Atheists Who Go to Church: Doing It for the Children
2011-12-08 0:00

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

Pressure from the United Patriots Front Stops Mosque Plan
2016-04-28 20:10
Pressure from the United Patriots Front appears to have killed off a mosque development in Narre Warren North. The City of Casey council now looks likely to withhold planning approval for the development in a special meeting set for Tuesday night. A council report, to be considered by councillors on Tuesday, recommends that the approval be blocked. The mosque opponents’ cause has been helped by councillor ...
Police face questions over the influence of the Freemasons
2016-04-28 20:48
South Yorkshire Police today face questions over whether powerful 'secret society' the Freemasons held sway over the force at the time of Hillsborough. Families of victims say that officers who were Masons were promoted into powerful positions despite being ill-equipped, including match commander David Duckenfield. Duckenfield told the fresh inquests he had been a Freemason since 1975 and became head of his ...
England Bans its Own Flag to Avoid Offending Muslims
2016-04-27 2:23
St. George's Cross "racist" towards immigrants Government officials said their city was ‘too multicultural’ to celebrate St George’s Day, England’s version of the 4th of July. The council said that displaying the English flag may have been seen as “racist” towards immigrants.
Half of Western European men descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’
2016-04-27 2:09
Half of Western European men are descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’ who sired a dynasty of elite nobles which spread throughout Europe, a new study has shown. The monarch, who lived around 4,000 years ago, is likely to have been one of the earliest chieftains to take power in the continent. He was part of a new order which emerged in ...
"Local Residents" Are Filmed Stealing Dozens of Bottles of Water at London Marathon Stop
2016-04-25 23:10
Editor's Comment: "Local" residents? Why bother blurring their faces? We know who they are. ... London marathon runners were robbed of dozens of bottled waters when thieves raided a refreshment area armed with trolleys during today's race. Nearby residents - including parents with children - were captured on camera piling up crates of free water handed out by volunteers during the 26-mile event. Marathon ...
More News »