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Study Contends There Are Twice as Many Atheists in America as Polls Show
“Atheist churches” are popping up across the US and Europe. Is it just a trend?
The mayor of San Antonio, Ivy Taylor, made headlines recently during a mayoral candidate forum. She was asked about systemic generational poverty in her city and what she thought caused it. Mayor Taylor replied, "To me, it's broken people...people not being in a relationship with their Creator.” Basically it was godlessness which caused poverty, in her view. Whether this was a deflection or her actual belief isn’t clear. But that she thought this would be an acceptable answer tells us something about how agnostics, atheists, and those questioning faith, are regarded in American society.
Another controversy in a similar vein, was when the Pope spoke out, saying it is better to be a good atheist than a “fake” Christian. This emphasizes Catholicism’s focus on good works as the path to salvation over pure faith, as Protestants believe. Christianity is the largest world religion, followed by Islam which is growing, but not as fast as the third place contestant, no religion, the fastest growing faith category in the world. Around 7% of the global population is atheist and if we include the non-religious, it’s 16.5%.
A recent Gallup Poll suggests one in 10 Americans don’t believe in God, a small but significant milestone. Over one-third of millennials polled were religiously unaffiliated. On another front, according to the Pew Research Center, the number of Americans who identify as Christian dropped 8% between 2007 and 2014.
Oxford professor Richard Dawkins is well-known for his non-belief. On this side of the pond, two researchers say, there's a stigma against atheism. Getty Images.
No religious affiliation or “nones,” are the second largest faith category in North America today. They’ve been growing steadily for decades now. About 25% of the entire US population are among the unaffiliated. While in the past several years, the number of atheists has doubled. Most are white, male, and highly educated. 56% are politically liberal. People of color, women, and the less educated tend to be more religious.
Some experts say there are even more atheists that aren’t accounted for. A recent study at the University of Kentucky finds a lot of what they call “closet atheists." Researchers Will Gervais and Maxine Najle say there’s a lot of stigma surrounding atheism. Several polls have shown that people find atheists less trustworthy, even immoral. As a result, many lie to the pollster because they feel uncomfortable sharing their true feelings, Gervais and Najle say.
Pew’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study, found that those who self-identified as atheists mostly kept it to themselves. Two-thirds said they seldom, if ever, discussed their point of view. In the same survey, 51% of Americans said they’d be less likely to support an atheist candidate for president.
That number declined from 63% in 2007. Even so, there are no atheists in Congress today. Only one House member Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), is religiously unaffiliated. Perhaps even more thought provoking, a 2014 Boundaries in the American Mosaic Survey, found that 42% of US adults said that atheists don’t share the same vision for America as they do.
Despite the image of atheists being outspoken, a new study finds that there may be just as many "closeted" ones. Getty Images
According to Gervais and Najle, atheism in the US may be as high as 26%, more than double Pew’s findings. The results of this study are being published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. Pew had it at nine percent. A 2016 Gallup poll say’s 10% of Americans are atheists. But Gervais said, “We can say with a 99 percent probability that it’s higher than [11 percent].”
He and Najle decided to use a unique method known as “the unmatched count technique," to eliminate any stigmatization from the study. They created a survey and gave it to 2,000 US adults. These were two nationally representative samples. Rather than come right out and ask the respondent their beliefs, participants were given a list of statements. These included, “I have a dishwasher in my kitchen,” “I am a vegetarian,” “I enjoy modern art,” and “I own a dog.” One group however confronted an additional statement, “I believe in God.”
Each participant wrote down the number of statements that were true for them. Since both groups had around the same number of dog owners and vegetarians, the researchers could estimate how many didn’t believe in God. In this way, by taking off the social pressure, they arrived at a more accurate number, Gervais and Najle argue.
On the other hand, the director of Pew’s religion polling efforts Greg Smith, was skeptical of the findings. “I would be very reluctant to conclude that phone surveys like ours are underestimating the share the public who are atheists to that kind of magnitude,” he said.
Secular Sunday Assembly, an “atheist church” in England. Getty Images.
