Atheism in America

I had a lot of fun looking for atheists last week--with Julian Baggini, who is writing an article about atheism in America. He found a bunch, including a bunch of teenagers, some of them deep in the heart of Texas. Think ranches and cowboy churches, and bad coffee with good fried pie. I can't wait for the article to come out (in April).

He also gave a talk to a group comprised of SMU undergraduates and faculty, plus members of a local "fellowship of free thought." He explained what atheism is and isn't, and argued that atheists and theists can get along. Atheists come to be overly anti-theist, he said, when they don't try to understand what religion offers people. It doesn't so much offer doctrine as it offers practices --many positive, like expressing gratitude before meals, and creates communities.

Julian was questioned and challenged a bit, but there was no major battle. Which tells me that atheists out in the real world do not look exactly like atheists on the internet. I had the same sense while listening in on a few interviews.

The more that atheists "come out," the more than everyone's going to know one, and the public perception is going to shift. Not only will it shift way from the longstanding misperception that atheists are immoral people--devil worshippers, maybe. I think it may also shift away from a more recent misperception--that new atheists like Dawkins, Harris, etc., have the typical attitudes. More and more, I think not. They really are anti-theists, and I'm not sure that's true of the rank and file American skeptic.

But we'll see--I suspect Julian's article will shed more light.


Faust said...

And the reaction to his article will shed more light still.

Jean Kazez said...

Yes. We'll have to see, but I think the main theme will be that it's uncomfortable being an atheist in America. True. Nobody (new or gnu, old or auld) is really going to deny that.

Faust said...

In America? Or in the South?

Jean Kazez said...

Not just the south, but we'll have to see when the article comes out. I think he's trying to focus on real people (in many places)...as opposed to urban and academic types.

Faust said...

I know right! Those urban types. So fake. (wink wink). Double that for academics. Just ask Sarah Palin.