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Why is the Rate of Atheism Increasing in the United States, Especially Generationally?
Jordan Snyder Professor Malcolm Campbell English 1103 10/10/12
Annotated Bibliography Cornish, Audie. “Study Finds Americans Less Religious Than Ever.” All Things Considered. NPR. 9 Oct. 2012. Web. 10 Oct. 2012. In this radio segment, host Audie Cornish interviews Gregory Smith, co-author of the recent study published by Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life. The survey found that more Americans than ever, about 19.6%, consider themselves “religiously unaffiliated.” Among that group are people who claim to be atheist or agnostic or have no religion in particular. The study shows that, over the past five years, this category of “nones,” as they are sometimes called, has grown about 5%. Smith tells Cornish that “generational replacement” is one of the significant factors in this increase, with one-third of people under 30 claiming to be religiously unaffiliated. However, Smith clears up many misconceptions by pointing out that this group is not entirely secular. In fact, most of the religiously unaffiliated said that they believed in God or a universal spirit; however, approximately nine out of 10 unaffiliated people are not seeking for a religion to join. The information provided in this segment is certainly credible, as the Pew Research Center is widely trusted and respected. That said, this source, while great for someone who is just trying to hear a news brief and move on, is more of a starting point. The information provided is reliable, but only scratches the surface in terms of analyzing trends over many years and understanding the breakdowns/demographics of the various categories and subcategories. I am definitely considering using Smith’s quote about generational replacement: “Generational replacement is one of the key factors…Among people under the age of 30, fully one-third are religiously unaffiliated. And that's a rate of
disaffiliation that's much higher than is seen among their elders, and it's also a rate of disaffiliation that's much higher than what we've seen even among previous generations of young people.” For other information, however, I will probably refer to the survey itself instead. Florien, Daniel. “Did the Internet Cause the New Atheists?” Unreasonable Faith. Patheos. 4 Dec. 2009. Web. 14 Oct. 2012. Florien describes himself as a former evangelical Christian turned atheist and skeptic. He says, “I attended Bible college and worked at a Christian organization for many years. I have ‘led people to Christ.’” But now, he skewers his previous views, writing his blog, Unreasonable Faith, on the atheist channel of the website Patheos. The site hosts blogs of all faiths, with the goal that its users “engage in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality.” In this particular post, he gives his hypothesis for why the “New Atheist” movement seems to be successful. Florien believes that the Internet has played a key role in catching people’s attention. Because atheists have always been in the minority, he says, most have never been in a position where they could speak out for fear of being ostracized or punished. Thanks to the anonymity of the Internet, atheists could feel free to share their opinions, ask questions, and socialize with like-minded individuals from around the world. Florien thinks that this socialization in turn led to group polarization in which strong atheists became more vocal. And this audience of Internet-atheists eagerly bought books like Sam Harris’ The End of Faith and Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, and their success created a wave of more “New Atheist” works. The reason I latched on to Florien’s idea is because it mirrored my personal experience. (Apparently, the same goes for quite a few of the post’s commenters.) There are no
statistics provided to back up his claims, but it is a logical assumption – it just needs to be fleshed-out more. This is an angle I intend to cover thoroughly in my research essay. Kanazawa, Satoshi. “Why Liberals and Atheists Are More Intelligent.” Social Psychology Quarterly 73.1 (2010): 33-57. Web. 12 Oct. 2012. Kanazawa is an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, who is known for researching controversial and, arguably, politically incorrect topics. For example, he was recently fired from Psychology Today after publishing a non-peerreviewed article titled “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” However, this article in the academic journal Social Psychology Quarterly was peer-reviewed, lending it more credibility despite its seemingly controversial nature. The piece was obviously written for people well versed in the field of psychology, though it is not impossible for the layman to grasp most of the concepts. His proposal, the Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis, connects the Savanna Principle, which states, “The human brain has difficulty comprehending and dealing with entities and situations that did not exist in the ancestral environment.” and the evolution of general intelligence, which is defined as “the ability to reason deductively or inductively, think abstractly, use analogies, synthesize information, and apply it to new domains.” Therefore, he contends that people with more general intelligence are more likely to espouse evolutionarily novel values, like liberalism and, more importantly for my research, atheism. Kanazawa first analyzed the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), which tested the verbal intelligence (which Kanazawa states is highly correlated with general intelligence) of adolescents using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test
