uninterested in, indifferent to, or oblivious to religious beliefs, activities, and organizations.”71 However, on the same page, he remarks the important notion that “someone can be secular and yet not be an atheist.”72 This notion ties in to the findings of Kosmin and Keysar that “the majority of secularists are religious in a sense [that they] have theistic beliefs and concerns.”73 Therefore, secularism is not the equivalent of atheism. Secularization - “the historical process of urbanization, industriali- zation, rationalization, bureaucratization, and cultural/religious pluralism through which society moves away from the 'sacred' and toward the 'profane'”74 - is an ample process that does not necessarily end up in an antithetical position. According to Charles Taylor, the secularization theory is concerned “with explaining various facets of secularity 1 (the retreat of religion in public life) and 2 (the decline in belief and practice), […] and secularity 3 (the change in the conditions of belief).”75 Taylor's secularization comes with the rising of a humanist alternative that also leaves the place of the religious questionable. “Secular”, as Eller helpfully argues, “means religiously neutral.”76 He points to the separation of state and church and recognizes that also “many good theists support the secularization of the American government.”77 The disappearance of religion from social territories it formerly occupied is not atheism per se, but the demanded religious neutrality is the atheists main aim. This assumption is supported by Baggini: “The over-whelming majority of atheists do not want to see an atheist state but a secular one, in which matters of religion and belief are not regulated by government but left to individual conscience, in line with the broadly liberal tradition of individual liberty. The state should only intervene in religious matters to counter extremism which threatens the liberty of its citizens.”78
However, church-state separation is only one aspect of secularism. Kosmin and Keysar unravel the commonality of the secularism phenomenon and define it as a “legal recognition of individual liberty and autonomy, freedom of thought and religion, peaceful coexistence of social groups, aspiration for consensus in much of the public space, respect for the social contract, and a general acceptance that religious laws should not take prece- dence over civil ones.”79 They offer a distinction between soft and hard secularism - with the lines naturally blurred. Kosmin and Keysar define the soft secularism as a social live- and-let-live-attitude and attribute it to the majority of the American religious nones. The soft secularism includes liberal religionist and excludes the convinced atheist. Hard secularism, Kosmin and Keysar explain, is hostile to religious beliefs and institutions. They mention the state-enforced secularization of the former USSR but also today's Dawkins and Michael Newdow as a case in point. Atheism is the logical conclusion of hard secularism. Kosmin's and Keysar's model to secularism aims at an international perspective and presents the notion that next to the theoretical boundary with theocracy there is hard secularism at the other end of soft secularism.80
Focusing on the U.S.A., this paper mainly deals with secularism as the opposition to an established religion and religious hegemony in the political and public sphere. It will be of interest how atheists participate in spreading secularization within the American society and how their secular outlook is shaped.
Obviously, there are many strands to atheism. Paul Pruyser noted “the complexity of unbelief” as early as 1974 and claimed: “unbelief is at least as diversified as religious belief.”81 Therefore, this chapter introduced atheism as an imprecise term and offered diverse interpretations by various scholars. One reason why atheism is so complex is its enhancement within related but distinct concepts. Frank L. Pasquale uses a fine metaphor to abstract this relation:
'Atheism' and 'secularity' are windows into a complex domain in human ideas and affairs. The former is comparatively narrow (at least semantically, if not always as used); the latter is somewhat broader. There are other windows into this domain, each with a distinctive slant, such as irreligion, religious doubt, unbelief or non-belief, freethought, agnosticism, (secular) humanism, rationalism, materialism, philosophical naturalism, and (religious) skepticism, among others. What these terms have in common - from a negative vantage and to varying degrees - is non-affirmation, rejection, or doubt concerning theistic, supernatural, or (ontologically) transcendental ideas and phenomena or something called 'religion.' From a positive vantage, and to varying degrees, they reflect what intellectual historian James Thrower has called an 'alternative tradition' in human thought about the nature of what exists (and probably or definitely does not exist) — call this 'naturalistic' or 'this-worldly.'82
The vivid character of contemporary atheism shall become clearer in the following part dealing with recent social scientific research concerning who tends to be an atheist as well as what they tend to believe and do. As final attempt to depict atheism theoretically, a statement from one of the analyzed major organizations, the American Atheists (AA), shall be offered: “Atheism may be defined as the mental attitude which unreservedly accepts the supremacy of reason and aims at establishing a life-style and ethical outlook verifiable by experience and scientific method, independent of all arbitrary assumptions of authority and creeds.”83
Since American atheism has not been very popular in the field of social scientific research, one does not find many examples of objective empirical studies. This chapter explores the recently available findings of surveys concerning rates of non-belief in God worldwide and in the USA. Furthermore, the latest sociological records concerning the identities, values, and behaviors of people avowing themselves as atheists shall be of interest as well as the reports of surveys among secular group affiliates.
