Friday, November 14, 2014

We are smart! The internet told us so!

The internet is killing religion with nollij!  It's true!  I read it on the Internet!

In recent months, this sense that the Internet is the key for atheist outreach has started to move from “hunch” to actual, evidence-based theory. Earlier this year, Allen Downey of the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts examined the spike in people declaring they had no religion that started in the ’90s and found that while there are many factors contributing to it–dropping familial pressure, increased levels of college education–increased Internet usage was likely a huge part of it, accounting for up to 25 percent of the decline in religious belief. While cautioning that correlation does not mean causation, Downey did go on to point out that since so many other factors were controlled for, it’s a safe bet to conclude that the access to varied thought and debate the Internet provides is persuading people to drop their religions.

That quote skips my favorite line from the piece:  "Above all else, it’s private. An online search on atheism is much easier to hide than, say, a copy of The God Delusion on your nightstand."

Because nothing says "nollij" like that steaming pile of crap!  Unless it's that quote, which literally makes a leap of faith, or certainly of logic, from "cautioning that correlation does not mean causation" to "conclude that the access to varied thought and debate the Internet provides is persuading people to drop their religions."  Because why let matters of causal analysis stand in the way of a good conclusion?  Amirite?

The irony here is that, in the name of information and "varied thought" and "debate," this article presents none of those things.  The information is woefully wrong and baseless; the thought is the same Johnny One-Note that religious people don't think and atheists alone have the power of ratiocination; and that comments and posts on the internet constitute "debate."  Consider this comment, from the article:

I know! In 1718, Pope Gregory XV established a committee of cardinals to handle missionary work (and we all know how important missionary work is to the church of the LAtter Day Saints, do we not?). It was called a "congregation for propagating the faith", or in the original Latin, Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, later shortened to the third word. Just a single word one can use in place of over a dozen!

What? You don't like it? But it's perfect! Why should such a catchy word not be used?

Which prompted this enlightened (and, as far as I can tell, thoroughly un-ironic) response:

Thanks for the history lesson!! I never knew that's where "Propaganda" came from!

We are smart!  We make  things go!

Adding:  for those interested, this article links to the study mentioned in the quote above, and also gives good reason not to put nearly as much stock in it as Marcotte does.  But, again, even in the "reality-based community," reasoning is hard; ranting is easy.


  1. the phrase "atheist outreach" started me laughing. the whole thing is just another version of pick-and-choose, or cafeteria, (fill-in-the-faith). it always struck me that if you didn't need a god you didn't need a dawkins to create some sort of intellectual underpinnings for that, either. you just go on about your business

    but i don't know- i'm one of those people you've written about before who are agnostic/apathetic on the god question. i have come to think of myself as a christian by default- not because of any active faith but because that was still the nature of the time and place in which i grew up. a lot of the people who influenced me in a good way then were actively religious. it would be dishonest of me to claim otherwise

  2. I skimmed right over that "atheist outreach" phrase. It is of a piece with the courage to have Dawkins on your nightstand. What's courageous about that, I don't understand; unless atheists are more akin to fundamentalists than they like to admit, since part of the identity of fundies has become being 'victims' of persecution by the world. Now the atheists apparently want some of that mojo.

    Faith is hard. That's one thing the on-line atheists I've encountered don't understand. Even Mother Teresa spent the bulk of her life in India trying to have one last mystical experience of Christ, and never getting it. Apparently it was her great secret torment.

    I wouldn't say she was Christian by default. But it does prove the truth of the old hymn: "The peace of God, it is no peace, but strife sown in the sod."

  3. As you know, it was reading thousands of atheists, online, many of the anonymous, being jerks, spouting nonsense, demonstrating that they were pig ignorant of science, mathematics, logic, history.... that made me look more critically at atheism and coming to some conclusions about atheism in intellectual and actual history. I have concluded that it is at most a very dangerous materialist monist belief system though, in its pop online version, it's merely a shallow, bigoted, lazy intellectual fad.

    I think most of the atheist outreach is to other atheists, to everyone else their idea of outreach is to flip humanity the bird.

  4. It's funny how few people in comments at Salon have picked up on that "atheist outreach" language.

    Such ideas usually prompt some hooting and throwing of feces from people who claim they are to "independent" to part of any group. Which makes them another group, of course....

    (Saw your post on this subject this morning. I'd call this synchronicity, except Salon and Marcotte can always be counted on for some clickbait on religion and atheism.)

  5. Atheist outreach will be successful as GOP minority outreach.

  6. the more i look at it the less i like the 'default' phrasing. there must be a word for someone who is influenced by something without being part of it directly and that's where i was trying to go

    odd how things make sense in your mind up to the point you say them out loud

  7. "Between the idea and the reality/Falls the shadow."

    Or Lamont Cranston.

  8. "It is of a piece with the courage to have Dawkins on your nightstand."

    Or whether there's anything "alternate" about the bog-standard anti-theism of AlterNet (which I knew, w/o looking, would be the source of the Salon piece).