Sunday, September 16, 2007

Atheism in the Washington Post

According to the WaPo, atheists are rising up in growing numbers. Hmmm. . . . Can four really loud guys constitute a movement? If their numbers are correct, five million atheists equals about 1.5% of the population.

Oh yeah, calling atheists "the godless" may be accurate, but in this culture it is equivalent to calling them evil. Sounds a little biased to me. Not to mention using the word "legion" along with "the godless;" makes it sound like the legions of hell are coming to get good, god-fearing Americans.

A legion of the godless is rising up against the forces of religiosity in American society.

"People who were ashamed to say there is no God now say, 'Wow, there are others out there who think like me, and it feels damned good,' " said Margaret Downey, president of the Atheist Alliance International, whose membership has almost doubled in the past year to 5,200. It has a 500-person waiting list for its convention in Crystal City later this month.

Focusing fresh attention on atheism in the United States was the publication last week of a book about Mother Teresa that lays out her secret struggle with her doubts about God. "Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light" has led some high-profile atheists to say that her spiritual wavering was actually atheism.

"She couldn't bring herself to believe in God, but she wished she could," said Christopher Hitchens, a Washington-based columnist and author of "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything," the latest atheist bestseller.

In the past two years, five books touting atheism have hit the bestseller lists, outselling such religious tomes as Pope Benedict XVI's book on Jesus, and popular Christian novelist Tim LaHaye's latest book, "Kingdom Come," according to Nielsen BookScan.

Representatives of atheist and humanist groups say the books probably haven't converted many religious people. But, said Lori Lipman Brown, a lobbyist for the Secular Coalition for America, which represents eight atheist or humanist organizations, the books "tremendously increase the visibility of nontheist rights."

Nontheist is another term for atheist, or someone who does not believe in a supreme being.

A study released in June by the Barna Group, a religious polling firm, found that about 5 million adults in the United States call themselves atheists. The number rises to about 20 million -- about one in every 11 Americans -- if people who say they have no religious faith or are agnostic (they doubt the existence of a God or a supreme deity) are included.

They tend to be more educated, more affluent and more likely to be male and unmarried than those with active faith, according to the Barna study. Only 6 percent of people over 60 have no faith in God, and one in four adults ages 18 to 22 describe themselves as having no faith.

Read the whole article.

I have a hard time with atheists like Hitchens claiming that Mother Teresa's crisis of faith was indicative of her lack of faith. That's foolish. It is proof of her faith that in the face of such doubts she continued to believe and to work in the name of her faith. She experienced a "dark night of the soul," but that does not bring her faith into question.

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