First of all, a comment about methodological problems. Determining what percent- age of a given society does or does not believe in God is not as easy to find out as party affiliation or rates of unemployment. Zuckerman observes a bunch of methodological problems: Social scientific conclusions are uncertain, based upon statistics that are not plainly indicative. Furthermore, he points to the problem of low response rates that makes a generalization to the wider society impossible; so does the problem of nonrandom samples that might exclude certain members of the given society and, Zuckerman argues, there is the problem of adverse political or cultural climate that alters data also in the USA: “Even in democratic societies without governmental coercion, individuals often feel that it is necessary to say that they are religious, simply because such a response is socially desirable or culturally appropriate. For example, the designation “atheism” is stigmatized in many societies; even when people directly claim to not believe in God, they still eschew the self-designation of 'atheist.'”84
The French historian Georges Minois, a leading expert for history of religion, argues in his book History of Atheism that since the line between believers and non- believers blurs more and more, the problem of terminology needs to be addressed. How the term atheist is defined has a significant impact on the number of people who will count themselves in this category. Moreover, Minois criticizes the simplicity if not to say absurdity of religious statistics since the crunch question has too many answers for an empirical study: “If there is a phenomenon that can not be grasped in numbers then it is the religious beliefs.”85
Nevertheless, objective statements about subjective realms as well as specific tendencies within a society are possible as Kosmin and Keysar, for instance, show in their study Religion in a Free Market. They offer a concept that distinguishes between religious or secular outlook: “People can be asked directly to describe whether they think their outlook is essentially religious or secular. Their replies to this question yield a distribution of answers that readily appear to be associated with a whole host of other indicators of opinion, belief, affiliation, association, and practice as well as demographic attributes. Thus great insights can be gleaned about the diverse mindscape of the American population as a whole.”86
Depending on how narrow the confines, the total number of non-believers in God is somewhere between 500 and 750 million.87 In other words, Zuckerman states: “[N]onbelievers in God as a group come in fourth place after Christianity (2 billion), Islam (1.2 billion), and Hinduism (900 million) in terms of global ranking of commonly held belief systems.”88 Zuckerman reports a much lower concentration of atheism and secularity in poorer, less developed nations. His findings present the following picture:
[A]theism and secularity are hardly discernible in the nations of Africa. Latin America is also quite religious, with the only countries of secular note being Argentina, where […] only 39 percent of Argentines claim that religion is 'very important' in their lives, and Uruguay, where 13 percent of the population does not believe in God. Atheism and secularity are also minimal throughout the Arab World. The only nation of secular significance in the Middle East is Israel; 37 percent of Israelis are atheist or agnostic and 75 percent of Israelis define themselves as 'not religious' or having a 'non-religious orientation.' Survey data of religious belief in China is extremely unreliable, with estimates of high degrees of atheism most likely being exaggerations. Figures of between 8 and 14 percent of Chinese people being atheist are probably more accurate. Although strong secular movements do exist within India, [...] only 5 percent of Indians do not believe in God, with 88 percent of Indians regularly engaging in prayer and ⁄ or meditation. The BBC Survey (2004) also found that 30 percent of South Koreans do not believe in God, while Eungi (2003) reports that 52 percent of South Koreans do not believe in God. […] Concerning North America, 28 percent of Canadians are secular, and between 19 percent and 23 percent do not believe in God.89
Number one among the top fifty countries containing the largest percentage of people who identify as atheist, agnostic, or nonbeliever in God is Sweden (46-85%). Sweden is followed by Vietnam (81%), Denmark (43-80%), Norway (31-72) and Japan (64-65%).90
In general, Western societies, especially European ones, have markedly high rates of atheism and secularity.91 These findings are supported by Hunsberger's and Altemeyer's survey of religious service attendance: 93% of Japanese, 92% of Swedes, 91% of Russians, 90% of Norwegians and 89% of Dans never or rarely go to church.92 These numbers, with the exception of Vietnam and Russia, back up the thesis of Norris and Inglehart that “the process of secularization […] have occurred most clearly among the most prosperous social sectors living in affluent and secure post-industrial nations.”93
