Is Lack of Religion Connected to a Lack of Respect for Free Speech?

New Atheists love to create and cite correlations that just happen to support their anti-religious agenda.  A very common example is to compare the United States to certain countries in Europe, where the argument is that the less religious the society, the greater the societal well-being.  Such correlations are silly and essentially meaningless given they assume the USA and Europe are the same with the sole exception of religiosity.  Nevertheless, people like to play with data.  So I figured I would join in.

Instead of comparing people from different parts of the world (and all that that entails), why not compare different generations from the same culture and part of the world?

As we all know, much fuss has been made of the fact that the Millennials are less religious than older generations.  But this is not the only way the Millennials differ from previous generations.  For example, a recent survey found that over 40% of Millennials believe that the government should outlaw speech that is deemed offensive to minorities.  Apparently, these young people would not agree with George Orwell’s famous quote: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

In fact, here is a breakdown by generation.

Generation Age Oppose Free Speech Religion is Important to You
Millennial 18-34 0.4 0.41
Gen-X 35-50 0.27 0.53
Boomer 51-69 0.24 0.59
Silent 70-87 0.12 0.67

Sources: HERE and HERE

Wow.  Don’t need statistics or a graph to notice that relationship.  But just for fun, let’s plot the % of people who think religion is important on the Y-axis and the % of those who oppose free speech on the X-axis:


Now that’s a correlation!

What about the percent who have a very strong conviction that God exists?  Here are the data:

Generation Age Oppose Free Speech Certain Belief in God
Millennial 18-34 0.4 0.52
Gen-X 35-50 0.27 0.64
Boomer 51-69 0.24 0.69
Silent 70-87 0.12 0.71


And here’s the graph (with % certain belief in God on Y-axis and % who oppose free speech and X-axis):


So both increasing secularism and atheism are correlated with a decreasing commitment to free speech.  Interestingly enough, this trend is also seen in the New Atheist’s favorite cultural comparison:


Me?  I wouldn’t make much out of this.  Except to note we have the essentially the same type of argument the New Atheists have when it comes to their correlational arguments about religion. 😉


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1 Response to Is Lack of Religion Connected to a Lack of Respect for Free Speech?

  1. Zaparozhets says:

    Oddly, one of my close relations, a millennial herself, and formerly a committed atheist (admirer of Dawkins, Hitchens etc.) seems to be becoming religious again in part because of concerns that her millennial secularist peers are shaky on questions of commitment to freedom of speech, freedom of debate etc.

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