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Angelo Matera | 09.26.08

Issues

They’ll Believe in Anything: Study says atheists are more irrational

A new Gallup study, “What Americans Really Believe,” suggests that if anti-religious crusaders Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins want a more rational, less superstitious world, they should encourage people to go to church.  A recent Wall Street Journal article reported that, according to the study…

“…traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians…

The Gallup Organization, under contract to Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion, asked American adults a series of questions to gauge credulity. Do dreams foretell the future? Did ancient advanced civilizations such as Atlantis exist? Can places be haunted? Is it possible to communicate with the dead? Will creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster someday be discovered by science?

The answers were added up to create an index of belief in occult and the paranormal. While 31% of people who never worship expressed strong belief in these things, only 8% of people who attend a house of worship more than once a week did.”

These findings are in line with the myth-shattering work of recent historians, who’ve discovered that more people believed in witches and the paranormal after the Protestant Reformation than in the era before. A major reason for that was the authority of the Catholic Church, which was a bulwark against popular superstition and irrationality during the Middle Ages—Monty Python notwithstanding.

G.K. Chesterton had it right when he said: “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing—they believe in anything.”

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(6) COMMENTS

By Ryguy AT 09.26.08 10:09AM Not Rated

Ryguy

I had just read the article in Wall Steet, it is great to see media embracing evidence in an honest way. Cheers to signs of hope!

P.S. never told you, but great book!


By Dave AT 09.26.08 12:24PM Not Rated

Dave

Just read the article the other day!

This really was surprising, but I honestly know friends who are would completely verify these claims. Haha!


By chassup AT 09.26.08 12:59PM Not Rated

chassup

Fans of Chesterton and those who were raised with the Baltimore catechism, probably the same people, understand this intuitively.


By GTN AT 09.26.08 11:30PM Not Rated

GTN

I find that interesting, but not surprising. However, I might have answered yes to some of those questions, but with a distinct Christian twist. I see absolutely no conflict between God and Nessie, in fact I think nessie and others like her are more of a confirmation of a young earth than anything. And as to meaningful dreams, as a Christian the real question is does it still happen often, not does it happen.

Not believing in God may mean you believe in anything, but believing in God does not mean you believe in nothing else.


By angelonapinhead AT 12.09.08 04:59PM Not Rated

angelonapinhead

In other words, the study shows that traditional Christians have retained a more organized, traditional set of superstitions rather than “trading up” (or down) to a more haphazard, currently popular set of superstitions. The conclusion assumes that the belief in a traditional God, the resurrection of Jesus, and so on, is less irrational and superstitious than belief in palm readers, ghosts and other new age enthusiasms.  How can you rationally put one above the other? 

Non-superstitious people will avoid both.  The mind disposed to superstition, whether traditionally religious or so-called “Atheistic,” will find implausible things to believe in.  Whether a superstition takes a monotheistic form or an updated, trendier form is merely a matter of taste, as far as I can see.  Different people prefer different kinds of wishful thinking. 

A consistent atheist or agnostic will disbelieve, or hold as currently unknowable, not merely the existence of an Abrahamic God, but the existence of all supernatural entities and events (until rationally convincing evidence for such things are available).  That certainly includes ghosts and the other matters the article mentioned.


By TonyC AT 07.27.09 09:28AM Not Rated

TonyC

This affirms the incarnation - that Truth took flesh and dwelt among us and spoke to us in our language to reveal the deepest mysteries of God and the universe to humankind. The Gospel is deceptively simple, and real truth tends always to the greatest simplicity. This is why most Christians aren’t looking to superstition for answers to life’s questions. We’ve had all these answers in Christ for 2000 years.  No faith = no unifying thread in life, no meaning, no moral compass to keep us pointed straight and true, and prevent us from falling prey to whimsical philosophies and superstitions.


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