Atheists Who Go to Church: Doing It for the Children
2011 12 08

By Lee Dye | ABCNews.com


He probably won’t get down on his knees, but that fellow sitting near you during the Sunday church service just might be an atheist. And a scientist.
A new study out of Rice University has found that 17 percent — about one out of five scientists who describe themselves as either atheists or agnostics — actually go to church, although not too often, and not because they feel a spiritual yearning to join the faithful.

More likely, it’s because of the kids.

What? Why would somebody who doesn’t believe there’s a god want his own offspring wasting their time in an enterprise he believes has no foundation in fact? Especially a scientist.

The study, by sociologists Elaine Howard Ecklund of Rice and Kristen Schultz Lee of the University at Buffalo, found that many atheists want their children exposed to religion so that they can make up their own minds on what to believe. In addition, church may provide a better understanding of morality and ethics, and occasionally attending services may ease the conflict between spouses who disagree over the value of religion to their children, the study contends.

The research, published in the December issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, was based on in-depth interviews with 275 scientists at 21 “elite” research universities in the United States. Sixty-one percent of the participants described themselves as either atheists or agnostics, and 17 percent of the non-believers had attended church more than once in the past year.

In general, their church affiliation followed a similar pattern — most were raised in a family that was not deeply involved in religion, and they did not attend church during early adulthood but established a relationship with a church when they had children of their own. After the children had grown, they attended church less and less, if at all.

But why would someone who believes there is no god want his children exposed to doctrines that he clearly believes to be false?

“Some actually see it as part of their scientific identity,” Ecklund said in a telephone interview. “They want to teach their children to be free thinkers, to give them religious choices, and so they take their children to religious organizations just to give them exposure to religion.”

Let the kids make up their own minds, many of the participants told Ecklund.

Still, it may seem a bit odd for some atheists to perceive church as a desired “community” at a time when many leading atheists are calling on their colleagues to come out of the closet and take a public stand against religion. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, physicist Victor Stenger and others see religion as a source of evil in the world.

They contend that science has moved beyond a belief in the supernatural, partly because science has answered some questions that were previously left up to clerics. Evolution, for example, provides a naturalist explanation for how we got here.

True believers, by contrast, regard atheists as “among the least trusted people” on the planet, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia. These scientists emphasized last month that the right word is “distrust,” not “dislike.”

But however you put it, atheists do have a bit of an image problem. If they feel uncomfortable attending church, that’s nothing compared to entering some aspects of public service. They usually find themselves on the outside looking in.

Columnist Michael Kinsley confessed to being a “nonbeliever” in the Los Angeles Times last month. In an op-ed piece he conceded, “That puts me in the only religious grouping in America whose members are effectively barred from any hope of becoming president, due to widespread public prejudice against them. There will be a Mormon president, a Jewish president, an openly gay president before there will be a president who says publicly that he doesn’t believe in God.”

He contrasted that with the current run for the White House in which “four of this year’s Republican candidates were personally recruited by God to run for president.” That number has since dropped to three.


[...]

Read the full article at: abcnews.go.com
Image: Source: Getty Images/Fuse







The Scientific Method applied to Religion. Image: Source







Related Articles
Belief in Da Vinci Code and other "wacky, false" Conspiracies (like 9/11) is "coping mechanism"
Federal Prisoners With "Unpopular Political Beliefs" Isolated, Abused
Is Atheism a Belief?
People watch ’news’ that doesn’t contradict belief systems
The effect of belief on intelligence


Latest News from our Front Page

Slaves of Charleston - Beyond Wealth of Jewish South Carolina
2014 09 15
Founded in 1749 in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, the Beth Elohim Synagogue is one of the very earliest synagogues in America. While other synagogues and congregations are also now a part of Charleston city life, Beth Elohim Synagogue is the oldest one in the area and serves as the repository for certain historical artifacts of Jewish life in the city. ...
Martian meteorite yields more evidence of the possibility of life on Mars
2014 09 15
A tiny fragment of Martian meteorite 1.3 billion years old is helping to make the case for the possibility of life on Mars, say scientists. The finding of a ‘cell-like’ structure, which investigators now know once held water, came about as a result of collaboration between scientists in the UK and Greece. Their findings are published in the latest edition ...
Swedish Surprise: Anti-Immigration Party Surges...
2014 09 15
Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt Sunday’s election in Sweden was supposed to be a cakewalk for the Left. The Drudge Report ran a piece yesterday from the Guardian entitled: “Free-market era in Sweden swept away as feminists and greens plot new path.” The paper, a left-wing British outlet, published the piece the day before the election; it proved to be, well, ...
UK School to fingerprint students to ‘monitor their diets’
2014 09 15
STOURBRIDGE, England – A school is implementing a biometric system to better track what students are eating each day. The Express & Star reports students at Redhill School in Stourbridge, England will be fingerprinted in an attempt to reduce lunch lines and “monitor pupils’ diets.” The system requires pupils to press a finger against a machine which converts the print into ...
U.S. State Department Orders 160,000 Ebola Hazmat Suits
2014 09 15
The U.S. State Department has ordered 160,000 Hazmat suits for Ebola, prompting concerns that the federal government is anticipating the rapid spread of a virus that has already claimed an unprecedented number of lives. In a press release posted by Market Watch, Lakeland Industries, a manufacturer of industrial protective clothing for first responders, announced that it had signaled its intention “to ...
More News »