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Are atheists more hated than conservative Christians?

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Yes, but not by as much as you think:

Interesting data from George Yancey at Patheos:

… Once again I found that Atheists was the group with the most disaffection – 45.5 percent of the respondents ranked them a standard deviation below the mean. They were followed respectively by Christian fundamentalists (32.2 percent), Muslims (31.2 percent) and Mormons (19.6 percent).

It is clear that quite a few individuals have animosity towards Christian fundamentalists. However, there is little animosity towards the general Christian category. It is useful to consider how the respondents define who is a Christian fundamentalist. If Christian fundamentalists are seen as those who bomb abortion clinics or as members of the Westboro Baptist Church, then not many Christians fall into those categories. This animosity may be targeted at so few Christians that it does not have much of an effect in our intergroup relationships. Although I do not have information on how the respondents in the ANES define fundamentalist Christians, I do not believe that their definition is this narrow. In another research project that I am currently working on, we asked college teachers how they would define a fundamentalist and how they would see a fundamentalist as different from other Protestants. Beyond basic stereotypical descriptions, these individuals tended to label fundamentalists as those who believed the Bible to be the literal word of God. According to the 2012 ANES, about a third of Americans have such a belief. If the respondents in the ANES use a similar definition of fundamentalism then the animosity exhibited by them is not directed at an extreme Christian fringe but against a substantial portion of the population.

What is as important as the extent of this animosity is who tends to possess this animosity. Those who listed Christian fundamentalists a standard deviation below the mean of the other groups are 79.4 percent white, 47.6 percent with a bachelor degree, 64.5 percent make at least $50,000 a year and 29.2 percent make at least $100,000 a year. All of these numbers are significantly higher than the percentages in the population without this animosity. Thus, those with anti-Christian hostility are whiter, better educated and wealthier than others in our society. These are majority group qualities indicating that those with anti-Christian animosity have more per-capita social power than the average person. More.

Thoughts?

Note: One confounding factor might be a sort of religious version of the “Bradley effect”: Despite the poll predictions, voters ended up voting against Tom Bradley, an African American running for governor of California in 1982. It is suggested that they may not have wanted to seem racist by telling pollsters that they wouldn’t vote for Bradley. But in the end they voted their union or their business or Aunt Madge’s garden club’s opinion (as they had always done before). In the same way, people might be more willing to admit that they dislike atheists or fundamentalists than that they dislike groups that are little known or at any rate not routinely lampooned, or perhaps seen as victims. Just a thought.

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31 Replies to “Are atheists more hated than conservative Christians?

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    I would argue that, where a population identifies itself as predominantly religious, then atheists will always be the most hated. Even if the believer population encompasses many different faiths and denominations, atheism will be seen and feared as a threat to all of them to varying degrees.

    Fundamentalist believers might be perceived as a threat by other faiths but not so much within their own faiths. Islamic State militants are unremittingly hostile to all other faiths and even other Muslims who do not adhere to their particular version of Islam. But although they have alienated many other Muslims there is still enough sympathy and support in the wider population the ensure a steady supply of recruits.

    In Christianity, the Westboro Baptist Church is regarded as a fundamentalist sect whose extreme views and behavior are abhorrent to more moderate Christians. They are nonetheless still seen as Christians, however misguided, and there is little doubt that sympathy for their aggressively homophobic stance extends beyond membership of the church itself.

  2. 2
    Dionisio says:

    What does it mean “conservative Christians”?
    What does it mean “fundamentalist Christians”?
    What does it mean “moderate Christians”?
    What document(s) are those definitions based on?
    Who hates whom? How does that manifest? Why?

  3. 3
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Dionisio asks

    What does it mean “conservative Christians”?

    Me says:

    people who believe in Jesus

    Dionisio asks

    What does it mean “fundamentalist Christians”?

    me says

    the Amish or people who actually talk about Jesus

    Dionisio asks

    What does it mean “moderate Christians”?

    me says

    People who dislike Conservative and fundamentalist Christians.

    Dionisio asks

    What document(s) are those definitions based on?

    me says

    The NY times or the Political Science Textbook at your local college

    Dionisio asks

    Who hates whom? How does that manifest? Why?

    me says

    Quote:

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
    (Mat 5:43-44)

    and

    “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.
    (Joh 15:18)

    end quote:

    peace

  4. 4
    Tim says:

    Wow, with a little sadness, too

    Seversky writes:

    there is little doubt that sympathy for [Westboro’s} aggressively homophobic stance extends beyond membership of the [Westboro]church itself

    Come on now, Seversky, write clearly. What do you mean by homophobic stance? The behaviors of Westboro’s members that denigrate all humanity for which no sympathy is extended by any church, what motivates their behavior (fear?, paranoia?, megalomania?, solipsism?), again not part of the Church, or are you just, having found a group of about fifty to a hundred people who are so clearly suffering under a delusional leader just averaging people and their beliefs together to make your point about a larger group you have labeled “fundamentalist”.