For the United States of America, Norris and Inglehart account high degree of religious belief, because: the United States is […] one of the most unequal post-industrial societies. Relatively high levels of economic insecurity are experienced by many sectors of U.S. society, despite American affluence, due to the cultural emphasis on the values of personal responsibility, individual achievement, and mistrust of big government, limiting the role of public services and the welfare state for basic matters [...]. Many American families […] face risks of unemployment, the dangers of sudden ill health without adequate private medial insurance, vulnerability to becoming a victim of crime, and the problems of paying for long-term care of the elderly.94
These disproportional socioeconomic conditions may serve as one explanation why the wealthy USA hit only place 44 on Zuckerman's list of top fifty nonbeliever countries. Sandwiched between Portugal (4-9%) and Albania (8%), 3-9% of the 293,028,000 American people are said to be atheists, agnostics, or nons.95 These are conservative numbers compared to the recent ARIS - a nationally representative telephone survey of more than 50,000 respondents headed by Kosmin and Keysar in 2008. They detected that “the 'Nones' […] continue to grow […], from 8.2% in 1990, to 14.1% in 2001, to 15.0% in 2008.”96 The online Harris Poll 2008 even had 10% atheists and 9% agnostics - presenting 19% of non-believers within the American society.97 Concerning the ARIS 2008, the growth of nons has largely occurred at the expense of Christians: they shrunk from 86.2% in 1990 to 76.7% in 200898 Although more scarce in the South, the nones gain popularity nationwide. In the past, northwest states such as Oregon and Washington have commonly had the highest population of nones. Currently, these states report about 25 percent of the inhabitants belonging to this category. But a new trend has occurred as shown in the 2008 survey, where northeastern states report even higher numbers of individuals without a reli- gious orientation. States that now compare to the high concentrations previously claimed by the west are New Hampshire (29%), Vermont (34%) and Maine (25%). Even Colorado, Idaho and Nevada are coming up in numbers, with the percentage of nones at 28%.99
However, the argument of complexity among the nonreligious must not be overlooked. It is supported by the ARIS data. Only a few among the nones (1,6%) go the whole nine yards of unbelief and self-identify as atheists - while half of the nones in the presented survey actually consider themselves religious.100 Furthermore, Religion Dispatches argues: “[I]t appears that most of the unaffiliated individuals are not atheistic or anti-religious in any activist sense, but are rather apathetic toward organized religion and reluctant to join any particular denomination or sect.”101 Although growing at the moment, atheists still remain an underdeveloped group in the United States.
Diversity and complexity among the American unaffiliated was also found by Pasquale's case study of nons in the American Northwest. With “some 640,000 individuals who strongly or somewhat disagree that God exists, and 1.4 million who consider themselves 'secular' (whatever that means)”102 the states Oregon and Washington are entirely less religious then the rest of the United States. Pasquale's portrait of secular group affiliates includes interviews with altogether 911 respondents from Oregon and Washington. He classified six group types among them: Secular Humanists (42.3%), Jewish Humanists (12.1%), Unitarian Humanists (14.2%), Skeptics, rationalists (16.8%), Freethinkers (3.3%) and 11.4% labeled themselves atheist.103 Pasquale reasons: “The closer people's worldviews are probed […] the more difficult it is to neatly place many into the major categories that frame Western discourse on 'theism' and 'atheism' or 'religion' and 'irreligion.'”104 Furthermore, Pasquale explains the low data of atheism and suggests the number of unreported cases to be much higher. He claims that, in interviews, participants revealed that they were either confused about the exact definition of 'atheist,' or were concerned about falsely identifying themselves. For some, the term is inadequate in describing the full range of ideas a person may have about religion and society. The same is true for the category of 'agnostic,' which suggests a kind of decided nonanswer to the whole question of religious orientation. Pasquale states that some people in the study simply did not feel comfortable with the labels that were presented to them. Especially 'atheist' gets avoided due to the bad association it has in ordinary use. Furthermore, 'humanist' is the most favorite euphemistic substitute for the atheists Pasquale interviewed.105
