Sociology Can Explain Religion And Atheism.

Atheists and “nones”, those who do not identify with any religion, have not been studied nearly as much as religious people.  I’m glad to see more interest in this from academic people.

While I haven’t read the book discussed in this link, some of what an author said is very familiar to a social scientist.  It was easy to discern the ChristianPost interviewer wanted to hear certain things from the professor being interviewed.

He wanted to hear atheists are elitist, closed minded to Christianity, old, lacking in morals and economically well off.  The leading questions were handled well.

One general principle of the social sciences is people are born into cultures.  For the most part, they take on the views of their indigenous culture.

Most nonbelievers think the reason believers have their views is because of the culture they were born into.  The same would be true of atheists, except it is unusual today in the U. S. one is born into such circumstances.  Nonbelievers come to their conclusions some other way.

The link suggests what led many away from the faith.  It was a reaction to evangelizing.

But, evangelizing is what Christians are taught to do.  It’s an interesting irony the very thing the Bible says brings people to the faith is that which does the opposite.

I think Christians would be well served by studying the sociology of religion.  They might learn much about the public, but about themselves as well.

31 Responses

  1. entech

    Interesting interview, says far more about the interviewer than The it does about the book, the author or the conclusion.

    Close minded? Given the dominantly Christian influence and background in America and Australia, I would suggest it is moving away and rejecting the influence that shows a more open minded approach. More atheists say that although they don’t believe it is not impossible, more Christians seem to be totally convinced and will accept no criticism, to the extent that many think even other denominations are completely wrong.
    Lacking in morals, that is just biased because a lot of what Christians call morals, is just that – bias. Murder, theft and all kinds of atrocities are equally condemned. Divorce for example is not immoral, just two people deciding that one or both had made a mistake in what they thought about the relationship in the first place, or, two people grew apart as the changed over the years.

  2. Wanna B Sure

    I read that this morning. Seems as though you have a different take from it than I did. My take was that atheism has grown through the push back to the more “enthusiastic”and “in your face” Evangelicals. AKA “Christian right.” Combining the christian right with the political right is what creates the climate for push back by the atheists. I have to say that those “righties” are equally offensive to me. They make themselves the message, not the messenger, AKA “evangel”. Evangel being the root word for evangelical. Today’s modern Evangelicals have lost their compass. Modern atheism could not thrive so well without them.

    1. Wanna B Sure

      At least Jon would not have so much to talk about without the modern pietistic evangelicals.

      1. Wolfy32


        It’s funny, my parents had required us to attend church on Sundays no matter where we were, including during vacations out of town to show that’s how important church is to us. We ended up attending a Lutheran church one Sunday. And they had tried different church’s in their hometown, and the biggest criticism was they aren’t “Charismatic enough’, the church is ‘dead’. What I’ve later concluded they meant, was the church didn’t show or express enough emotion. It didn’t require people to cry as part of a service.. I’ve thought many times, of wow… It’s all about emotion, either Euphoric song and dance or crying begging for mercy at alters as though a supreme being far more intelligent and supreme ruler over the universe, would cater to adults acting like 3 year olds? Crying at every church service, or high on happy song and dance?

        Really? It was a way to cater to Bi-Polar people. The extreme lows and the extreme highs of emotion…

        When religion / spirituality / Charismatic churches are based on level of emotion allowed to be expressed or shown or drawn out, wow… And emotion is God’s spirit?? I feel like I’ve resorted to either becoming a crazy 3 year old or started worshiping a crazy 3 year old….

  3. entech

    We should also consider that Christians are taking a lot on themselves, arrogating a lot to themselves. There were atheists long before there were Christians, the history of Greek philosophy is full of them.

    Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
    Then he is not omnipotent.
    Is he able, but not willing?
    Then he is malevolent.
    Is he both able and willing?
    Then whence cometh evil?
    Is he neither able nor willing?
    Then why call him God?

    Often attributed to Epicurus but a long, long standing question from the skeptics.

    And as I never tire of saying, Christians were persecuted as atheists in Rome because of their rejection of the Gods of the city.

    1. Wolfy32

      I’ve thought much on the dilemma that Christians have created for themselves.