    Really, how many fundamentalists do actually know? Well, I know a lot of “them”, and I find them to be a caring and (here’s a good one for you) GRACEFUL lot whose main “crime” is that they make claims about what would make life better.

    And no, at this point you don’t get to plug in your favorite “News at 5” fundamentalist claim. What you can’t seem to understand is that fundamentalists make hundreds of claims. Duh, that’s what puts the “fundamental” into the adjective and meat into the claim. I admit, they could use better PR.

    On the other hand, maybe not. Suppose their claim, in this case concerning homosexuality, is not only this: “we have learned that homosexual behavior makes your life worse, less joyful, and therefore homosexual behavior should not be encouraged, condoned, promoted, celebrated, etc . . . because of the complexities of our human condition, we understand that refraining from such behavior will be an affront to the sensibilities of some and their views of how to define oneself, an attack on conduct to meet their felt-needs, and moreover emotionally painful to many, but we know a better way. . . ” but much, much more.

    Stopping without the “more”, it remains rather cold. Of course, this is where you, Seversky (if I have read you right, but hey, I won’t hold you to it), insist we always stop– right at the “claim” without even looking at how so many fundamentalists live in the culture around them.

    In fact you ask us to take a step back, no, a mile back, from fundamentalists all the way to “God hates F—!”

    Seversky, you and I would do better to burn that sign together than to define for the other who each is. I know you feel you could teach me a lot, grace abounds . . . Merry Christmas!

  5. 5
    awstar says:

    Seversky #1

    I would argue that, where a population identifies itself as predominantly religious, then atheists will always be the most hated. Even if the believer population encompasses many different faiths and denominations, atheism will be seen and feared as a threat to all of them to varying degrees.

    I would argue that the opposite of atheist is “theist” and not religion. Atheist is the the opposite side of the coin from the theist side, but they are both an indivisible part of a “religious” coin. That is why every theist who considers themselves religious appears to hate atheists (some actually love their enemies and pray for them as Jesus commanded). There are many different denominations (pun intended) of the religious coins but the tail is always “atheist”.

    So freedom FROM religion is a nonsensical idea. Freedom OF religion allows for any denomination (and it’s tail side) to share the freedom God has granted to all us (which by the way, in our nation, was graciously passed on to everyone else when the Christian “theist” side of the coin governed). But when the “tail” side gains control, for some reason, all of our freedoms seems to diminish.

  6. 6
    Dionisio says:

    #3 fifthmonarchyman

    Amen!

    Rev. 22:20-21

  7. 7
    bb says:

    Thank you awstar. It isn’t logical to think of Atheism as a-religious. Buddhism is a type of Atheism.

    I don’t see the Westboro Baptists as fundamentalist, if that is defined as one who believes the Bible to be the Word of God. I saw an interview with some WB’s and they claimed that God hated homosexuals. The Bible doesn’t say that. It says that God so loved the world that he gave His only son for all sinners, whether they’re gay, straight, adulterous, murderers, liars, thieves, etc… They’re not basing their theology(?) on scripture the way a fundamentalist would.

    edit
    “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;” – 1 Corinthians 1:27 (ESV)

  8. 8
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    I think the general public’s disdain for Atheists has to so with the idea that it is impossible to behave morally with out an objective standard of morality.

    by the same token

    I think the general public’s disdain for Fundamentalist Christians has to do with the fact that they claim to know the source of objective morality.

    Most folks would like you to do the moral thing at all times but they don’t want any reminders they sometimes don’t.

    peace

  9. 9
    rvb8 says:

    Ahh, that old canard fifthmonarchyman. I can not be moral because I don’t follow the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hmmm, I do have a question; before the Ten Commandments were presented to Moses did the Jews believe it was ok to steel, commit adultery, and bare false witness. What was their moral code before God told them not to kill?

    One of the major themes of the talk of WJM is my lack of a moral code because I don’t fear an undefined punishment in a poorly explained afterlife. If I do have to face a supreme being and answer for my failings now I will say, ‘what a disaster, next time you create something, do a better job!’

  10. 10
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Hey rvb8,

    I don’t think that you need to believe in God to be moral. I was just pointing out that that probably is the majority opinion.

    I do think you need God to justify your belief in objective morals. But that is a whole different topic.

    You said,

    What was their moral code before God told them not to kill?

    I say,

    Did you never go to Sunday school? They had the same moral code that everyone has

    quote:

    For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them
    (Rom 2:14-15)

    end quote:

    You say,

    If I do have to face a supreme being and answer for my failings now I will say, ‘what a disaster, next time you create something, do a better job!’

    I say,

    I expect it will be your own conscience that you will have to appease when the time comes.

    quote:

    Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.
    (Rom 2:1)

    end quote:

    peace

  11. 11
    keith s says:

    fifthmonarchyman:

    I think the general public’s disdain for Atheists has to so with the idea that it is impossible to behave morally with out an objective standard of morality.

    It’s a shame that more people aren’t acquainted with the facts. A comment from 2009:

    Denyse O’Leary asks:

    Can you be good without God?