Several socio-scientific studies offer a reliable demographic portrait of the similar yet also different groups of atheists, agnostics and those professing no religion. In the category of gender, the majority of atheists and agnostics are male. Pasquale reports 67% of male atheists,106 the ARIS 2008 70% of male atheists and 75% of male agnostics.107 Atheists tend to be young, according to Keysar. She shows that “one-third of Atheists are under age 25” and “only 20% are 50 and over, as opposed to 37% of all Americans.”108 On the other hand, the case study of Hunsberger and Altemeyer among atheists in the San Francisco Bay area attests atheism to be an “old guy thing,”109 popular among men who are the age of 60. Accordingly, the case study of Pasquale showed “the average age of the group affiliates was 62.68 and median was 64 (with a range of 15 to 92 years of age).”110 The 2009 Millennials report by the Pew Research Center stated that Americans between the ages 18 and 29 are far less religious than older generations of Americans. One quarter of the Millennial generation do not claim to belong to any religion.111 Although the young nones are not labeled as atheists, they clearly support Pasquale's thesis that “secularism continues to replenish itself with younger participants.”112 In terms of ethnicity, the ARIS 2008 reports that a large number of ex-Catholics are now found among the nones.113 Furthermore, Zuckerman summarizes the Kosmin and Keysar report and states that “10 percent of Native Americans, 11 percent of African-Americans, 16 percent of Hispanic- Americans, 17 percent of White Americans, and 30 percent of Asian-Americans claim to be 'secular' or 'somewhat secular.' They [Kosmin and Keysar] further note that 20 percent of Whites, 13 percent of Blacks, 17 percent of Hispanics, and 32 percent of Asian- Americans claim ‘‘none’’ or ‘‘don’t know’’ as their religion.“114 Secularity is often correlated with higher education. The ARIS 2008 reports that 42 percent of agnostics and 32 percent of American atheists have graduated from college - in contrast to 34 percent of college graduates among the total American adult population.115 Nevertheless, Zuckerman reports that “among the members of the United States National Academy of Sciences only 7 percent claimed to believe in a personal God and only 8 percent believed in immortality”116 and further states that prestigious American universities have a greater number of atheists employed as professors than would be expected given the rates of atheism in the general public. By this, it means that the educators - as well as the educated - are more likely to be atheists. Concerning political party preference, Keysar provides a convincing picture: the atheist population is composed of 10% republicans, 26% democrats, and a whopping 50% being independent.117 Hunsberger and Altemeyer support these findings and identify the active atheist to be “mostly an educated 'left-winger.'”118 Furthermore, the group findings of Hunsberger and Altemeyer states that “nonbelievers, including the atheists, usually proved less dogmatic, less zealous, less authoritarian, and less prejudiced than any of the believer group […].”119
In sum, more atheists and agnostics are men than women and younger people have a growing tendency towards secularism and, in general, the strongest affinity to atheism. Asian Americans are the racial-ethic group with the highest degree of secularity while atheism is considered to be “a substantially white, Euro-American thing.”120 Atheists are more politically independent than all other nones or the total U.S. population and embrace a liberal approach towards life. Agnostics are by far the most educated group while atheists are argued to be concentrated among the intellectual elite. Catholics are most likely to become apostates while among religious groups, Zuckerman argues, “Jews are the most likely to be irreligious.”121
Since the definition of atheism is frequently expanded from the lack of God to the lack of morality,122 the available data are often (mis)used to provide either a more positive or more negative appraisal concerning the social well-being of atheists and secular people. Dawkins, in polishing the atheist's image, sticks to the findings that the overwhelming majority of US Academicians are said to be atheists and reasons unduly that “religiosity is indeed negatively correlated with education, […] science and [...] political liberalism.”123 Bainbridge, on the other side, combines the two findings of strong religion supporting fertility and of atheism being more common among single people to argue that “lack or weakness of social obligations encourages disbelief in God.”124 Since Bainbridge also found that atheists tend to be young,125 it should have crossed his mind that a young age might be more correlated with a low marital status and stands independently of commit- ment phobia. Zuckerman is very keen in supporting a positive correlation between atheism and secularity. Although his conclusions are fair-minded and he is aware that “correlation is not causation,”126 he sometimes pushes the argument too hard: “[Within the United States] the highest rates of poverty tend to be among the most religious states in the nation, such as Mississippi and Tennessee, while the states with the lowest poverty rates tend to be among the most secular, such as New Hampshire and Hawaii. The states with the highest rates of obesity are among the most religious in the nations, while the states with the lowest rates of obesity are among the least religious.“127 To put the blame on religion for people's weight problems however puts Zuckerman's objectivity badly in question. Concerning the correlation of poverty and religion in the world and within the United States also deserves a further examination. It misses a clear statement on who made who: does the loss of religion lead to the secular welfare state or is it rather that the secular welfare state does make the need for the religious opium obsolete?
