Sunday, October 07, 2007

Atheism as a reaction to 9/11.

The Kansas City Star had a recent article about the climbing number of Americans who will publicly call themselves atheists.
The article is pretty decent. However, there was one suggestion, by the writer, that made me think, "Uhhhh? Huh?" The writer claims that part of the reason for the rise in atheism is the events of September 11th. Her hypothesis is that people saw the results of religious fanaticism and, therefore, rejected religion. That may be correct (although, I suspect it's not). Some people may have watched the horrors of 9/11 and decided to give up religion - but, that doesn't make that person an atheist.

Also, I've not talked with one person who has claimed that 9/11 made them an atheist. That doesn't mean there's not someone out there who would claim that. It also doesn't mean that I find it unlikely that the events of 9/11 made people question: their religion, then their faith, and then their god. That may have happened. But, I don't think 9/11 is the reason for the rise in atheists. What do you think?

Personally, I think that atheism is "on the rise" because there's such a heavy, oppressive movement by the religious right in this country. Where before you could probably cruise under the radar as an atheist because professing your religion or sharing your Church group was the fundamentals and evangelicals have decided to over-share. It (the way they share) almost becomes a form of harassment in its own right. When faced with Christians who are bent on proselytizing (and totally destroying the idea of personal space or intellectual freedom), is it any wonder that more atheists are popping up to say, "Whoa! Back off."?

Again, what do you think? Do you think the article is on the money?


PiGuy said...

I was theist long before 9/11.

In fact, my mother (born again Christian) called me that morning about a few hours after the attacks were on TV and said that (good part), "This is a good time to call and tell those that you care about that you love them..." and then (WTF? part) "...and you know that this is the work of the Devil." My response: "Mom - don't you realize that they think that God told them to do this?" And she said, "Not the one, true God."

I would say that this is why I'm an atheist. I simply could not accept as true the unprovable, highly unlikely premise that God exists after having him thrust upon me for most of my childhood and told how God = Love and then seeing good people come to harm and bad people prosper. I couldn't resolve that contradiction and realized that one of the premises was false. After that, the argument had nothing.

Unfortunately, I think that some people became more religious after 9/11. They saw that event as the beginning of the end, perhaps as a sign of the coming Apocalypse even. At the time, I had thought that it would prompt some thinking people to reject the notion of God but, instead, I learned that there are not as many thinking people out there as I had initially thought.

Ben said...

It isn't a reason for many people's atheism. It IS a reason for many people becoming outspoken about it.

What was your "tipping point" into activism ?" thread

My answer was:

A combination of 9/11 and the Bush era mixing of religion and government. Especially evolution denial and gay marriage.

Really, it was kind of like 'You have abused your privilege of not being challenged about having an invisible friend who can do magic. Grow up.'

Anonymous said...

Agree with Ben. Those of us who had thought that the world was big enough for us and the fanatics, learned that this can only get us all killed. The world cannot be surrendered to lunatics, and that's why more of us are making our voices heard. I hope we're not too late.

Steve said...

I don't think 9/11 really had anything to do with it. The atheists have always been out there, they just haven't been that vocal about it. I'm guessing they've either never really thought of their atheism as something worth mentioning or have thought it best to not mention it, until certain religious groups started spewing hate and bigotry and began trying to take over the country.

Perpetual Beginner said...

Whether it has directly to do with 9/11 or not, I know I'm a lot more likely to present as atheist now than I was a decade ago. Which is ironic, since I'm actually a theist now and wasn't then (I'm primarily agnostic in both modes, and my view of God diverges in many places from anything resembling the classic Christian view). But back when I was purely agnostic there didn't seem to be so many fanatical idiots around with such hateful, harmful views about God and what God wants.

floridamom said...

I have a cyber-friend who started questioning her beliefs after 9-11. She eventually became an agnostic.

Strange as it might seem, homeschooling is what drove me to atheism. I didn't really know about fundies until we started homeschooling. We were what I always called liberal Christians, the live and let live kind. Being around so many who believed in young earth, literal bible, and Dubya was chosen by god that drove me to really research my faith. It wasn't long until I realized that hey, it's all imaginary. So, we can thank the fundies for creating a new family of atheists.

shaun said...

I think 9/11 was a catalyst event for a lot of atheists. I think that most of them were at least weak atheists leaning toward strong atheism but after 9/11 prompted books like "The End of Faith" and more atheists started speaking out about their atheism, it empowered a lot of us who were skepitcal about "coming out."

Anonymous said...

9/11 pushed me over the edge to giving up on being a theist. I had already had my doubts before, but 9/11 just confirmed it for me.

Poodles said...

Also, look at the number of homes who access the internet since 2001. With the rise in this accessible community you will see a rise in people being more open and comfortable with being atheist.

Knowing and being able to share with others makes it easier to "come out". We are not alone or isolated anymore.

Russ said...

I don't see 9/11 as a make or break on theism, but I do see it as yet another block stacked against any argument supporting it. I know many persons for whom 9/11 was a precipitating factor in their openly declaring their atheism, but 9/11 was not a causative factor. For them, 9/11, it seems, simply brought to a head a pathology that had been festering below the surface for some time.

Personally, on hearing that the 9/11 perpetrators were religiously motivated, I was not at all surprised, but I can also say it certainly did not motivate me to question my own non-belief by pretending that some deity would help us to resolve our differences or miraculously erase the events of that day.

pomo housewife said...

for me, yes, 9/11 did have something to do with it. At that point I was trying to be christian. I may well have flipped from the live newscast to a Joyce Meyer televangelist program.

Later I read a someone's tagline about how one moment a person is walking along stirring their cup of coffee, the next deciding whether to burn or jump to their death. And what sort of god could allow that.

Combine that with the Tsunami, and a personal family tragedy, and the whole notion of prayer isn't even funny but disgusting.

Joanna said...

9/11 pushed me over the edge. I would have gone over anyway, but I was 23, so it was a timeing thing.

Riker said...

I'd say 9/11 was a large second-order influence in my becoming an atheist-activist. The attacks brought about ideal conditions for the resurgence of evangelical Christianity and for a smearing of the Separation clause all over government; those are the things that really motivated me to take an active stance.

BT Murtagh said...

I was already an atheist of many years, and didn't make any effort to hide it. The destruction of the World Trade Center* did influence me toward being more outspoken about it.

* (I friggin' hate referring to that event by the date alone - lots of other important things happened on that date, and I'm willing to spend the extra letters to describe specifically what I'm talking about.)

Aerik said...

Thanks for alerting me to the fact that this article was re-distributed in the KC Star. I missed it b/c I hadn't read a physical newspaper in several days.

I blogged my letter to our editor.

Kazim said...

Late to this thread, but I agree with those who said that 9/11 was a catalyst in helping atheists become more outspoken.

As I wrote in 2002, the days following 9/11 saw right wing religious types write a lot of unprovoked and unfair attacks on atheism, trying to pin the blame on something other than religion. That got worse and worse over the following years, and I think this was partly responsible for the backlash.

Ginny said...

I don't think it turned people Atheist. I was Atheist way before the attacks. I think what happened after, maybe helped some people admit they were in fact Atheist though.