    Denyse,

    I think a better question is “Can you be good without believing in God?” After all, God either exists or he doesn’t. It’s a fixed truth for all of us, and not something we have any prospect of changing.

    So, can we be good without believing in God? The answer is obviously yes. To answer “no” would be to claim that every atheist is evil, with no exceptions, which is clearly false.

    As for whether faith improves morality in general, consider the following passage from William Lobdell’s book Losing My Religion:

    It was discouragingly easy — though incredibly surprising — to find out that Christians, as a group, acted no differently than anyone else, including atheists. Sometimes they performed a little better; other times a little worse. But the Body of Christ didn’t stand out as morally superior. Some of my data came from secular institutions such as the Pew Research Center and the Gallup Poll, but the most devastating information was collected by the Barna Group, a respected research company run by an evangelical Christian worried about the health of Christianity in America. For years, George Barna has studied more than 70 moral behaviors of believers and unbelievers. His conclusion: the faith of Christians has grown fat and flabby. He contends that statistically, the difference between behaviors of Christians and others has been erased. According to his data and other studies, Christians divorce at about the same rate or even at a slightly higher rate than atheists. White evangelical Christians are more racist than others. Evangelicals take antidepressants at about the same rate (7 percent) as others. Non-Christians are more likely to give money to a homeless or poor person in any given year (34 percent) than are born-again Christians (24 percent). Born-again Christians are taught to give 10 percent of their money to the church or charity, but 95 percent of them decline to do so. The percentage of Christian youth infected with sexually transmitted diseases is virtually the same as the rate among their non-Christian counterparts. Ronald J. Sider, a professor at Palmer Theological Seminary and an evangelical, covers a lot of these statistics and more in his 2007 book, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience.

    “Whether the issue is divorce, materialism, sexual promiscuity, racism, physical abuse in marriage, or neglect of a biblical worldview, the polling data point to widespread, blatant disobedience of clear biblical moral demands on the part of people who are allegedly are evangelical, born-again Christians,” Sider writes. “The statistics are devastating.”

    …And I already knew that the majority of Catholics ignored some of the church’s basic teachings. A recent poll co-sponsored by the National Catholic Reporter found that the majority of America Catholics believed they did not have to obey church doctrine on abortion, birth control, divorce, remarriage or weekly attendance at Mass to be “good Catholics”. Catholic women have about the same rate of abortion as the rest of society, according to a 2002 study by Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. And 98 percent of sexually active Catholic women have used a modern method of contraception, according to a 2002 national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    I just couldn’t find any evidence within Protestantism or Catholicism that the actions of Christians, in general, showed that they took their faith seriously or that their religion made them morally or ethically better than even atheists.

    Losing My Religion, pp. 204-207

  12. 12
    keith s says:

    fifthmonarchyman:

    I think the general public’s disdain for Fundamentalist Christians has to do with the fact that they claim to know the source of objective morality.

    And that they claim to know the truths of objective morality despite having no reliable means of accessing them or even of demonstrating their existence.

    I do think you need God to justify your belief in objective morals. But that is a whole different topic.

    Even if we could be certain that God existed, it wouldn’t justify a belief in objective morality.

  13. 13
    rvb8 says:

    fifth, if they, ‘had the same moral code that everyone has’,(before the Ten) are you saying that there is an evolved understanding of right and wrong? And if that is so, why the necessity of a deity? No, I never went to Sunday school, I grew up Catholic, no better religion to leave.

    I have a ‘King James’ and even now enjoy it as literature, and absolutely nothing more; the Song of Soloman is a particular favourite. So quoting scripture to me as a basis for argument is a waste of time.

    ‘An objective standard of morality’? What the hell does that even mean? My ‘objective standard’ is my humanity. The understanding that individuals may choose paths different from that which I choose, but that their different choices does not make those choices wrong. I am first and foremost a humanist, and that is the basis of my morality. A vengeful god, poking and prodding me in the correct direction is infinately less justifiable as a basis for morality than my clear understanding of your right to be different.

  14. 14
    Andre says:

    If leading a good life is all that you are occupied with then you’re missing the very point of our existance.

  15. 15
    rvb8 says:

    Really? So what is the point of my existence? I love living, and hope to do so for many more years. The simple act of breathing, when I think about it, which is often, astounds me. Having to thank a deity for this wonder would drain the wonder away. Eating with friends, drinking with friends, enjoying the holidays (whichever deity they represent), listening to music, smelling a flower, christ, need I go on.

    Your slavish necessity to abase yourself as a supplicant before a fulminating god is not, “the very point of our existance” I choose to follow. I know there is no god, but I do wish there was, for, as I said before it would be good to confront him/her/it with his/hers/its monumental incompitance.

  16. 16
    Learned Hand says:

    Tim,

    The behaviors of Westboro’s members that denigrate all humanity for which no sympathy is extended by any church, what motivates their behavior (fear?, paranoia?, megalomania?, solipsism?), again not part of the Church, or are you just, having found a group of about fifty to a hundred people who are so clearly suffering under a delusional leader just averaging people and their beliefs together to make your point about a larger group you have labeled “fundamentalist”.