Writing about atheism in America, to what numbers can this paper refer? To the 1.6 percent of honestly shouting-it-from-the-roof-tops atheists or the 19 percent of unchurched nons? From atheism's bad reputation to the methodological problems of collecting data on people's worldview, various reasons might be responsible for changing, uncertain numbers. However, the statistics prove one fact is undeniable: atheism is growing - and not only among the young male, pale, Yale part of the society. Furthermore, the New York Times argues thoughtfully: “Not all the 'nones' are necessarily committed atheists or agnostics, but they make up a pool of potential supporters.”128 Supporters of the special feature that differentiates atheism from the remaining nons: “Atheists are organized. They form society. They file lawsuits.”129 Therefore, in this paper, numbers and social data shall of course not be ignored but they are of less importance than the actual linking up and speaking out of the growing community of atheists all over America. Moreover, atheists are said to be a more liberal and less authoritarian group. It shall be of interest to examine how the online presentation of the contemporary atheists might verify such a profile.
1 New York Times, “Transcript - Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address, “ January 20, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/ 2009/01/20/us/politics/20text-obama.html (17.05.2010).
2 Facebook Web site, “Atheism,” under “Kurt Westergard,” http://www.facebook.com/posted.php?id=17920648935& share_id=237847720757&comments=1 (May 27, 2010).
3 Cf.: Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar, “ARIS: Summary Report 2009,” http: //www.americanreligionsurvey- aris.org/reports/ARIS_Report_ 2008.pdf (May 17, 2010).
4 Konstantin Petrenko, “The Two Faces of New Atheism,” Religion Dispatches (2009), http://www.religiondispatches .org/archive/science/1433/the_two_faces_of_new_atheism_/ (June 13, 2010).
5 Gary Wolf, “The Church of the Non-Believers,” Wired Magazine, Issue 14, 11 November 2006, http://www.wired. com/wired/archive/14.11/atheism.html (June 14, 2010).
6 Lauri Lebo, “Keeping God Out of Science Class in an Obama Administration,” Religion Dispatches, November 24, 2008, http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/science/767/keeping_god_out_of_science_class_in_an_obama_ administration (June 14, 2010).
7 Slavoj Zizek, “Defenders of the Faith,” New York Times, March 12, 2006, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/12/opin ion/12zizek.html?ex=1299819600&en=aad912d2c0b75654&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss (June 14, 2010).
8 Wolf, “The Church of the Non-Believers,” http://www.wired. com/wired/archive/14.11/atheism.html (June 14, 2010).
9 CNN, „Atheists in America,“ February 12, 2007, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTZONIl546c (June 14, 2010).
10 See particularly successful pseudo-intellectual works like Then Why Do I Have Toenails?: How To Be The Best Atheist You Can Be by Thom Phelps (2008), 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God by Guy P. Harrison (2008), The New Atheism: Taking a Stand for Science and Reason by Victor J. Stenger (2009), The Quotable Atheist: Ammunition for Non-Believers, Political Junkies, Gadflies, and Those Generally Hell-Bound by Jack Huberman (2008), Christian No More: On Debunking Christianity, And Embracing Atheism And Freethinking by Jeffrey Mark (2008), The God Virus: How religion infects our lives and culture by Darrel W. Ray (2008), The Six Ways of Atheism: New Logical Disproofs of the Existence of God by Geoffrey Berg (2009) and Atheist Manifesto: The Case Against Christianity, Judaism, and Islam by the French Michel Onfray (2008).
