Are secular people more ethical?

Spiegel Online asks, Does secularism make people more ethical?. Then it veers off into talking about numbers. Hilmar Schmundt notes: “Non-believers are often more educated, more tolerant and know more about God than the pious.” A study at Boston University finds

  • They are more commonly opposed to the death penalty, war and discrimination.
  • They also have fewer objections to foreigners, homosexuals, oral sex, or hashish.
  • They are better educated.
  • Even when their higher education levels are factored out, they are better informed in matters of faith.
  • They tend not to humanize non-human factors.

Secularists make up some 15 percent of the global population, or about 1 billion people. As a group, this puts them third in size behind Christians (2.3 billion) and Muslims (1.5 – 1.6 billion).

Pie chart showing No Religion as the third-largest group

No Religion is the third-largest group

(Figures from

Barry Kosmin is the director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College in Connecticut, U.S.. He says

many believe that the US population is steadily becoming more religious — but this is an optical illusion. Many evangelicals have simply become more aggressive and more political.”

The article continues, “This heightened public profile may be contributing to the shrinking numbers of religious believers. Churches in the US are losing up to 1 million members every year.” Secularism is spreading from the more to the less educated, just as quitting smoking did.

In the former East Germany,

Nearly 67 percent of eastern Germans have no religious affiliation, compared to just 18 percent in the West. This trend isn’t likely to change in the foreseeable future, since children who grew up with non-religious parents are almost certain to remain secular. The mother’s beliefs have an especially significant impact on the children’s belief systems.

When the GDR ended its period of religious repression, no process of re-Christianization occurred. “After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the withdrawal of a church presence in the east actually sped up,” says Detlef Pollack, a professor in the sociology of religion at the University of Münster.

But the secular are not organized. Barry Kosmin tells of a meeting of secular groups last year in Washington. They were planning a big demonstration:

“But they couldn’t even agree on a motto,” he says. “It was like herding cats, straight out of a Monty Python sketch.” In the end, the march was called off.

Imagine no religion

Is religion a force for good?

I saw a few days ago that our statistics in Canada are the reverse of those in the U.S.: 66% here think religion is not a force for good.

Now, further secularization: 23% are ticking the “no religion” box, up from 1% forty years ago (new Globe & Mail survey. It’s a new generation, I think. The article adds, “Only the persistence of religious traditions among immigrants… has slowed the march away from our places of worship.”

Concordat Watch: Women need secularism

Concordat Watch has a good point: religion is bad for women. Read “Women need Secularism.”

“Family values” can help prevent a woman from leaving an abusive marriage and further cement her in place by burdening her with unplanned children. The system of social control imposed by the Vatican disproportionately affects women. That’s because the hierarchy of obedience which goes from the pope to the parish priest doesn’t stop there: it continues on, from the head of the household down to his wife.

Women must be kept at home and bearing children for the Church. Ordaining them as priests would give them dangerous authority. On 29 May 2008 the Vatican issued a decree “Regarding the crime of attempting sacred ordination of a woman“. This is such a grave offence that it incurs automatic excommunication, on a par with heresy, schism, and laying violent hands on the Pope.


British humour: Freethinkers’ sermonette by Marcus Bridgestoke

I hadn’t heard of Marcus Bridgestoke, but he’s funny and has a point:

Carnival of the Godless 74

The new Carnival of the Godless, #74, is the Pulp Edition, showing the protagonists as pulp-fiction superheroes:

Thrown together by chance, kept together by a shared passion for truth, The Godless scour the globe to investigate, debunk, and confront issues of religion, belief, and atheism!

Check it out–the pictures and presentation are delightful.

Setting D’Souza straight

A vile, insinuating, Christian* asked “where were all the atheists at Virginia Tech?” Actually, they are still there and they have at least as much to offer as “I guess God wasn’t listening to your loved one.” So far, an atheist member of the faculty has responded to his sneers.

Mike Dunford at the Questionable Authority has a post about what a real atheist, Stephen Jay Gould, did in the face of an overwhelmingly evil act.
There’s a direct link here in case you’re not interested in Mike’s rather nice article.

*I’ve decided we should stop insulting pond scum and snakes and the soulless undead, and just call him what he is.

June Callwood on Life, Death, and Everything

Canada’s June Callwood has been a noted feminist and author, and a very gracious human being, for many years. I had the privilege of being introduced to her, years ago, by Margaret Fraser, the subject of Callwood’s book, Twelve Weeks in Spring.

She was interviewed by George Stromboulopoulos of CBC TV’s The Hour. Over the last three years she has been battling cancer. It’s mysterious, with secondary cancers all over the place when they can’t find the primary one. They gave her six months to live–three years ago. But now it’s on the move again and she’s saying goodbye to friends and family. She wants no fuss and no memorial service.

When George asked he what she thought came after this, she said, “Nothing. There’s nothing after this. We get a life, now, here.” Her point is that it’s up to us to make that life count.

And she’s giving her family and admirers the final gift that is ours to give–she is facing death with courage and without complaint.

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