An Embarrassing Survey of “Nones”

Recently, a survey of British Columbia’s atheists, agnostics and non-religious residents uncovered some interesting data. While none of this is surprising to me, it all runs contrary to conventional Gnu wisdom.

First, the Fringe Status of the New Atheists:

Only 25 per cent of British Columbia’s atheists, agnostics and non-religious residents “approved” of Richard Dawkins, best-selling author of The God Delusion. Many did not know about him.

More specifically, 25% of atheist, agnostic and unaffiliated respondents in B.C. had a favourable view of Dawkins, 28% were “not sure” about Dawkins, 42% had never heard of him and 6% disapproved of him. These data help us recognize the fringe status of the New Atheists. Richard Dawkins himself is relatively unknown among the British Columbia’s atheists, agnostics and non-religious residents.

Second, it looks like Sam Harris is on the cutting edge in his attempt to spiritualize the New Atheists:

the poll suggests B.C.’s roughly 550,000 atheists, 550,000 agnostics and 580,000 religiously unaffiliated adopt their freedom-loving viewpoints on sexuality at the same time as they embrace many of the leaders, concepts and practices of Eastern spirituality, particularly Buddhism.

Check this out:

Fifty-five of B.C. atheist, agnostic and unaffiliated respondents “believe” in karma, compared to 61 per cent of the overall population.

Twenty-six per cent also said they believe in reincarnation, the Eastern concept of being reborn after death in different forms. In addition, 36 per cent indicated they believe in some sort of life after death, and 27 per cent identified themselves as “spiritual.”

These stats help us to understand Sam Harris’ rather strange decision to break with scientism and promote an atheist version of mysticism – There’s gold in them thar hills!

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6 Responses to An Embarrassing Survey of “Nones”

  1. Martin tuelay says:

    Let me restate my postion on Dawkins: I admire how he thinks, but disagree with any ideals he holds that infringe on personal rights or the abolishment of the Church.
    I also agree with the Pope on many issues, but I have never been Catholic.

  2. rdmiksa says:

    Three questions come to mind when reading this:

    1 – What would the 42% of respondents who had never heard of Dawkins think of him once they became aware of him and his writings?

    2 – What would this survey look like if you removed the religiously unaffiliated and agnostics? I think that if you were just surveying the atheists, the approval of Dawkins would rise dramatically.

    3 – Finally, how many atheists who are unsure about Dawkins are “unsure” as in: I like the guy, I agree with him completely, but for strategic and tactical reasons, I am unsure of his aggressive approach? Because I suspect that many of them are like this, rather than being “unsure” in the sense that Dawkins’ is right in his atheism, but wrong in his other facts, points, opinions, etc.

    Anyway, just some thoughts.

    Take care,

    RD Miksa
    http://www.idontgiveadamnapologetics.blogspot.com

  3. Dhay says:

    Let’s tabulate who British Columbia’s atheists, agnostics and non-religious residents “approved” of:

    75% Buddha
    58% Dalai Lama
    49% Jesus
    45% Pope Francis
    25% Richard Dawkins

    Dawkins is bottom of the list. In fairness to him, only 6% “disapproved” of him, the overwhelming majority (70%) being either “not sure” (28%) – which expresses a spectrum of ignorance, indifference, or both – or had never even heard of him (42%). So, no great numbers “approve” of Dawkins, or few people have heard of him or can remember what he stands for, or both.

    The province’s atheists, agnostics and unaffiliated tend to save their enthusiasm for key concepts of Eastern spirituality, including karma, which teaches that people will suffer or be rewarded depending on their moral behaviour.

    Fifty-five [per cent – or the preceding paragraph makes little sense] of B.C. atheist, agnostic and unaffiliated respondents “believe” in karma, compared to 61 per cent of the overall population.

    The surprise was in the figures for karma:

    a) If we assume the atheists are uniformly resistant to the presumably ‘unscientific’ “belief” in karma, that 55% indicates that a very high 67% of the agnostics and non-religious residents “believe” in karma. (The quotation marks are the newspaper’s.)

    b) If I calculate correctly, a nearly-as high 64% of religious people “believe” in karma: perhaps there is a very high Hindu/Buddhist population in B.C.; or perhaps the question was worded vaguely and was misunderstood by many – “people will suffer or be rewarded depending on their moral behaviour” might be answered in the affirmative by an evangelical Christian; or perhaps polls like this should be taken with a big pinch of salt.

  4. BenYachov says:

    Fr Benedit Groetchel once said a survey was taken and reported that 10% of all Irish Atheists believed in the Divinity of Christ.

    Too funny.

  5. stcordova says:

    >There’s gold in them thar hills

    Yes indeed! Sam is poised to be the L. Ron Hubbard of spiritual atheism. The church of scientology, ahem, ScientismOlogy.

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