The Atheos App is now available! Created by Dr. Peter Boghossian with support from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, Atheos contains scholarly discussions of issues related to religion and reason. As Dr. Boghossian states, “The goal is to help people become more thoughtful and more reflective about their faith-based beliefs.”
I contributed a dialogue tree on the following topic: “The canonical gospels are accurate records of the life story of the historical Jesus.” In this section I envision a conversation between a person who agrees with this statement and one who, through the careful use of critical scholarly methods, calls it into question.
The app is available for Android and Apple users. Get yours now!
Dr. Gary Gutting (University of Notre Dame) interviews Dr. Philip Kitcher (Columbia University) about the ideas he explores in his new book, Life After Faith: The Case for Secular Humanism.
Miron Zuckerman, Jordan Silberman, and Judith A. Hall have recently published a provocative study in Personality and Social Psychology Review on the relationship between intelligence and religious commitment. “The Relation Between Intelligence and Religiosity: A Meta-Analysis and Some Proposed Explanations” argues that people who display high levels of analytic intelligence (which they define as the “ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience”) tend to be resistant to religious commitment (they define religiosity as “the degree of involvement in some or all facets of religion … includ[ing] beliefs in supernatural agents, costly commitment to these agents [e.g., offering of property], using beliefs in those agents to lower existential anxieties such as anxiety over death, and communal rituals that validate and affirm religious beliefs”). They conclude that “[a]nalytic thinking is controlled, systematic, rule-based, and relatively slow; intuitive thinking, in contrast, is reflexive, heuristic-based, spontaneous, mostly nonconscious, and relatively fast. We propose that more intelligent people tend to think analytically and that analytic thinking leads to lower religiosity” (17). Not surprisingly, the college experience can often affect an intelligent person’s religious commitment: “The separation from home and the exposure to a context that encourages questioning may allow intelligence to impact religious beliefs. Using analytic (as opposed to intuitive) thinking, more intelligent college students may be more likely to eschew religion. If atheism is disapproved of at home, higher intelligence may facilitate resistance to conformity pressure. These mechanisms might explain why the negative relation between intelligence and religiosity increases in college” (22).
A meta-analysis of 63 studies showed a significant negative association between intelligence and religiosity. The association was stronger for college students and the general population than for participants younger than college age; it was also stronger for religious beliefs than religious behavior. For college students and the general population, means of weighted and unweighted correlations between intelligence and the strength of religious beliefs ranged from −.20 to −.25 (mean r = −.24). Three possible interpretations were discussed. First, intelligent people are less likely to conform and, thus, are more likely to resist religious dogma. Second, intelligent people tend to adopt an analytic (as opposed to intuitive) thinking style, which has been shown to undermine religious beliefs. Third, several functions of religiosity, including compensatory control, self-regulation, self-enhancement, and secure attachment, are also conferred by intelligence. Intelligent people may therefore have less need for religious beliefs and practices.
Below is Carlo Dellora’s rebuttal to “The Science Delusion,” an excerpt from Curtis White’s book by the same title that I posted two weeks ago. And the debate goes on.
Here’s an excerpt from Curtis White’s The Science Delusion: Asking the Big Questions in a Culture of Easy Answers (Brooklyn, NY: Melville House Books, 2013).
Bill Moyers interviews Susan Jacoby about her new book, The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought. Ingersoll (1833-1899), following in the line of Thomas Paine, was a powerful voice for secularism, agnosticism, and the separation of church and state. To honor his achievements and influence on American intellectual life, Harvard University sponsors The Ingersoll Lectures on Human Immortality.
Jacoby, a celebrated writer and leading voice of American secularism, is also the author of The Age of American Unreason (Pantheon Books, 2008) and Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism (Holt Paperbacks, 2004).
It is hardly surprising to find out that religious life at American colleges and universities has traditionally been dominated by Christian organizations. Yet just as the country is becoming less Christian (and less religious), so too are campuses. In fact, it appears that college-aged Americans are the driving force behind this transformation. The article below by Katherine Don offers some statistical support for student’s gravitation toward secular, agnostic, humanist, and atheistic organizations. The Secular Student Alliance, for instance, boasts a growth rate of 116 percent (compared to Cru’s 16 percent), and now supports 394 student groups nationwide, almost five times as many as existed in 2007. The Center for Inquiry, the American Humanist Association, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation are also prominent on campuses and provide students with a space to engage in critical inquiry and social activism outside of the boundaries maintained by traditional religious organizations.