A lack of faith has been hard to study. Besides the stigma, the variety of labels and categories has expanded over time. They sometimes identify as agnostic, a skeptic, undecided, non-affiliated, or even a humanist—those who are “good without God.” Then there is a segment who simply refuse to be labeled. This wide differentiation may obfuscate "nones" actual numbers.
Another issue that might make them less visible is that there is no traditional, overarching institution to organize, cater to, and represent atheists. The Center for Inquiry and the Richard Dawkins Foundation may be changing that. Stephanie Guttormson is the operations manager for the latter. She told National Geographic, “Organizing atheists is like herding cats.” But she added, “Lots of cats have found their way into the 'meowry.'”
There are websites, agnostic and atheist discussion boards, and Meetups for those who are on the skeptical side of things. There’s even a place for those who would like to continue taking part in some kind of ritual, without receiving dogma. In England, the Secular Sunday Assembly—something of an “atheist church,” has caught on. The idea has taken by storm, and similar institutions now dot North America.
To hear about this growing “atheist church” movement, click here:
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
How can we promote the creation of new neurons - and why is it so important?
- Neurogenesis, the birth of neurons from stem cells, happens mostly before we are born - as we are formed in the womb, we are generating most of what we need after birth.
- After birth, neurogenesis is still possible in two parts of the brain: the olfactory bulb (which is responsible for our sense of smell) and the hippocampus (which is responsible for memory, spatial navigation, and emotional processing).
- Research from the 1960s proves creating new neurons as adults is possible, and modern-day research explains how (and why) we should promote new neuron growth.
Two parts of the brain can continue growing through neurogenesis<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkyMzk2NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwOTAwODc1MH0.4GDLlZmkwuD0-pJ0s0UWcUoYXMy95a-AM61a_QAlAeA/img.jpg?width=980" id="2e77e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4e23499fdf3b2185533979083fd02db7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="brain made of twigs and plants concept of neurogenesis" />
Neurogenesis is still possible well into adulthood in two very important parts of the human brain.
Image by EtiAmmos on Shutterstock<p>Although most people are aware that aging or bad habits such as heavy alcohol use can contribute to the deterioration of our brains, not many of us give thought to how we can generate new brain cells.</p><p>Neurogenesis, the birth of neurons from stem cells, happens mostly before we are born - as we are formed in the womb, we are generating most of what we need after birth. </p><p><strong>After birth, however, neurogenesis is still possible in two parts of the brain:</strong></p><ul><li>The olfactory bulb, which is a structure of the forebrain that's responsible for our sense of smell. </li><li>The hippocampus, which is a structure of the brain located within the temporal lobe (just above your ears) - this area is important for learning, memory, regulation, of emotions and spatial navigation. </li></ul><p>Of course, when this information first came to light <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/13860748" target="_blank">back in the 1960s</a>, the next natural question was: How do we promote neurogenesis in those areas where it's still possible? </p><p>Researchers today believe there are activities you can do (some of them may be things you already do on a daily basis) that can promote neurogenesis in your brain. </p><p><strong>Why is it important to promote the growth of new neurons in adulthood?</strong></p><p>We produce an estimated 700 million neurons per day in the hippocampus - this means by the time we reach the age of 50, we will have exchanged the neurons we were born within that area of the brain with new (adult-generated) neurons. </p><p>If we don't promote this exchange with the growth of new neurons, we may block certain abilities these new neurons help us with (such as keeping our memory sharp, for example). </p>
4 ways to promote neurogenesis in your brain<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkyMzk2Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNTE3NjczNH0.qyzh_AIUPKfaQIa1QEq4yTNCAAK9nYkH3HFV9vWXwww/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C104&height=700" id="64a68" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee1307fe2dd61ae425552da56db3c5ff" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="child playing trumpet concept of learning a new instrument neurogenesis" />
Learning a new instrument helps promote neurogenesis.