11 See particularly theological feedbacks such as The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine by Alister E. and Joanna Collicutt McGrath (2007), God and the New Atheism: A Critical Response to Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens by John F. Haught (2007), The Ipod Tutor: The Argument Against Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion by The Intelligent Community (2007), The Godless Delusion: Dawkins and the Limits of Human Sight by the Swiss Joe Egan (2009), The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World by Alister E. McGrath (2006), and philosophical responses such as God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? by John C. Lennox (2009), God Is Great, God Is Good: Why Believing in God Is Reasonable & Responsible by William Lane Craig (2009) or When Atheism becomes Religion: America's New Fundamentalism by Chris Hedges (2008).
12 James Parker, „An Atheist walks into a bar…,” Atlantic Magazine, November 2008, http://www.theatlantic.com/maga zine/archive/2008/11/an-atheist-walks-into-a-bar-8230/7038/ (May 17, 2010).
13 USA Today states that „the billboards consist of a picture of puffy clouds on a blue sky with the message 'Don't believe in God? You are not alone.'“USA Today, “North Texas atheist group post billboards,” March 26, 2009, http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/states/texas/2009-03-26-802068280_x.htm (June 14, 2010).
14 NYCA Web site, “Demonstrations,” http://nyc-atheists.org/drupal5/?q=node/57 (June 14, 2010).
15 New York Times, “Atheism,” April 27, 2009, http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/a/atheism/ index.html?scp=1-spot&sq=atheism&st=cse& (June 14, 2010).
16 Gad Saad, “Atheists Are the Most Mistrusted Group,” Psychology today, August 21, 2009, http://www.psychology today.com/blog/homo-consumericus/200908/atheists-are-the-most-mistrusted-group-they-are-evil-and-immoral. (May 17, 2010).
17 Phil Zuckerman, “Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being,” Sociology Compass 3/6 2009, http://www.pitzer.edu/ academics/faculty/zuckerman/Zuckerman_on_Atheism.pdf (May 17, 2010).
18 Ronald Aronson, “The New Atheists,” The Nation, June 25, 2007, http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070625/aronson (June 14, 2010).
19 Petrenko, “The Two Faces of New Atheism.”
20 Benedicta Cipolla, “Is Atheism Just a Rant Against Religion?” The Washington Post, May 26, 2007, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/25/AR2007052501953_pf.html (June 14, 2010).
21 Eller, What is Atheism?, 69.
22 Eller, What is Atheism?, 70.
23 Peter Steinfels, “The New Atheism, and Something More,” New York Times, February 14, 2009, http://www.nytimes. com/2009/02/14/us/14beliefs.html?_r=2 (June 14, 2010).
24 Ronald Aronson, “40 Million Nonbelievers in America?” Religion Dispatches, April 28, 2009, http://www.religion dispatches.org/archive/religionandtheology/1381/40_million_nonbelievers_in_america_the_secret_is_almost_out (June 14, 2010).
25 Brights Web site, under “Home,” http://the-brights.net/ (May 03, 2010).
26 Erik Strand “A Bright New World,” Psychology today June 30, 2005, http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/ 200402/bright-new-world (June 14, 2010).
27 Note that there exists a Web site called “Community of Reason” at http://communityofreason.net (07.06.2010). This small community of atheists in Kansas City Missouri is affiliated with the broader and later also analyzed community of SH. This paper is not particularly about this website but the similarities of names are rather accidentally.
28 For example, in 2007, Tom Flynn and Richard Dawkins presented their 900 pages opus The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief, however with no entry of any online atheist organization or personal Web site at all.
29 Baggini, Atheism, 3.
30 Cf.: Wucherer-Huldenfeld, Wandlungen des Phänomens, 38: „Atheismus ist ein Sammelbegriff, kein Wesensbegriff.“
31 Cf.: Rinaldo, Atheists, Agnostics, and Deists in America, 2.
32 Martin, The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, 2.
33 However, Eller argues in his book Advanced Atheism that there actually is not a single religion that only contains one supernatural being: „Christianity, which likes to fancy itself a strict monotheism, in reality contains an array of spiritual beings - angels, demons, saints, souls, and so on,“ 3.
