Sunday, February 18, 2018

Atheism Doubles Among Generation Z - But Are Only 6% of US Adults Atheists?

A new Barna poll has come out recently which reports that Atheism Doubles Among Generation Z from 6% of all US adults to 13%. This is no surprise to many who pay attention to cultural trends as it's well known that religiosity is dropping precipitously.

But I do take issue with the idea that only 6% of US adults are atheists. Technically, the 6% comes from people who identify as atheists, not those are are atheists. That is an important distinction. Many people who are atheists don't identify as atheists for a variety of reasons, and that means the number of people who identify as atheists will always be lower than the number who actually are.

PEW Research's numbers from a few years ago stated that, "Nearly one-in-ten U.S. adults overall (9%) now say they do not believe in God, up from 5% in 2007." But only 3.1% of Americans are "atheists" according to their 2014 Religious Landscape survey. So 3.1% of American adults reported themselves as atheists, but 9% don't believe in god, which would make them atheists. So PEW's own numbers show that there are nearly 3 times as many actual atheists than reported atheists.

As someone who wants the world to be less religious in the future, I'm excited about the results from the new report. But I take issue with the idea that only 6% of US adults are atheists. The real number is much higher, and may be as high as 26%.

I hope that in the not-too-distant future, as millennials become the largest voting block in the US, their higher rates of irreligiosity will change the political landscape to finally once and for all get influence of religion out of American politics. And then, hopefully, we can have real policy debates with facts and evidence without religion ever interfering, like they do in many other first world nations.

But given traditional religion's decline, this brings up the next question: what's going to replace traditional religion? And that will be tackled in my next post.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Religion At Work

The other day I saw this ad on the internet advertising a 1 day conference called "Faith at Work New York" that according to its website is a "dynamic, one-day conference on how we, as Christ-followers, can engage in everyday work as a sacred calling from God Himself, and thereby become agents of grace in workplaces everywhere."

It seems to me like it's trying to teach people to preach the gospel and proselytize at work, and it got me thinking: is it appropriate to proselytize at work?

I would say the answer is no. One should keep their religious beliefs out of the workplace as much as possible. Here's why.

Work is a place you have to be (unless you want to go broke). And most people don't have the luxury of just being able to quit their jobs and go somewhere else. Millions of Americans are a few paychecks away from being homeless, and so work is such a special kind of environment. It's not like a shopping mall, or a street corner that you can leave without severe consequence. Because of this, when people are at work, they shouldn't be subject to religious proselytizing as it could make them uncomfortable with undue pressure to respond a certain way.

This is heightened by the fact that there are many power imbalances at work. Managers have the power to fire workers. What if a manager tried to preach the gospel to a subordinate? The subordinate might feel as if accepting their manager's enticements might get them favors, or worse, rejecting them might get them fired. Just as with workplace relationships, power imbalances at work make religious proselytizing a big complication. Big enough that I think it should be avoided altogether.

Every work environment is different and I have no idea what kinds of tactics will be taught at this conference. I would hope these concerns are taken into account. At my job, religion is almost never talked about, certainly not in a way where it's presumed to be true. My manager is actually a theist, but he's critical of religion, and so whenever it comes up, he's never preachy about it. If I was put under pressure at work to believe Christianity, I don't know how I'd react. The anti-theist in me would lash out and tell my coworkers their religion is nonsense. The accommodationist in me would be more diplomatic. Thankfully, living in the secular metropolis of New York, I've never had that experience. But I know my fellow atheists in the south are not as lucky.

I don't think religion nor atheism should be promoted in the workplace. In other words, there should be a separation between business and religion. Now if your business is religion that's another story. But in general, in most businesses that are merely selling a product of service that has nothing to do with religion, and so religion should be kept out.

I hope that the faithful don't think it's a good idea to bring religion into the workplace as a tactic to increase their numbers. That will likely backfire in our increasingly secular culture. There is no going back to pre-2000s levels of religious belief. That's just not happening Christians, sorry to burst your hopes. And the increased irreligiosity of generation Z ensures that.

Friday, February 16, 2018

How Special Relativity Makes Magnets Work

Length contraction is a fundamental consequence of the fact that we live in a 4 dimensional world in which objects are worldtubes in spacetime that are cut at different angles by the "now slices" of relative observers. Depending on the angle of the slice across the worldtube, it will either be longer or shorter. That means that objects that are moving relative to you will literally be contracted in the direction they're moving in. Now technically, this contraction doesn't come from the objects being "squished" in the sense of being compressed, like what you do with an accordion or a slinky. That would require an additional force and is a misunderstanding of length contraction.

