It isn’t too rare to see conservative idea branded as nothing more than rationalizations aimed at preserving “White privilege,” or to see Christian morality interpreted as self-serving behavior designed to protect a privileged class. So it is interesting to see that sociologist have recently made a study of self-described Atheists. Recently, George Yancy, one of the co-authors was interviewed.
“CP: You’re basically talking about a privileged group – wealthy, old, white guys. You say it makes sense that atheists would come from a privileged group. Explain. Yancey: ‘If you are a person with social status and power, and you want to do things the way you see it, and then there’s religion out there that says, no, this is the way it should be done, that’s going to make you less willing to support or accept that sort of religion. Something we write about in the book is this notion of control. If you have social status and others who don’t tend to see things the way you do because they have religion and follow that, then it will tend to make you more antagonistic toward religion than you would normally be.’”
One of the conclusions of the study is that self-labeled “Atheism” is most accurately understood as a political and social response to the “Religious Right.” In that case, Conservatives can at least know that they have enough influence to provoke a reaction.
But I wonder how helpful it is for Conservative Christians to take encouragement from this kind of study. The research did not try to learn about the growing number of people who answer “none,” when asked about their religious affiliation.
“We talk about the growing “none” population and say, those are people who don’t believe in God, whereas, there’s a lot a reasons why people answer “none of the above” when it comes to religion. There still is a degree of stigma to being an atheist. It has gone down less, but it’s still there. And so, someone who says, “I am an atheist,” they are really making a declaration of their beliefs. Not that they just passively don’t believe in God. They clearly have an identity, to some degree, in their atheism. So we were curious about some of the things we saw in some of our other research on individuals who identify themselves as atheists.”
But in terms of keeping or losing the culture, Christian Conservatives cannot afford to be apathetic about this trend.
Also, since many liberals do claim some sort of belief in “god” even as they support same sex “marriage” and legal abortion, we might consider that the perceived threat of self-designated “atheism” is over-inflated compared to the threat of idolatrous, false, “theism.” Consider this debate between Penn Jillette and Piers Morgan.
The fact that Morgan is not an atheist does not help much, in my opinion.