34 Cf.: Martin, The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, 3.
35 Baggini, Atheism, 3.
36 Eller, What is Atheism ?, 3.
37 Cf.: Martin Atheism and Religion, 220.
38 Cf.: G. M. Vernon. „The Religious Nones,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 7/1968, 219-229.
39 Kosmin and Keysar, Secularism and Secularity, 34.
40 Pasquale, The “ Non-Religious ” in the American Northwest, 42.
41 Baggini, Atheism, 101.
42 Cf.: Martin, Atheism and Religion, 221.
43 Martin, The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, 2.
44 Eller, What is Atheism?, 12.
46 Ibid., 11.
47 Baggini, Atheism, 25.
48 Quoted in Eller, What is Atheism?, 14.
49 Cf.: Rinaldo, Atheists, Agnostics, and Deists in America, 87.
50 Dawkins, The God Delusion, 69.
51 Baggini, Atheism, 4.
52 Martin, The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, 3.
53 Eller, What is Atheism ?, 9.
55 Stein, The Encyclopedia of Unbelief vol. I, 4.
56 Cf.: Wucherer-Huldenfeld, Wandlungen des Phänomens, 40.
57 Hadaway and Roof, Apostasy in American Churches, 29.
58 Baggini, Atheism, 109.
59 Cf.: ibid., 110.
60 Eller, What is Atheism?, 12
61 Fales, Naturalism and Physicalism, 119.
62 Baggini, Atheism, 4.
63 Schmidt-Lux, Wissenschaft als Religion, 11: „[...] sondern sie [die 'wissenschaftliche Weltanschauung' die Menschen] gleichzeitig den Kirchen abspenstig machen - in einem umfassenden Sinne die Wissenschaft das Christentum ersetzen.“
64 Ibid., p. 125: "Unter Szientismus wird damit eine totalitäre Weltanschauung verstanden, die unter Berufung auf wissenschaftliche Prinzipien und in expliziter Konkurrenz zum (im europäischen Fall) christlicher Religion den exklusiven Anspruch auf Handlungsanleitung, Weltdeutung und Sinngebung erhebt.“
65 Baggini, Atheism, 32.
66 Fales, Naturalism and Physicalism, 121.
67 Eller, What is Atheism ?, 10.
68 Ibid., 11.
69 Aronson, Living without God, 3.
70 Kosmin and Keysar, Secularism and Secularity, 2.
71 Zuckerman, Atheism & Secularity, 5.
73 Kosmin and Keysar, Secularism and Secularity, 7.
74 Quoted in Eller, What is Atheism?, 12.
75 Taylor, A Secular Age, 423.
76 Eller, What is Atheism?. 13.
78 Baggini, Atheism, 89.
79 Kosmin and Keysar, Secularism and Secularity, 12.
80 Cf.: Kosmin and Keysar, Secularity and Secularism, 6ff.
81 Pruyser, Problems of definition and conception in the psychological study of religious unbelief, 199.
82 Pasquale, A Portrait of Secular Group Affiliate, 43.
83 AA Web site, “What is Atheism?,” http://www.atheists.org/atheism/About_Atheism (June 14, 2010).
84 Zuckerman, Atheism: Contemporary Numbers and Patterns, 47.
85 Minois, History of Atheism, 618.
86 Kosmin and Keysar, Religion in a free Market, 39.
87 Cf.: Zuckerman, “Atheism, Secularity and Well-Being,” http://www.pitzer.edu/academics/faculty/zuckerman/Zucker man_on_Atheism.pdf (June 14, 2010).
88 Zuckerman, Atheism: Contemporary Numbers and Patterns, 54.
89 Cf.: Zuckerman, “Atheism, Secularity and Well-Being,” http://www.pitzer.edu/academics/faculty/zuckerman/Zucker man_on_Atheism.pdf (June 14, 2010).
90 Cf.: Zuckerman, Atheism: Contemporary Numbers and Patterns, 56.
91 In correlating atheism and social health, Zuckerman points out that „we must distinguish between nations where non- belief has been forced upon the society by dictators (“coercive atheism”) and nations wherein non-belief has emerged on its own without governmental coercion (“organic atheism”). Nations marked by coercive atheism - such as North Korea and former Soviet states - are marked by all that comes with totalitarianism: poor economic development, censorship, corruption, depression, etc. However, nations marked by high levels of organic atheism - such as Sweden or the Netherlands - are among the healthiest, wealthiest, best educated, and freest societies on earth.“ Zuckerman, Atheism: Contemporary Numbers and Patterns, 57.