If you've ever wanted a clear example of experimental proof of length contraction you may not have considered, watch this video from the highly popular YouTube channel Veritasium that shows how electric magnets are due to length contraction.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Time And Perception

I'm obsessed with time. In fact, I've been obsessed with time for a very long time.

I'm obsessed with every aspect of time, particularly it's ontology, and whether the future is real (exists) and I've written plenty about that on this blog. But there's another aspect of time I haven't written about so much, and that's the perception of time.

They say that as you get older time seems to pass by faster and faster, and it's definitely true. I'm now in my 30s and I can no doubt experience time flying by in a way that simply didn't happen when I was a kid. Ten years ago was 2008, and I can remember 2008 like it wasn't that long ago. However, back in 2008 ten years before that was 1998, and 1998 seemed like ages ago to me when it was 2008, even though they're the exact same amount of time.

I'm currently a bit obsessed with this kind of perception of the passage of time. Five years when you're a teenager seems like a lifetime, but in your 30s it goes by like nothing. When I was a teen in the late 1990s, the 1980s seems like eons ago, and the music, fashion, and culture seemed so foreign. Now ten years perspective doesn't seem that different. Sure there are no doubt cultural changes from the past 10 years. But someone from 10 years ago if transported to today would not look so out of place. It didn't seem that way in the 90s when compared to the 80s.

Time seems to pass by faster as you get older because when you're older you have less new experiences and your life becomes more monotonous. When you're a kid growing up everything is new. You're constantly learning and having new experiences and your brain is filing these new experiences away in memory at a much faster rate than it does when you're older and have less new experiences. When your brain commits more experiences to memory time seems to move slower. It's just like how before accidents people say they experience time slowing down. This is due to the brain committing more experiences to memory.

So is it inevitable that time will seem to continue moving by faster and faster the older we get? Well not exactly. There are ways we can mitigate this. Having frequent new experiences can make time seem like it's passing slower again. Getting out of the daily lifestyle routines and making changes can help as well. Basically, you want to avoid falling into monotonous routines, which plagues many of us as we get older. Learn something new, go on a trip, discover and explore new things. It will not only make time pass by slower, but it will make life worth living.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Why The Free Will Defense Fails Even If There's Free Will

We hear it over and over again: God let's people commit evil acts because he doesn't want to take away our free will. It's repeated so often and in such a knee jerk fashion that you'd think it was theistic Tourette's syndrome.

The only problem is that it fails as an explanation even if there's free will. And quite easily. Now of course libertarian free will is totally incoherent, but if we assume for the sake of argument that free will is somehow true, the free will defense of moral evil still fails. Here's how.

The original Dr. Evil
Let's take the classic epitome of moral evil: Adolf Hitler. Atheists will commonly raise objections to the theist's claim that god is omnibenevolent by saying, "If God is good and can prevent evil, why didn't God prevent Hitler from committing the Holocaust?" The theist's answer: free will.

Here's 6 reasons how this answer fails:

  • God could have made it so that Hitler got into art school, which could have set his life off on a very different direction, possibly preventing Hitler's rise to political power. Hitler famously got rejected from the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts when he was 18 by failing the entrance exam, ending his dream of being a professional painter. This would not have violated anyone's free will.
  • God could have made Hitler die in World War I where he served as a soldier and was wounded, and that would have prevented his rise to political power, preventing the Holocaust and World War II. Tens of millions died in World War I, many from disease. Hitler would have been just another casualty. This would not have violated anyone's free will.
  • Going back further, god could have given young Hitler cancer as a child. God kills thousands of kids with cancer every year across the world, extinguishing any freedom those kids could have had as adults. Why not have given baby Hitler cancer? Surely none of the kids who do get cancer and die would have committed as much evil as Hitler did. Again, this would not have violated anyone's free will.
  • Going back yet further, god could have given Hitler's dad erectile dysfunction on the night Hitler was conceived, which would have prevented Hitler from being conceived, thus preventing World War II. This would not have violated anyone's free will.
  • Further still, god could have made it so that the sperm cell that would have made Hitler never got to the egg by making other sperm cells get there instead, which would have resulted in a completely different person being conceived and born instead. This would not have violated anyone's free will.
  • And lastly, god could have made it so that the sperm cell that would have created Hitler never got created in the first place. Very simple. And again, none of this would not have violated anyone's free will.

Any one of these possibilities would have prevented Hitler from committing moral atrocities like the Holocaust in a way where no one's free will is ever challenged, and each of them could have easily been done by an omnipotent deity. These type of preventions could similarly be applied to Mao and Stalin, and any other moral monster from history. It's amazing how few people have noticed this. But it's always been quite obvious to me.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Democrats Have Doubled Down In Identity Politics

So I was at a State Of The Union address watching party on Tuesday with a bunch of friends to see what Trump would say. Before his speech a disagreement broke out among the mostly Left-leaning audience about what the Democrats need to do in 2020 to win back the White House.