      What if we remove religion? What if we remove good and evil from the equation…? Because all those symantecs evoke strong thoughts and emotions around a box that is encased in judgements and religion.

      What if we simply take this to there’s a being somewhere in the universe that enjoys life..? Doesn’t want to be alone and wants to bask in all that his life has to offer. But he doesn’t want robots and doesn’t want to be a baby sitter.

      So, he lets worlds form gives them each the spark of life and lets the laws he’s created of nature, of physics, of evolution, all take their place.. From that point he lets happen what may. He created vast numbers of beings immortal throughout the universe, basking in all life and creation. Pleased with his capabilities.

      Dissent occurred within the ranks of his creations. With only one mandate imposed on himself throughout the universe, to respect the right to free will. There rose a disagreement on who should be immortal, who shouldn’t be, what races get which powers, and lands, and squabbles over what happens to various races throughout the universes. As with the lesson of the apprentice bettering the master repeated throughout stories and folklore throughout our civilization, there’s this growing dissent within the ranks that maybe a created being could do more be more, be better than, be more powerful than, that supreme God himself. Soon, war broke out, and I truly believe this is not at all what God wanted, and I don’t believe the God being took joy in this, in fact, I think if the God being has much emotion at all, that maybe, he grieved the events process.. This where things get tricky and I don’t know if the human brain is capable of comprehending what happened. But, it’s also possible, the God being knew this would happen, and knew it would be the growing pains needed for the races to advance and develop into even stronger beings than they were before.

      Humans need things to be black and white. And so, good and evil were a concept created by mankind to try to make sense of this cosmic war. But, in all reality, we’re just in the middle of a war between two opposing ideas.

      I’ve struggled with why are humans and earth important to this war at all. After all if all these races are interstellar travelers and/or inter galaxy travelers, they’re most likely millions of years if not billions of years way more advanced in science, technology, and evolution than we are. So, what could all these supreme beings want with us at all?

      Why involve us in their war?? Other than maybe, both sides see us as strong fighters. We won out in terms of evolution, we’re advancing and a race that maybe would be an asset to either side. Just one thought.

      To keep a war going you villainize the opposite side, Sadam Husein, osama bin Laden, Hitler, etc. All are “evil” dictators. Well, if you remove the evil judgement, they are simply people with drasticly different morals, ideals, and philosophies on life and human existence. Maybe that’s really what this is about?

      God is more or less malevolent in the sense of, I’ve agreed to free will and I’m sad that my children are fighting. In the end I’ll step in and pick the ones that did their best. Those that fell by the wayside and turned to the otherside, well, nature has weeded them out.. They’ve made their choice and that’s that.

      1. Wanna B Sure

        All fair questions. The problem arises when speculation is codified, and dogmatized.

      2. Wolf re: galaxy travelors, what could supreme beign want with us anyway?

        My thinking is we don’t know about the galaxy yet. Until we know more, I think it is most helpful to think of it as random events, not managed for some purpose by something or someone. In the meantime, we do know something about humans here on mother earth. We know some of them get something from believing in mysterious higher powers and/or the emotional experience you discussed.

        It is more helpful to think of the deity coming the minds of humans to meet their needs for it than from an actual super natural being.

        1. Wanna B Sure

          Rescuing someone from the brink of salvation? Oh well it is your blog site. Smilie face.

        2. Wolfy32

          Jon, you’re right, we don’t know much about our own galaxy. We know very little about our own solar system.

          There’s so much in quantum physics and laws of physics that boggle our minds that we can’t possibly imagine whether there is or is not a beyond nature being out there somewhere… I happen to believe there is. I happen to think it cares about us deeply. As it tends to and cares about all its creations.

          Maybe our world is nothing more than an aquarium God views on his desk once in a while. Maybe there’s even a bobble head earth on his desk. Heh. There’s something out there, beyond the capabilities of our minds to comprehend.

          I think it’s pretty arrogant of us humans, to think that we’re it. multiple universes out there full of trillions of planets, and so many things we can’t even begin to understand yet, that, it seems very pompous of us to think, this is it. Is it possible there wasn’t an enigma… That just as our planet and we humans came to be that maybe intelligence(s) beyond us, beyond our reality, beyond the multiverse that physicists now believe / prove exist, that, enigmas of a living entity existing beyond all our understanding exists? For all we know it’s just a creature that resides in the nothing of space farting planets that then become full of life.