    Seversky referred to sympathy for WBC’s stance, not their “behavior.” I think he’s understating things when he says there’s “little doubt” that there is sympathy for their brand of aggressive homophobia outside the WBC; it’s obviously true that many people outside that church believe that all gay people (and just about everyone else) is going to burn in hell. Not all Christians, not all fundamentalists, not all evangelicals, etc. But obviously some sympathy for those beliefs exists outside the WBC.

    As for behavior, I’m of the school that thinks the WBC is motivated by something other than homophobia. Some people believe they’re a money-making organization, like a highly specialized parasite. They threaten to picket a public event and (allegedly) accept payments from the community or local businesses to stay away. Or, alternatively, they behave egregiously to provoke local authorities into taking unconstitutional steps to silence them, then sue for damages.

    There’s probably some truth to those theories, but I doubt either business model would support the church for long. I suspect it’s more about ginning up adversity to create a spirit of cohesion in the church, to keep the members banded together against the outside world.

  17. 17
    Andre says:

    rvb8

    You don’t know everything but you know there is no God….. Ok sure…..

    Leading a good life is not what you have been created for. To think so misses the entire point of your existence.

    When we are called to be gods, sons of , we will be something we have never yet imagined, real men, strong, radiant, wise, beautiful and drenched in joy.

    Morality is a mountain we cannot climb by our own efforts and if we are to reach the summit we shall perish in the cold unbreathable air.

    What is the point of your existence?

    John 1:3 “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

    You have been made for Christ. You are His.

    Not to lead a good life or be moral…… You do that by grace, not by your works.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9fR1vSxNEQ

  18. 18
    Robert Byers says:

    no surprise about fundies.
    However if it was another group, the usual suspects, then it would be a ‘ism!
    therefore it shows people do believe they have a moral right to draw conclusions about identifiable groups based on group traits.
    they are right.
    they are just wrong about the traits and the groups depending on any point in history.
    the great idea , since WW11, that one can’t accuse so and so for this and that is finally coming to a end.
    it should never of existed as it hurt north america and mankind.
    So everyone can accuse but should have trial before conviction.
    Fundies have not had a triasl and the media/Hollywood is not the trial.

  19. 19
    awstar says:

    rvb8 #9

    An objective standard of morality’? What the hell does that even mean? My ‘objective standard’ is my humanity. The understanding that individuals may choose paths different from that which I choose, but that their different choices does not make those choices wrong. I am first and foremost a humanist, and that is the basis of my morality. A vengeful god, poking and prodding me in the correct direction is infinately less justifiable as a basis for morality than my clear understanding of your right to be different.

    Then you are all for allowing ID and even Creationism to be discussed along with Evolutionism in the science classroom at public schools?

    And you also agree that to govern ourselves civilly we need to abide by the rule of the majority?

  20. 20
    rvb8 says:

    And yet, despite your insistence that my life is meaningless, I still really enjoy my life. Putting your biblical exegesis aside leaves you with exactly nothing. That’s quite sad.

    “Leading a good life is not what you have been created for.” I know, I wasn’t created! And if you think you were created, then your biology education is sadly lacking. I belong to Christ; no thanks. “You do that by grace..” Again, how can one sentence be steeped in so much twaddle. I have a vague idea by what Christians mean by ‘grace’, and it is the type of vague philosophy that I considered profound when I was a child. I prefer reason to grace.

    “Reason is the Devil’s harlot, who can do nought but slander and harm whatever God says and does”.
    Martin Luther.

    Now if he is considered a Christian of repute I’ll choose atheism every time.

  21. 21
    fifthmonarchyman says:

    Rvb8 says,

    are you saying that there is an evolved understanding of right and wrong?

    I say,

    No I’m saying we have an innate though deficient understanding of the unchanging moral law.

    you say,

    And if that is so, why the necessity of a deity?

    I say,

    Among other things to account for the reality of an unchanging moral law in a universe where the only constant is change

    you say,

    ‘An objective standard of morality’? What the hell does that even mean?

    I say,

    That you can’t given your worldview even fathom the notion of objective morality is precisely the point.

    When the average pagan on the street hears you say stuff like this they begin to worry about the safety of their kids and retirement funds.

    That is why they don’t like atheists so much

    peace

  22. 22
    kairosfocus says:

    RVB8

    You predictably will not look here on on grounding a worldview on other than ideological mush,

    http://nicenesystheol.blogspot.....u2_bld_wvu

    . . . much less here on, on the issues tied to the objectivity of OUGHT, and the required IS that can ground OUGHT,

    http://nicenesystheol.blogspot.....#u2_morals

    . . . especially as you just let slip the underlying attitude of might and manipulation make ‘right’ and truth’ but I THINK SOME SERIOUS ONLOOKERS MIGHT.