Several people were explaining to me their theory that the Dems have to run a non-white woman in order to secure the presidency. No white male or even (according to some) a white woman should be the Democratic nominee. Why? Because too many white people have gone on to be the nominee!

The entire time I was pushing back: what if we just focused on getting a really good, smart, and principled candidate who is naturally charismatic regardless of their race and gender? Wouldn't that make more sense than focusing entirely on their race and gender? My ideas weren't popular. A giant portion of Left-leaning people have doubled down and gone full speed into identity politics, and I'm afraid it could be the Left's demise and give Trump a 2nd term.

A really smart, qualified, white male candidate will get no respect from many people on the Left because he's white and male, and not because of anything he's for. The furthest away you are from being a white, heterosexual, cis-gendered male the better. So if you're a woman: check. If you're non-white: check. Gay? Check. Trans? Check. Disabled? Check. This means the perfect candidate for the identity extremist Left would be a black trans-female disabled lesbian. She'd get a certain number of votes merely for meeting every requirement in the non-white male oppression checklist.

I am all for non-white male candidates being president but first and foremost they have to have good positions on the issues. I will take a true progressive like Bernie Sanders despite his white-male-hetero-cis-genderedness, over the neo-liberalism of Hillary Clinton or Cory Booker. What matters to me is always competency and principles, not whether or not you pee sitting down or don't need sun screen lotion.

It seems unlikely that large numbers of liberals will discontinue thinking that the most important aspect of a presidential candidate is their race, gender, and sexuality, and not their views. Since the election of Trump it seems to be only getting worse. I have strong reservations that this is a winning formula for presidential success, given the large backlash against identity politics. So Trump might be president until 2024.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

A United Atheist Community Is Impossible

It's been nearly a month now since The Atheist Conference collapsed and I've been thinking about the fallout and it's implications for the broader atheist community.

First, I want to clarify a misconception. It seems that many people thought that having Steve Shives at the conference lead to its demise. This is not true. What killed TAC was entirely due to the director's immoral behavior, which lead to many of our major speakers pulling out. Shives had nothing to do with it.

Second, the rift created by having Shives at our conference has lead me to completely abandon any hopes of atheist unity. The atheists community is irreparably divided and this is an inevitable consequence of the individualist atheist mindset. We're not divided over doctrine like the religious are, we're divided over politics and social issues. Since atheism has no doctrine, there's nothing to unite atheists other than disbelief in god. But that's hardly something to be united under. There's no organization or community dedicated to non-basketball players, or non-chess players, nor is there any reason too. It just isn't a thing.

The only thing that unites an atheist community is extreme persecution by the religious, like the kind happening to atheists in Muslim majority countries. But atheists by and large just don't experience that kind of persecution in the West. This is why there is little reason to have a strong organized atheist community in irreligious parts of the world like Denmark or Sweden, or New York or San Francisco. It is only where religion dominates and persecutes the non-religious that atheists feel the motivation to unite, which is why atheist communities in the American South tend to be much stronger than those in the North.

As atheism becomes more and more normalized and the rights of the non-religious become more and more secured, the need for an atheist community becomes less and less. Basically, the goal of the atheist community is to make itself obsolete. Perhaps the efforts of the atheist community for the last 15 years, which saw the rise of the New Atheism cultural movement, has become a victim of its own success. It's become so good at normalizing atheism that the need for it to continue existing at the size it was simply isn't there. And once religion ceases to be the threat that it once was to atheists, other issues will take center stage, and that's exactly what happened.

We were hoping that Trump's election would have a uniting force on the atheist community, and the main goal of TAC was to help facilitate this. But it didn't. The persecution of atheists even under fundamentalists like Mike Pence and Jeff Sessions just isn't bad enough to warrant such a unity. Most atheists across the US saw no difference in their lives once Trump took office. On top of that, the social issues that divide atheists today, like radical feminism and extreme political correctness, only seem to be getting worse by the day, and they have a much greater tangible effect on the live of most atheists in the West than religious fundamentalism does.

I've accepted this reality and I will no longer call for the futile idea of atheist unity. A united atheist community is impossible; that's just the way it is. But I'm definitely not going to stop being an active atheist. With TAC out of the way I can now focus on other projects. I will continue writing on this blog about atheism and related issues. I will continue working with my local atheist community in making more atheist related content, especially video content — something I haven't explored deeply. This will be in the form of documentaries and videos about atheist related subject matters, science, philosophy, and social issues, in both a scripted and unscripted format. I'm also planning on making a documentary about free will this year, something I'm uber excited about. This will necessarily reduce the number of blog posts I can make, so my frequency might be reduced, but there will be videos! Stay tuned.


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