92 Cf.: Hunsberger and Altemeyer, Atheists, 13.
93 Norris and Inglehart, Sacred and Secular, 5.
94 Ibid., 108.
95 Cf.: Zuckerman, Atheism: Contemporary Numbers and Patterns, 57. 23
96 Kosmin and Keysar, “ARIS: Summary Report 2009,” http://www.americanreligionsurvey-aris.org/reports/ARIS_ Report_ 2008.pdf (May 17, 2010).
97 Harris-Interactive-Poll, Religious Beliefs, 12/2008, http://www.harrisinteractive.com/vault/Harris-Interactive-Poll- Research-Religious-Beliefs-2008-12.pdf (June 14, 2010).
98 Kosmin and Keysar, Secularism and Secularity, 41.
99 Kosmin and Keysar, “ARIS: Summary Report 2009,” http://www.americanreligionsurvey-aris.org/reports/ARIS_ Report_ 2008.pdf (May 17, 2010)..
100 Kosmin and Keysar, Secularism and Secularity, 10.
101 Konstantin Petrenko, “Godless America? Say Hello to the ‘Apatheists’,” Religion Dispatches, March 19, 2009, http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/mediaculture/1245/godless_america_say_hello_to_the_%E2%80%98apath eists%E2%80%99 (May 30, 2010).
102 Kosmin and Keysar, “ARIS: Summary Report 2009,” http://www.americanreligionsurvey-aris.org/reports/ARIS_ Report_ 2008.pdf (May 17, 2010).
103 Pasquale, A Portrait of Secular group Affiliate, 48.
104 Pasquale, A Portrait of Secular group Affiliate, 53.
105 Pasquale, The Non-Religious in the American Northwest, 44.
106 Pasquale, A Portrait of Secular group Affiliate, 50.
107Kosmin and Keysar (2009), Secularism and Secularity, 34.
109 Hunsberger and Altemeyer, Atheists, 106.
110 Pasquale, A Portrait of Secular group Affiliate, 48.
111 Pew Research Center, “Religion Among the Millennials,” February 2010, http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1494/ millennials-less-religious-in-practice-but-beliefs-quite-traditional (June 14, 2010).
112 Pasquale, A Portrait of Secular group Affiliate, 77.
113 Cf.: Kosmin and Keysar, “ARIS: Summary Report 2009,” http://www.americanreligionsurvey-aris.org/reports/ARIS_ Report_ 2008.pdf (May 17, 2010).
114 Cf.: Zuckerman, “Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being,” http://www.pitzer.edu/academics/faculty/Zuckerman/ Zuckerman_on_Atheism.pdf (June 15, 2010).
115 Kosmin and Keysar, Secularism and Secularity, 36.
116 Cf.: Kosmin and Keysar, “ARIS: Summary Report 2009,” http://www.americanreligionsurvey-aris.org/reports/ARIS_ Report_ 2008.pdf (May 17, 2010)..
117 Kosmin and Keysar, Secularism and Secularity, 38.
118 Hunsberger and Altemeyer, Atheists, 106.
119 Ibid., 128.
120 Pasquale, A Portrait of Secular group Affiliate, 77.
121 Cf.: Zuckerman, “Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being,” http://www.pitzer.edu/academics/faculty/Zuckerman/ Zuckerman_on_Atheism.pdf (June 15, 2010)..
122 Cf.: Baggini, Atheism, 3.
123 Dawkins, God Delusion, 129.
124 William Sims Bainbridge, “Atheism,” Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, vol. I 2005, under “2,” http://www.religjournal.com/pdf/ijrr01002.pdf (June 14, 2010).
125 Ibid., under “6”.
126 Cf.: Zuckerman, “Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being,” http://www.pitzer.edu/academics/faculty/Zuckerman/ Zuckerman_on_Atheism.pdf (June 15, 2010).
128 Laurie Goodstein, “More Atheists Shout It From the Rooftops,“New York Times, April 26, 2009, http://www.nytimes. com/2009/04/27/us/27atheist.html?_r=2 (June 14, 2010).
129 Kosmin and Keysar, Secularity and Secularism, 29.
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