    KF

    PS: Here is what Plato warned on the likes of today’s lab coat clad evilutionary materialist ideologues and fellow travellers, 2350 years ago (in the days when such liked to call themselves philosophers, artists, poets and teachers):

    Ath. . . .[The avant garde philosophers and poets, c. 360 BC] say that fire and water, and earth and air [i.e the classical “material” elements of the cosmos], all exist by nature and chance, and none of them by art . . . [such that] all that is in the heaven, as well as animals and all plants, and all the seasons come from these elements, not by the action of mind, as they say, or of any God, or from art, but as I was saying, by nature and chance only [ –> that is, evolutionary materialism is ancient and would trace all things to blind chance and mechanical necessity] . . . .

    [Thus, they hold] that the principles of justice have no existence at all in nature, but that mankind are always disputing about them and altering them; and that the alterations which are made by art and by law have no basis in nature, but are of authority for the moment and at the time at which they are made.- [ –> Relativism, too, is not new; complete with its radical amorality rooted in a worldview that has no foundational IS that can ground OUGHT.] These, my friends, are the sayings of wise men, poets and prose writers, which find a way into the minds of youth. They are told by them that the highest right is might [ –> Evolutionary materialism — having no IS that can properly ground OUGHT — leads to the promotion of amorality on which the only basis for “OUGHT” is seen to be might (and manipulation: might in “spin”)], and in this way the young fall into impieties, under the idea that the Gods are not such as the law bids them imagine; and hence arise factions [ –> Evolutionary materialism-motivated amorality “naturally” leads to continual contentions and power struggles influenced by that amorality], these philosophers inviting them to lead a true life according to nature, that is,to live in real dominion over others [ –> such amoral factions, if they gain power, “naturally” tend towards ruthless abuse], and not in legal subjection to them.

    Yup, sensible and smart folks had your talking points and agenda figured out over 2,000 years ago.

    You forget, we are indeed morally governed creatures, with minds of our own, and that enables us to see through the amoral implications of self-refuting evolutionary materialist ideologies and their fellow travellers for ourselves.

  23. 23
    Andre says:

    Rvb8

    Please do tell how you ground reason and logic without an unchanging standard?

  24. 24
    Tim says:

    Here, Seversky, perhaps something we can agree on:
    Seversky:

    I would argue that, where a population identifies itself as predominantly religious, then atheists will always be the most hated. Even if the believer population encompasses many different faiths and denominations, atheism will be seen and feared as a threat to all of them to varying degrees.

    If we substitute “noticed” for “hated” then I am in total agreement. Surveying history, though, (and I am no historian), it seems as though the wars, read hatred, are among religious groups with most of the atheists on the sideline.

    Deep hatred arises among persons and peoples who know each other, and almost understand each other. I will speak for at least some in the Christian community who understand hatred as a secondary result coming from the despair known in Kierkegaard’s Sickness Unto Death. Knowing the two types of despair inwardly (becoming, not becoming) causes many of the “religious” in Christendom to act outwardly. Compound the existential knowledge (becoming, not becoming) with others’ claim on how that becoming should look and frankly, the atheist is just too far down the line of types to fear or hate.

    On the other hand, choosing to “notice them” is easy, and much more pleasant for many reasons. First, it is hard to find a stinking atheist out there in the world who really insists, at the supermarket, say, that atheism will change my life. Second, the “Catholics, Evangelicals, Humanists, LGBT’s, Muslims, Jews, Mormons, (INSERT GROUP HERE)” are so much more hate-able because they all seem to require something of me. All the atheist seems to want is to be right. Now that is easy to notice and whine about all the time ignoring difficulties among people who should be loving each other.

    LH writes:

    it’s obviously true that many people outside that church believe that all gay people (and just about everyone else) is going to burn in hell.

    No, this is not obviously true. Again, I will speak for the Christians. A person’s sexuality simply does not determine their relationship to God for eternity. Biblical verses and whole texts concerning this are manifold. Perhaps the most well-known (remember, it is Jesus talking) . . .” For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” . . . does NOT continue, “Say, Nicodemus, I hate to ask this, but you’re not, you know, gay or anything . . . ”

    LH,
    I think it would be better for us not to argue about what Seversky meant. I mean, I could just as easily say that a stance refers to how and where one stands which includes their behavior. Seversky can speak for himself. I hope you take the correction I made of your statement concerning Christian homophobia well. Merry Christmas.

  25. 25
    kairosfocus says:

    News,

    Let’s note from Yancey:

    It is clear that quite a few individuals have animosity towards Christian fundamentalists. However, there is little animosity towards the general Christian category. It is useful to consider how the respondents define who is a Christian fundamentalist. If Christian fundamentalists are seen as those who bomb abortion clinics or as members of the Westboro Baptist Church, then not many Christians fall into those categories. This animosity may be targeted at so few Christians that it does not have much of an effect in our intergroup relationships. Although I do not have information on how the respondents in the ANES define fundamentalist Christians, I do not believe that their definition is this narrow. In another research project that I am currently working on, we asked college teachers how they would define a fundamentalist and how they would see a fundamentalist as different from other Protestants. Beyond basic stereotypical descriptions, these individuals tended to label fundamentalists as those who believed the Bible to be the literal word of God. According to the 2012 ANES, about a third of Americans have such a belief. If the respondents in the ANES use a similar definition of fundamentalism then the animosity exhibited by them is not directed at an extreme Christian fringe but against a substantial portion of the population . . .

