Atheists might not be so law-abiding after all

I’m reading Vox Day’s The Irrational Atheist, which, if nothing else, is lively and fun to read. I’m only a chapter or two into it, but he’s making some pretty interesting points.

For example, he distinguishes “high church” atheists (Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, university professors and so on) from “low church” atheists — i.e., people who reliably report themselves as “no religion” or “secular” on surveys. Vox mentions several differences between the groups, but three caught my eye.

  1. their level of intolerance. Dawkins et al. are really upset at agnostics and other people who don’t believe but also don’t care. They want a crusade and a revolution, while the low-church atheists just want to get along.
  2. their desire to piss people off. Several interviewers, sympathetic to the “New Atheists” (as they’re called — although there’s almost nothing new in anything they say), remark how eager these people are to offend, and one reports wanting to smack Dawkins for his intolerance. (Vox caricatures the low-church atheist as “I don’t believe because I haven’t been persuaded” and the high-church atheist as “I don’t believe because I’m a jerk.”)
  3. their possible tendency to autism. I find this particularly interesting, esp. since atheists are often complaining that religion is a mental disorder. Vox’s only evidence of this claim is surveys on websites (which found atheists had a higher rating on an Asperger Quotient test than non-atheists), but, if you’ve interacted with atheists half as much as I have, the idea makes tons of sense. Any sociology majors out there looking for a thesis?

Be that as it may, one of the things atheists crow about (as a response to the “you can’t be moral without God” argument) is their poor representation in prison. But that’s only if you’re talking about self-described “atheists.” If you include those who check “no religion,” “secular,” etc., (“low-church atheists”), the numbers completely reverse. They’re over-represented in prison. Substantially.

IOW, “atheists” aren’t in prison a lot because (generally speaking, of course) they’re pencil-necked geeks who wouldn’t have the guts to commit armed robbery. They’re effete university professors.

So yes, the highly educated High-Church Atheists stay out of jail, have lots of degrees and so on, while the Low-Church Atheists “are more likely to smoke, abuse alcohol, be depressed or obese,” etc., in addition to their criminal proclivities.

The bifurcation is analogous to the make-up of the Democratic party (what a surprise!). Even though it’s true that highly educated people tend to be Democratic, it’s also true that poorly educated people tend to be Democratic.

So far, the book confirms the words of the wise man. “The first to present his case seems just, until another comes along and examines him.” Or, atheist propaganda, like most propaganda, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

9 comments on this post.
  1. kdeb:

    ISTM that there are a lot of spurious relationships in these kind of studies.
    (IOW People who like Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby may be five times more likely to die this year, but it doesn’t have anything to do with music, it has to do with age.)

    All these studies of atheists, religious persons, etc., can hardly be believed without a lot more information.
    If you go to a Southern college, vs a New England one, you will get very different answers on the question “do you believe in God.”
    But as those who proselytize on these campuses know, there is lirttle actual difference in their convictions or lack thereof.
    Some people were raised to answer the question a certain way.

    If you ask the question “do you believe you’ll go to heaven when you die?” or “is faith important to you?” you’ll find the same thing happening.

    What people _really_ believe shows up in their lives better than in their answers to survey questions.

  2. Greg Krehbiel:

    Yes, correlation is a tricky thing.

    This morning Wendy told me about a study linking the increase of night-time lighting in the cities to breast cancer. Which means, of course, that people with breast cancer are more likely to leave the lights on. :-)

  3. jkrehbielp:

    There is a multitude of possible meanings to “no religious preference” or whatever the surveys say. It could mean someone is a flaky New Age spiritualist who eschews formally aligning with any organized religion, it could mean an agnostic who buys the “you can’t prove a negative” argument, it could mean somebody who just hasn’t thought about it. I would suspect that most of the prison inmates are in the “never really thought about it” category. That’s assuming the statistics you mention are reliable.

    BTW, Asperger’s isn’t considered autism these days as I understand it. The interesting thing about Asperger’s is that it is characterized by a very low intuitive ability in interpersonal relationships, and a high intuitive ability with what has been called “folk physics,” IOW, an intuitive grasp of physical science. There is no name for the opposite syndrome, because “everybody knows” science is hard. Nobody is surprised when somebody can’t understand science, but they are surprised when somebody can’t understand why it’s rude to interrupt people, or stand too close, or whatever.