Photo by DenisProduction.com on Shutterstock<p><strong>Intermittent fasting</strong></p><p><a href="https://law.stanford.edu/2015/01/09/lawandbiosciences-2015-01-09-intermittent-fasting-try-this-at-home-for-brain-health/" target="_blank">A 2015 Stanford study</a> examined the link between <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/6-ways-to-do-intermittent-fasting#section1" target="_blank">intermittent fasting</a> and neurogenesis. Calorie restriction and fasting can not only increase synaptic plasticity and promote neuron growth but it can also decrease your risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases and boost cognitive function. </p><p><u>Two of the most common ways you can intermittently fast are: </u></p><ul><li>16 hours per day every day - this is a method where you are able to eat for an 8 hour period of the day and fast for 16 hours of the day. Many people begin their "fast" after dinner, pushing their morning meal far enough towards lunch that most of their "off" eating time happens while they are asleep anyways. </li></ul><ul><li>24 hours every week - this is a method where once a week you fast for an entire day. Some people prefer this method because the rest of the week can resume as normal - but for many, this is a difficult way to fast. </li></ul><p><strong>Traveling to new places</strong></p><p>While traveling is something many of us enjoy — scenic routes and new fun experiences — these things also promote neurogenesis while we're on vacation. <a href="https://www.chicagotribune.com/travel/ct-xpm-2014-01-28-sc-trav-0128-travel-mechanic-20140128-story.html" target="_blank">Paul Nussbaum</a>, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Pittsburgh, explains that the mental benefits of traveling are very clear.<br></p><p><em>"When you expose your brain to an environment that's novel and complex or new and difficult, the brain literally reacts. Those new and challenging situations cause the brain to sprout dendrites (dangling extensions) which grow the brain's capacity." </em></p><p><strong>Learning a new instrument</strong></p><p>The mental health benefits of music have long been studied, but did you know that learning a new instrument can promote new neuron growth? </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996135/" target="_blank">this 2010 study</a>, learning to play a new musical instrument is an intense, multisensory motor experience that requires that acquisition and maintenance of skills over your entire lifetime - which of course, promotes the new formation of new neural networks. </p><p>When is the best time to begin learning a new instrument? Childhood, of course. </p><p><em>"Learning to play a new musical instrument in childhood can result in long-lasting changes in brain organization," </em>according to the study mentioned above. </p><p>While learning an instrument in adulthood will also promote neurogenesis, children who began training with a musical instrument before the age of 7 have shown that they have a significantly larger corpus callosum (the area of the brain the allows communication between the two hemispheres of the brain) than many adults. </p><p><strong>Reading novels</strong></p><p>A study from <a href="http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-novel-look-at-how-stories-may-change.html" target="_blank">Emory University</a> showed there was an increase in ongoing connectivity in the brains of participants after reading the same (fiction) novel. </p><p>In this study, enhanced brain activity was observed in the region that control physical sensations and movement. Reading a novel, according to lead researcher Gregory Berns, can transport you into the body of the protagonist. </p><p>This ability to shift into another mental state is a vital skill that promotes healthy neurogenesis in those areas of the brain. </p>
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.
Paul Krugman on the Virtues of Selfishness<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="7ZtAkm6C" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="828936bf6953080e9018307354c0c02b"> <div id="botr_7ZtAkm6C_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/7ZtAkm6C-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/7ZtAkm6C-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> The Nobel Prize-winning economist on the virtues of selfishness.
Evolution Is Moving Us Away from Selfishness. But Where Is It Taking ...<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cyeqmYCb" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="6c5efecb56456e9acc25cf36935b1826"> <div id="botr_cyeqmYCb_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cyeqmYCb-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cyeqmYCb-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Exploring Morality and Selfishness in Modern Times<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="02eX1Cag" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="45cc6180db791f32683988fb52faff26"> <div id="botr_02eX1Cag_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/02eX1Cag-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/02eX1Cag-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> Philosopher Peter Singer discusses the state of global ethics.
Parenting could be a distraction from what mattered most to him: his writing.
Ernest Hemingway was affectionately called “Papa," but what kind of dad was he?