    This is the result of almost a century of polarisation, targetting Christians in the Protestant tradition who take the historic, creedal, apostolic Christian message (taught in the Bible) and faith seriously; and that despite the actual balance on the merits.

    Going deeper, one watershed was the media hatchet job perpetrated surrounding the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial, which has been sustained for nearly ninety years, creating the common scare-mongering fundies are anti Science stereotype. The same stereotype that would be fastened on design theory today by quite similar media and institutional irresponsibility, unfairness and dishonesty. Even, as science education is taken ideological captive to indoctrination in a priori materialism. And, where a great many of those who dominate science and higher education institutions are increasingly zealous or even outright aggressive atheists who often imagine themselves to be preserving the academy and hopes for sci-tech progress from fundy obscurants. And, thanks to willful mis-application of the term that now taints it with IslamIST radicalism, suspected would-be terrorists. A stereotype the Westboro Baptists seem to unwittingly feed.

    (BTW, that perception of being against the Temple of Science, easily explains the obsessive attacks by ever so many objectors in and around UD, they think they are defending Science from its enemies. The fact that they typically cannot even face the commonplace reality of functionally specific, complex organisation and/or associated information in typical technological objects such as an Abu 6500 C3 fishing reel, much less in the ribosome, speaks ironic and revealing volumes. Not to mention, that evolutionary materialism cannot even ground the rational, reasoning, knowing mind — being, inescapably self-referentially incoherent. In short, ironically, it is the evolutionary materialists and fellow travellers who are demonstrably foundationally irrational. But then, that should be no surprise, one of the favourite tactics of the agit-prop adept is to groundlessly but polarisingly project to others the problems of his own position, through turnabout accusations. The classic case being how German propaganda had it that Poles in Polish uniforms attacked German radio stations in 1939 [murdered prisoners dressed in Polish uniforms . . . ], and even that the Russians were preparing an invasion of German-occupied or dominated Europe in 1941.)

    But also, there is the ethics front.

    Instinctively, a great many people recognise that we are under moral government, i.e. OUGHT is real.

    Something, that becomes fairly obvious when we confront the reality and objectionableness of blatant evil imposed on the innocent by willful wrongdoers.

    After Hume’s guillotine argument, that demands a world-foundational IS that is capable of bearing the weight of OUGHT.

    The problem — if we can call it that — faced by evolutionary materialists and fellow travellers, is that their worldview’s foundational IS, matter-energy in some form of space-time, inherently cannot ground OUGHT. Which leaves them in a morass of subjectivism, relativism, amorality and even nihilism. As Plato pointed out 2350 years ago now.

    Indeed, after centuries of debate, there is but one serious candidate for an IS that can properly ground ought: the inherently good creator-God, who is a necessary and maximally great being.

    As, we can see classically put in the 2nd paragraph of the US Declaration of Independence, in the context of ethics of government, rights, and justice in the state leading to the right of reformation or if necessary revolution (thankfully, today, we have the ballot box for that . . . ):

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 – 21, 2:14 – 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

    And, in case you do not grasp the context, let’s cite the call to prayer issued by the very same Congress a few months prior to July 1776:

    For May 1776: In times of impending calamity and distress; when the liberties of America are imminently endangered by the secret machinations and open assaults of an insidious and vindictive administration, it becomes the indispensable duty of these hitherto free and happy colonies, with true penitence of heart, and the most reverent devotion, publickly to acknowledge the over ruling providence of God; to confess and deplore our offences against him; and to supplicate his interposition for averting the threatened danger, and prospering our strenuous efforts in the cause of freedom, virtue, and posterity. . . . Desirous, at the same time, to have people of all ranks and degrees duly impressed with a solemn sense of God’s superintending providence, and of their duty, devoutly to rely, in all their lawful enterprizes, on his aid and direction, Do earnestly recommend, that Friday, the Seventeenth day of May next, be observed by the said colonies as a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that we may, with united hearts, confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and, by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his righteous displeasure, and, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness; humbly imploring his assistance to frustrate the cruel purposes of our unnatural enemies; . . . that it may please the Lord of Hosts, the God of Armies, to animate our officers and soldiers with invincible fortitude, to guard and protect them in the day of battle, and to crown the continental arms, by sea and land, with victory and success: Earnestly beseeching him to bless our civil rulers, and the representatives of the people, in their several assemblies and conventions; to preserve and strengthen their union, to inspire them with an ardent, disinterested love of their country; to give wisdom and stability to their counsels; and direct them to the most efficacious measures for establishing the rights of America on the most honourable and permanent basis—That he would be graciously pleased to bless all his people in these colonies with health and plenty, and grant that a spirit of incorruptible patriotism, and of pure undefiled religion, may universally prevail; and this continent be speedily restored to the blessings of peace and liberty [–> Note, preamble to US Constitution, 1787], and enabled to transmit them inviolate to the latest posterity. And it is recommended to Christians of all denominations, to assemble for public worship, and abstain from servile labour on the said day.