    And kdeb, “What people _really_ believe shows up in their lives better than in their answers to survey questions.”

    You can say that again. Belief shows up in actions rather than creed. People who claim that all is illusion still avoid danger and feed themselves. And people say what they think they are supposed to on surveys.

  4. Greg Krehbiel:

    Yeah, the “other” category is hard to pin down. The author claims to have some evidence that it’s largely atheists, but who knows?

  5. David:

    “3.) their possible tendency to autism. I find this particularly interesting, esp. since atheists are often complaining that religion is a mental disorder. Vox’s only evidence of this claim is surveys on websites (which found atheists had a higher rating on an Asperger Quotient test than non-atheists), but, if you’ve interacted with atheists half as much as I have, the idea makes tons of sense.”

    Interesting. Circumstantial evidence, but very intriguing.

    I hadn’t thought of that aspect before, but now that you bring it up that makes a lot of sense . The same lack of social skill , inappropriate behavior, language, or rage , general “oddness” . Very interesting .

  6. David:

    So, Greg, do you recommend the Vox Day book overall ?

    I haven’t read too much responding to the New Militant Atheism . Better things to do with my time , but lately a personal relationship with someone who has been spellbound by the Dawkins/Harris/Hitchens gang has given me cause to look closer .

    I know nothing about Vox Day except that he writes for WorldNet Daily , which frankly puts me off just a bit .

    I see that Doug Wilson has also written a response to Sam Harris’s “Letter To A Christian Nation” in the form of “Letter From a Christian Citizen” , but I’m hesitant to use Wilson’s material too because he’s carrying a lot of baggage. I can just see handing Wilson’s book to my atheist friend and getting a response about : “Oh, yeah… Doug Wilson, the racist guy who defends Southern chattel slavery as ‘not really all that bad after all’ … thanks a lot that really says a lot about your intellectual credibility” . (of course in a perfect world of logical arguments , the fact that Doug Wilson holds some questionable or totally wrong views on some things doesn’t mean he’s wrong on the issue at hand, but you know what I mean ). I’m not even sure if Doug Wilson is as off as he’s been painted by his opponents , but he’s definitely carrying some awkward baggage.

    Someone else recommended “Return of the Village Atheist” by a Joel McDrummon , who turns out to work for Gary Demar’s “American Vision” Christian Reconsturctionist outfit and is Gary North’s son-in-law. Gary North wrote the forward. Ok, that again puts me off just a bit . I don’t need the Gary North and Christian Reconstructionist baggage if I’m going to be recommending this book to my atheist friend. Am I being too sensitive about this ?

    I see that Alister McGrath has written The Dawkins Delusion responding to Dawkins . Maybe I’ll get that one.

  7. David:

    Sorry for the poor grammar and spelling in my post above . I should read it more carefully before I post .

    Also, I am aware of the fallacy of Guilt By Association, but you see what I’m getting at with my concern about the “baggage” that some of these men are carrying ? My atheist friend will be looking for any excuse whatsoever to disregard any book I give to him , so I am looking for something that doesn’t come with built-in objections based on who wrote it or endorsed it.

  8. Greg Krehbiel:

    Vox Day’s book is written in the style you would expect from a columnist who is trying to make a serious argument and marshall his facts but just can’t rid himself of the temptation to be funny. It’s full of interesting arguments and statistics, but in some cases you’re not sure Day is being fair.

    I would say that it’s more “fair and balanced” than anything I’ve read from Dawkins, Dennett or Hitchens, but that’s not saying a lot. Whether it’s an effective antidote for someone who is attracted by the Dawkins crowd … I just can’t say.

    Scott Hahn has a new book replying to Dawkins. I haven’t read it, but it might be worth a look. Mark Shea also writes some pretty good stuff, but I don’t think he’s compiled it all together in a book.

    My overall impression of the whole debate is that nobody’s trying too terribly hard to be fair. It’s reminiscent of Catholic-Protestant arguments. :-)

    About the questionable associations of the authors of various responses to the “new atheists,” perhaps the Arpergers goes both ways, and only socially inept people on either side of the argument care enough to write about it. :-)

  9. David:

    “About the questionable associations of the authors of various responses to the “new atheists,” perhaps the Arpergers goes both ways, and only socially inept people on either side of the argument care enough to write about it”.

    The thought had occurred to me that it could be turned around and directed at certain types of theology wonks.