          I think it’s much more believable that something exists out there, than to say we’re it.

          1. Wolfy 4:58 “I think it’s pretty arrogant of us humans to think we’re it.”

            I agree. I would guess all nonbelievers would agree also. We are simply a fortunate result of a process, evolution. Speaking for myself, I’m very happy, and/or, lucky to be here. I don’t think we should abuse this good luck by polluting the source of our good fortune.

          2. entech

            I happen to believe there is. I happen to think it cares about us deeply. As it tends to and cares about all its creations. Cares deeply as it impassively observes all the children in Africa and throughout the world, who knows throughout the universe die of disease and starvation.
            Is he able, but not willing?
            Then he is malevolent.

            Mysterious ways indeed.
            That with God all things are possible as some say, well with <i multiple universes out there full of trillions of planets, perhaps somewhere, somehow without God all things are possible?

            We are not IT, just a small part of it, and that is enough for me. No need to gild the lily, it is all out, it is awesome – isn’t that enough; you have to invent some kind of special creation?

  4. I don’t buy the idea of atheists being reactive to societal pressures. I think it has much more to do with personality. Most atheists have a strong streak of independence and are generally not inclined to defer to authority of any kind.

    1. entech

      Hate to disagree, but so many in China would prove that wrong.

      On the other hand, if you think of the state taking atheism and perverting it into some kind of state religion for he purposes of the leadership and domination, then atheism takes on a religious role. This could explain its use in Soviet Russia as well.

      1. Societal pressure is one thing; an authoritarian government restricting all free thought is entirely another. You have identified the problem. Atheism is by it’s nature incapable of being force-fed. It’s basis is reliance on critical thinking resulting in individuals coming to realizations of the nature of life on this earth.

    2. realist 2:05 “I think is has to do with personality.”

      I agree with you–except this. Would not you agree more young people would be atheists nearly all of their friends and there parents were also?

      1. Yes, but the business of overly-zealous evangelicals driving people to atheism is what the article suggested. Are you suggesting that this doesn’t work with young people; that they are more likely to follow the crowd? I feel that each has a role, but that personality has an even greater influence.

    3. Henry

      r:“I don’t buy the idea of atheists being reactive to societal pressures.”

      r, I agree with you. If societal pressure was the catalyst for atheism, then the ’80’s with real religious right pressure would have been a hotbed for atheism growth. It wasn’t. Today, we have Boner and Hoven. Not exactly right, maybe religious.

  5. Jb

    I think genetics does play a role as well. I was raised in a Christian home and became ” born again” in adolescence. I quickly began to question my faith and struggled for years before coming to the conclusion that science provides a fairly good purview of things without the need for the supernatural . I do not have overt hostility to religion. I attend services occasionally with my wife, but I do not believe any of it anymore. People speak of politics. I tend to be Libertarian, and generally vote Republican ( but am disgusted with our current state congress on the abortion issue) . I own guns and I am a member of the NRA. My wife and close friends know I am an atheist. I do not have any bitter memories of church in my upbringing. In fact some of the most fun I had in childhood was related to church activities. It is just I could not make myself believe in a supernatural being who always existed and reads our thoughts and cares about our lives. Evolution and Cosmology just seems more reasonable. I read Dean Hamer’s book about the god gene. I think I just lack it. Most people probably have at least one. I think the super religious are homozygous. Who knows really.

    1. Jb 2:53 Thanks for the personal essay.

      “Who knows really.” Certainly we don’t know everything. But, like you, my default does not go to a god.

        1. Wolfy32

          I can see the conversation now: “Have you tried… not being Atheist…?? ” “Moooooom!! I just don’t get it, I can’t believe in God, I wasn’t born to believe in God.” “But just try anyways Johnny. “

  6. Wolfy32

    Wanna B, I was being facetious, imagining a conversation about homosexuality being turned into one about religion.

    1. Wanna B Sure

      But there still is that “still small voice”, not commonly heard in a Charasmatic celebration.

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