(PPVT); several years later, when the respondents were aged 18 to 28, they were surveyed about their religiosity and political ideology, finding that those who scored higher on the test as adolescents were more likely to grow up to be more liberal and nonreligious. Second, Kanazawa analyzed data over the last 30 years from General Social Surveys (GSS) administered annually or biennially by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. Once again, these surveys claim to measure the respondents’ verbal intelligence and religiosity, and, much like the results of Add Health, those who scored higher in verbal intelligence had significantly weaker belief in God and significantly less intense religiosity. My biggest issue with the study is the vagueness of the term “general intelligence,” and the fact that the researcher easily equates it to “verbal intelligence” without a clearer explanation of why that is. Despite the murky semantics, the results still provide a unique angle to include in my research. The Savanna-IQ Interaction Hypothesis suggests that each new generation has more verbal and/or general intelligence than the last, and therefore, each new generation is more likely to acquire or explore the evolutionarily novel concept of atheism. Kwon, Lillian. “Christian Philosopher Explores Causes of Atheism.” The Christian Post. 18 March 2010. Web. 13 Oct. 2012. The Christian Post claims to be “the nation’s most comprehensive Christian news website,” proudly posting its “Statement of Faith” on the “About Us” page, so the perspective of reporter Lillian Kwon is clear. That said, her typical audience probably shares the same viewpoint. The focal point of her article is Dr. James Spiegel’s book The Making of an Atheist, a response to the New Atheist movement of Richard Dawkins,
Christopher Hitchens, et al. The specific goal of his book is to reveal what he claims is “the real explanation of atheism” – that is, the cause of atheism, not a definition of it. According to Spiegel, people are not drawn to atheism because they desire objective evidence, rather it is a cognitive disorder brought on by immoral indulgences in conjunction with deep psychological disturbances (such as a negative or nonexistent relationship with one’s father). Spiegel says, “There is a phenomenon that I call ‘paradigm-induced blindness,’ where a person's false worldview prevents them from seeing truths which would otherwise be obvious.” Essentially, he is saying that someone who does not already believe in God would not see evidence of God in nature and the universe, but to someone who does believe, nature is evidence of God. For the most part, I take issue with the unscientific and circular nature of his argument. All of his assertions come with the presupposition that his Christian beliefs are true. For example, when Spiegel talks about immoral indulgences, which is the first step of his supposed cognitive disorder, he is referring to sin. As support, he cites Biblical scripture, which says that sin will corrupt the mind and cause the sinner to rebel against and ignore the truth of God revealed in nature. Therefore, the very foundation of his claims – the validity of his Christian beliefs – cannot be proven, and his entire argument is essentially void. Furthermore, one could just as easily apply the “paradigm-induced blindness” phenomenon that Spiegel introduced against Spiegel himself, saying, for example, that because of his false Christian worldview, he is prevented from seeing the truth of Islam. The one area of his argument that I would have liked to learn more about, the link between a broken fatherly relationship and atheism, was scarcely mentioned in the article. Despite the fact that I am an atheist with an exceedingly healthy son-father relationship, I
would be interested to see if there actually is a correlation or if the suggestion is merely more bad science. I intend to use this source in my paper as a viewpoint that is completely opposite to mine and, also, to point out some misconceptions and logical fallacies. The first source that you chose is very insightful because it shows both research that was performed along with eliminating misconceptions that may have been drawn from that research. One thing that I took note of was ensuring that in your Final paper for English is to make sure that the read fully understand what the term "generational replacement" so that the reader can gain a full perspective of where you inquiry paper is going. Explain more on why the second source is useful to you maybe personally, and for your paper. I like how you are using sources that are going more in depth into atheism (socially speaking also) to set up your big picture of your inquiry question. Also be sure to explore how the internet is putting such a jumpstart on becoming more outspoken of being an atheist. you touched on it a little bit with saying on the internet its comfortable, but go into that just a tad bit more...so far through your AB, it's really good...and I'm having a hard time critiquing. it looks like in your third source you are trying to illustrate "logic". that's is what is screaming out to me in this one. and not only logic of a certain individual, but it could also go with a matter of a child growing up, becoming atheist, and instilling those same beliefs in his children. Maybe all of this increase in atheism isn't due to just the culture or generation, but the parents could take some responsibility as well (since they are more intelligent in the field) It seems that you care a lot about this topic and are very passionate about it. I can tell just from your writing that you really have a problem with your last source..haha...and that's good. Just use that fire and let it bleed right onto the paper. Just remember that after research, your original question expands into a thousand more leaving the viewer with a blurry conclusion, or even the author with a blurry conclusion.
That probably the AB that I've seen in a while so good job man. I tried not be a terrible critic and say Good Job and leave you hanging...but when you got it, you got it.
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