Magi Mike's Blog

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US Youth—Atheistic Thinking is Just Fine!

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American high schools have atheist clubs, warns the head of US Catholic bishops. Kids confirmed in the eighth grade, are atheists by the time they’re sophomores in high school. Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, President of the US Catholic Bishops’ Conference, notes that atheism is getting popular among teenagers and students in the USA. Atheism is growing rapidly in the 18-25 age group, and Catholic and Protestant professionals alike are getting worried about it. Young Americans are beginning to get the courage to go against the pressure of their parents and peers and proudly declare their atheism, flooding YouTube with atheistic videos. The US is getting like Europe. People who have long believed that religion is part of the American psyche are beginning to doubt!

It is hard for the scientific skeptic to imagine that human beings differ greatly in the way they think, but the religious believe they do think differently from nonbelievers. How then can devout Christian youth be persuaded by godless atheism? Indeed why should the Christian confident that they think differently from the atheist even worry that they can be deconverted by mere arguments? There could be no reason, if it were true, but it is not. UCLA researchers have found that Christians and nonbelievers use the same parts of the brain in categorizing the truth of articles of religious faith. Sam Harris, who recently completed a doctoral dissertation in cognitive neuroscience at UCLA, is one of the researchers. 15 Christian believers and 15 nonbelievers judged the truth of religious tenets while their brains were being monitored in a scanner. For both groups:

  1. judging religious assertions activated parts of the brain related with emotional judgment, uncertainty, rewards and self
  2. thinking about facts used parts of the brain that are strongly associated with memory retrieval
  3. asked to declare as true or false matters of faith took longer to respond than when asked to categorize matters of fact.

If anything, it shows that humans generally find matters of faith more puzzling and emotional than matters of fact, so even the faithful must have their doubts. The Cardinal sees it the other way round. Atheists are evangelical in their proselytizing, so they are thinking like believers!

It’s the mirror image of a kind of fundamentalism, because it’s very restrictive in its use of reason. It’s also very triumphalistic and self-righteous.

Either way, the mode of thinking of the pious and the profane are the same, and atheism can be taught to the next generation just as belief is, so any rise in atheism at the expense of religion is likely to continue to grow. Christian professionals are praying that the fear of death will change the minds of the newly atheistical youth, as they grow older.

The cardinal says that unbelief among young people is not just rejection of going to church, it is new atheism and every bit as intolerant as Christian fundamentalism. That is just old fashioned scaremongering, itself a form of intolerance. The intolerance of patriarchal religion is not surprising. It is the foremost teaching of the Old Testament God, in deed if not always in word. American youth are right to reject it.

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Written by mikemagee

16 October, 2009 at 3:22 pm

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