Second Generation of
Europe's Dawn of Reason
Cassandra Reed

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From: "Positive Atheism
To: "Cassandra Reed"
Subject: Re:
Mythology: Both Entertaining and Dangerous
Date: March 03, 2004

Thanks! This is most excellent!

The numbers from the City University New York study appear to be pointing toward the strong likelihood that America will follow Europe in her abandonment of the Abrahamic religion. Of all the "sects" (atheism not really being a sect -- but), atheism is growing the fastest both by percentages and by sheer numbers. I have made the observation, based upon the fact that atheism would be the third largest "sect" in the U.S. (behind the Baptists and the Roman Catholics), that if we were to have a rift of some kind and divided into two distinct "sects," those aged 30 and older versus adults under the age of 30, then the over-30 group would still be Number Three -- even without this substantial subset of our number! And we see just how substantial that subset is when we note that the newly formed "under-30" group would be in sixth place!

My hypothesis is that they can reason in most areas of life, but many have been brainwashed from infancy to express loyalty to the Church at the cost of social ostracization. This conditioning, I think, produces a reflexive fear of any hint of dissenting from "The Creed."

In other words, there are two completely different parts of the brain at work, here, each running on two entirely different sets of values one, familial and loyal and the other working in a nuts-and-bolts world of direct observation.

It is also very possible for highly talented people to brainwash themselves as adults. For example, if I were to meet a wonderful Jewish woman whom I just couldn't live without, her father might insist that I go to Synagogue every Friday night to "prove" my half-hearted claim that I was "Jewish at heart" (made to placate him, of course: I want his daughter! Right!?). After months or years of this, after severing relations of the past and spending all my time with her (or at work, of course) and only cursory times with old relations, I could very easily succumb to the Hebrew faith's constant tugs at my loyalty. If all these elements of isolation, consolidation, repetition, and a strong motive are present, it's quite conceivable that I, Cliff Walker, might convert to Judaism!

I doubt it, but it is conceivable! It can happen if I am not careful. A scenario quite similar to this one has played out in my own life: I converted, basing the move very heavily on emotional reasons. The things people do are not always their first choices. We often find ourselves in situations wherein we simply grit our teeth and make the best of it.

More to the point, many of us simply take the word of the pastor (the religion's salesman, actually) and trust that his education and experience, being superior to ours, is trustworthy. Few if any American Christians have actually read the Bible beyond the select passages that the pastor reads from the pulpit and the select passages used in "devotional" videos and books. Of the handful who do venture beyond that, any time we read something that we don't understand (that is, that appears to contradict or otherwise go against what our pastor has told us to believe), we ignore it, justifying it on similar grounds as before:

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The pastor knows best! This is the Word of God, which by definition cannot have any errors, contradictions, or discrepancies, so it must be my understanding that is flawed.

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This line of reasoning can go quite far when combined with a powerful motive such as building or maintaining a family or, as only we Americans seem to understand, to avoid the stigma of being a questioner, a disbeliever, an atheist.

The most important observation I've made along these lines, however, is that not everybody holds the same set of values. Even though they will give flowing lip-service when asked, many people do not give truth a very high ranking in their list of moral priorities. My column, "On Truth And Credibility" is the result of my coming to terms with this fact.

Nevertheless, you have some clear and compelling answers to this question later on in your essay.

Again, thanks!

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Eight-and-one-half years of service to
          people with no reason to believe
P.O. Box 16811
Portland, OR 97292

"Those who are not theists are atheists."
     This definition is favored as a generic
self-definition for our social class by a
majority of the atheistic social critics,
philosophers, writers, and reformers who
ventured an opinion on the subject.
     We recommend the popularization of this
definition as a potential means to reduce
the stigma that is leveled against atheists
from virtually every side.
     Don't let antagonists tell us who we are!
                    -- Positive Atheism Magazine

"My conclusion is that there is no reason to
     believe any of the dogmas of traditional
     theology and, further, that there is no
     reason to wish that they were true. Man,
     in so far as he is not subject to natural
     forces, is free to work out his own destiny.
     The responsibility is his, and so is the
          -- Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), from
                    "Is There a God?" (1952), being
                    the minimal religious opinion of
                    one-fifth of the World's and of
                    one-seventh of America's adults

"The legitimate powers of government extend
     to such acts only as are injurious to others."
          -- Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), from
                    "Statute for Religious Freedom"

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain
     a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty
     nor safety."
          -- Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), from
                    "Historical Review of Pennsylvania"

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