    A big clue about ultimate reality.

    Evolutionary materialists and their fellow travellers therefore face some unpalatable alternatives, as it is fairly obvious that evil is real and objectionable. Objectionable as that which frustrates, harms, twists, perverts, despoils and cuts off the good from fulfillment of its proper purpose and potential.

    Another clue, evident purpose.

    (The same which becomes evident when we see codes, algorithms, and otherwise utterly implausible signs of design in life forms from the living cell on up, and even in the physics of the cosmos. [Hence, ever so much of the unbridled hostility to design theory and thinkers supportive of or sympathetic to it.])

    That becomes very evident when one has to face a grieving father, robbed of his son walking home on his way from school, but cruelly snatched, gagged, bound and sexually assaulted by some monster fulfilling perverted fantasies, then murdered.

    Self-evident evil.

    Westboro Baptist church, which seems to have little or no support anywhere, is a handy target for lampooning, but by erecting such a strawman target, we are being led away from the reality that we face, through the rhetoric of distraction, distortion and demonisation, the same notorious trifecta tactic — red herrings, led away to strawman caricatures soaked in ad hominems and set alight to cloud, confuse, poison and polarise the atmosphere — we see so often in and around UD as a habitual tactic of too many objectors to design thought.

    We are also seeing the propaganda tactic of the watershed, and the linked dynamic of ever-wider polarisation.

    When a critical mass of people in and influenced by a dominant ideology can be tricked as follows:

    Isa 5:18 Woe to those who draw iniquity with cords of falsehood,
    who draw sin as with cart ropes . . .

    20 Woe to those who call evil good
    and good evil,
    who put darkness for light
    and light for darkness,
    who put bitter for sweet
    and sweet for bitter!
    21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
    and shrewd in their own sight!

    22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine,
    and valiant men in mixing strong drink,
    23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
    and deprive the innocent of his right!

    . . . a destructive dynamic enters a culture.

    First by willfully establishing and clinging to an absurdity that perverts morality and justice, the society becomes ever more enmeshed in embedded injustice, corruption and addiction to out of control evils. And so, it must project blame to those who dare to differ.

    (Well do I recall the High School lit class in which we read Huckleberry Finn, and saw the phrase “low-down Ab’litionist,” which sticks in my mind to today. Yes, slavery is an example of institutionalised evil that took centuries of difficult thought, failures of uneasy compromises, the rise of a gospel-softened heart in a Christian mass base in increasingly democratic society and unfortunately rivers of blood to eradicate. A lesson taught at the price of blood and tears. [Of course, this too has been seriously distorted, I suggest here as a first step in correction, and read the wider context on what we are not being taught on the rise of modern liberty and democracy.])

    The watershed is a line on a map that, in principle is such that if two drops of rain fall, no matter how close, on opposite sides, then because of the slopes, they are wedged ever farther apart until at length they are a continent apart and feed into different oceans.

    Just so, in societies and civilisations, we can have polarising wedge issues that create socio-cultural, ethically loaded rifts that serve as watersheds.

    In our day, intrinsically distorted, disordered, destructive sexual behaviour has been elevated to such a wedge issue. Especially, homosexual conduct, but also things such as pornography, the mass- divorce and remarriage game, widespread shacking up and the like.

    The polarisation tactic can be seen readily from how anyone who objects is instantly labelled “homophobic” — as a “phobia” is by definition, an IRRRATIONAL fear — by those conditioned by successful agit-prop campaigns.

    Sorry, there is a serious, principled case that homosexual behaviour is intrinsically disordered, is personally damaging, is socially dangerous, is even a well-known conduit for creating a reservoir for dangerous diseases, and undermines the pivotal social institutions, the family and marriage at its core. Indeed,t eh attempt to create out of whole cloth a so-called same-sex marriage in defiance of the heart of marriage (the heterosexual bond and its natural expression that leads to procreation and a stable environment for children), speaks volumes.

    But, to so object is inevitably twisted into false accusations of hate and phobia, by those who do or should know and acknowledge better but find it advantageous to play at watershed, darkness for light, bitter for sweet games.

    The consequence of this is obvious, we already face the uneasy compromises and alienation of those who cannot in good conscience go along with increasingly entrenched and institutionalised evils.

    Blood and tears beckon, as the price to be paid, yet again, for yet another determined march of folly in our civilisation.

    Those who refuse to learn from history, are doomed to relive it.

    At bitter cost.

    So, I would suggest to those who are playing irresponsibly with some terrible matches, that they think again.

