Atheists are Great, but not that Great

ChartAtheismWhile it is true that atheists score ‘better’ on a huge number of social and intellectual indicators we could all do with remembering that correlation does not indicate causation and that statistics present a majority view that doesn’t – so much – cover the outliers.

The ‘meme’ image on the left covers some of these statistics:

Atheists are, indeed, less likely to get divorced, be criminals, have abortions, have kids that are off the rails or abused etc etc. We also tend to be more intelligent and better educated and to do better in our careers.

This does not mean that religious people are necessarily stupid or immoral, nor does it mean that atheists are necessarily better people. It just shows that – on aggregate – not believing in god at least doesn’t negatively impact our morality and capabilities in the way that religion can.

The problem with claiming that this is all down to atheism is that so many of these things cross over. Atheism correlates with relative wealth and education because – I would suggest – that these things give us the relative comfort, time and tools to rationally assess the facts. Relative wealth and education also have a massive impact on criminality and other factors.

What I’m saying here is that these statistics exist at the crossroads of a bunch of interrelated and reinforcing factors. You can see the reverse in the opposite statistics in that religious people are more prevalent amongst the poor, racial minorities, the under-educated and so forth. In the same way that a confluence of effects accumulate upon the atheist demographic, so it is here.

Skepticism needs to apply to all claims, not just the silly ones that believers trot out.


3 responses to “Atheists are Great, but not that Great

  1. Hm, I personally suspect that it really shows what you think it shows. It really sounds that it may be a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc (“correlation does not imply causation”).
    For example, let’s assume that atheism is more prevalent in middle class than in lower class, that would automatically imply everything above (as the stuff is more common in lower class) without being somehow related to atheism. Some things just happen together but are not directly related.
    I am an atheist, but I think, that, besides from some more specific problems (for example, it’s harder – but not impossible – to justify discrimination of homosexuals as an atheist) that atheism does not make people better on the average per se.

  2. This what happens when people forget that Atheism is no more or less than a conclusion and try and imbue it with values it doesn’t have, including the notion of critical thinking, which whilst you can absolutely use to arrive at the conclusion of Atheism through this process, not everybody will, indeed as more and more are born of Atheist parents there are many who won’t necessarily.

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