Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Wild Goose Chase

So Bill Maher talked to Jon Stewart last night (I was going to say "betrayed his stupidity again," but that would tip my hand too early).  I didn't catch it all (I seldom watch Jon's interviews), but I did tune in just in time to hear Maher lament that an avowed atheist can't win a public election in America (well, probably not for federal office, but in all of America?  I doubt it.) and that Atheists were the largest minority group in the country.

Well, I guess if you mean 2.4% of the population is the largest possible grouping of like-minded people in the country, you could be right.

I'm relying on that Pew post for my information here, because it seems the most credible source of information.  For one thing, as Pew notes:

Some adults who describe themselves as atheists also say they believe in God or a universal spirit, according to Pew Research Center surveys. At the same time, some people who identify with a religion (e.g., say they are Protestant, Catholic or Jewish) say they do not believe in God.
And dig into the numbers in that report:  no small number of self-identified atheists either believe in the existence of God, or consider spirituality to be harmonious with their atheism.  So we could first argue over definitions, before we get down to arguing over how many atheists there are.  Maybe we could start a "No true Scotsman" argument for atheists and see how that goes.  (There seems to be a lively example of this in the comments at Pew, but I didn't go to deeply into them there.)  But if we start whittling away "true atheists" from those who betray some acceptance of spirituality, the percentage of the population who are atheists is only going to go down.

On the other hand, they already have churches; why deny them the other pleasures of religious belief?

Maher likes to bring the stupid when it comes to discussions of religion, so this really didn't surprise me.  I am amused by his self-satisfied claim that Obama is "a drop-dead atheist."  Presumably that's based on the same discernment displayed by Sam Harris as to "true" and "false" Christians.  Either way, his claim about atheists being a large minority in America is as egregious an example of having your own facts as anything spouted in FauxNews.  I suppose the difference is, Maher is just a comedian, and "The Daily Show" is just a fake news show.

In the end, it really doesn't matter.  As with most issues of facts and figures, your first response should  always be to consider the source.

1 comment:

  1. They don't get to be a religion until they tell their members they have to do things they don't want to do.