    KF

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    Tim, I’d say, until recently atheism was a distinct minority, and so wars would have been between adherents of various religious persuasions, with propaganda appealing to their faiths. But the motives for war, generally lie in ambitions of the powerful, who as Machiavelli highlighted, are far too often only superficial or even cynical in their faith. The real danger is as ever, power tied to ambition, that is willing to sacrifice justice, right and truth — much less, neighbour-love — in order to gain. When atheism achieved dominance (as opposed to majority support) in certain societies, in the century past, it was deeply associated with a nihilism that led to some of the worst mass slaughters in history. Over 100 millions, it seems. (And in the previous 200 years, it was a commonplace to view the French Revolution and its excesses as in large part what happens when atheistical radicals seize power; though a significant number of those involved were probably European-style deists. The anti-clericalism and the crowning of the goddess reason — being played by a notorious actress — in a Cathedral in Paris, doubtless, had much to do with that.) So, again, I suggest there is a side tracking to focus on a strawman caricature. The key danger is unrestrained power, driven by ruthless or power-mad men. KF

  27. 27
    JWTruthInLove says:

    President Barry:

    “(…) one is compelled to deny other glaringly obvious truths. Here are a few: (…)
    A man’s body is designed to be complementary with a woman’s body and vice versa. All of the confusion about whether same-sex relations are licit would be swept away in an instant if everyone acknowledged this obvious truth.”

  28. 28
    Tim says:

    Yes, KF, I agree that especially the 20th century displays the carnage related to the power-factor initiated in 1789. I merely point out that was about “them” hating “us.” The fact that the atheist was such a minority for so much of history to me suggests how little “we” hated “them.”

    Recall jokes about both the village atheist as well as the village idiot. It is hard to drum up strong feelings for either: first bathos, but rarely beyond pathos.

  29. 29
    Seversky says:

    Tim @ 4

    Come on now, Seversky, write clearly. What do you mean by homophobic stance? The behaviors of Westboro’s members that denigrate all humanity for which no sympathy is extended by any church, what motivates their behavior (fear?, paranoia?, megalomania?, solipsism?), again not part of the Church, or are you just, having found a group of about fifty to a hundred people who are so clearly suffering under a delusional leader just averaging people and their beliefs together to make your point about a larger group you have labeled “fundamentalist”.

    I agree that “fundamentalist” is a convenient epithet for the various groups of nominal Christians who espouse a bitter, bigoted and hate-filled version of the faith. I agree they are tiny in number and do not represent mainstream Christianity. That said there isn’t a clear, bright line between “fundamentalist” and mainstream. I think there are many Christians who would never align themselves with the WBC or adopt their tactics who, nontheless, believe that homosexuality is a sin which merits eternal damnation.

    Learned Hand @ 16

    I suspect it’s more about ginning up adversity to create a spirit of cohesion in the church, to keep the members banded together against the outside world.

    I agree. It’s a time-honored strategem. I’m beginning to think of the WBC as a sort of tiny North Korea.

    awstar @ 5

    I would argue that the opposite of atheist is “theist” and not religion. Atheist is the the opposite side of the coin from the theist side, but they are both an indivisible part of a “religious” coin.

    I’d say that technically you are correct but observe that, in common usage, atheism has come to mean non-belief in anything that could be called religion.
    For example, I couldn’t join the Jedi Knight’s faith and still call myself atheist.

    So freedom FROM religion is a nonsensical idea.

    Is it? I read it as freedom from having someone else’s faith imposed on me at gunpoint or knifepoint or on pain of beheading, which is not at all a nonsensical idea. It has happened in the past and is still happening today.

  30. 30
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky, Pardon, your own hostility, closed-minded blanket stereotyping and negative ideological projections to the sufficiently other are showing; reflecting also the radical hostility to God and anything that reminds of God that seem to energise today’s militant atheism, utterly warping ability to think straight. I think, you need to pause, and do some serious rethinking, starting with some actual evidence, and also pausing to revisit the way truth has been systematically undermined in our culture, then considering what it implies to suggest that we OUGHT to care about truth. KF

    PS: Particularly, please reconsider your projecting to Bible-believing Christians as a whole the sort of murderous hostility that IslamIST terrorists have, which is an attitude that does not even extend to the majority of Muslims. (Do you see how irresponsible, uncivil and inflammatory your rhetoric is, and what sort of historical warning bells it sets off given some pretty sad recent history as already alluded to above? Where, the projective turnabout accusation is an even more telling tactic, especially when spreading the sort of broad-brush guilt by far-fetched invidious association you indulged. Just for a point of reflection, here is Paul of Tarsus’ summary of core Christian morality, in a context where he has already explained how these precepts are written into our consciences: >>Rom 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong [–> or, harm] to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.>> ESV)

  31. 31
    awstar says:

    Seversky #29

    So freedom FROM religion is a nonsensical idea.

    Is it? I read it as freedom from having someone else’s faith imposed on me at gunpoint or knifepoint or on pain of beheading, which is not at all a nonsensical idea. It has happened in the past and is still happening today.

    I think you just defined freedom “of” religion as our founding fathers defined it.

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