Friday, December 19, 2008

Bad, survey, bad!

I was going through PZ Myers' blog and he posted about this survey, Coming Out as an Atheist.

I couldn't finish it. I mean, not because I didn't come out as an atheist - I think, fairly obviously, I have quite a bit come out as an atheist. But like many of these surveys, I find that the choices I'm given for the answers simply don't make any meaningful sense for me.

In particular, there were two political ones, right in a row - asking one's political views, ranging from very conservative to very liberal. I held my nose and clicked very liberal. I mean, I'm not a liberal. But, generally, my views are leftist - in the sense that I'm somewhat to the left of Karl Marx - so I held my nose and clicked. But the very next question was how I generally voted, ranging from . . . all Republican to all Democrat. The real answer is, "Well, mostly socialist, if applicable and in many races there there are only Democrats and Republicans running I don't vote for either." Right or wrong, I feel that choosing between Republicans and Democrats, in most instances, is like choosing between Coke and Pepsi - the ad campaigns might make a big to do about it, but the differences are really quite superficial between the two.

So then I stopped taking the quiz. The people who gave it couldn't envision atheists as being anything other than liberal or conservative, Democrats or Republicans. It never entered their mind that around 5% of all Americans vote, fairly regularly, as independents of various stripes. Their inability to imagine a world that wasn't split between two parties, largely identical in a great many ways, far more ways than they're different, made me close it down.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is nice to know there are socialists in the US, a country that's irrationally phobic of the very notion.

Keep fighting the good fight.

Axiomatic said...

I guess it's assumed that since the socialists' dark twins, the libertarians, have all these ideological differences from what you might call the right end of the poltiical spectrum and yet somehow never fail to be indistinguishable from republicans when it comes to weighing stuff like social liberties versus corporate benefits, it must therefore follow that even though socialists disagree with democrats on a lot of things, come election day they'll be indistinguishable from democrats.

Um.

I think the above sentence is a mess.

Let me try that again...people think you'll vote for the guys you find infinitessimally less reprehensible.

Asher said...

Um, you're not an atheist. Atheism is the absence of all magical thinking, and if, as you describe yourself, are on the left then you simply can't be an athiest, as all the various leftisms are absolutely saturated with magical thinking. I live in the heart of Seattle, one of the least church-attending cities in the US, so I am constantly subject to those who call themselves atheists. The problem is that you probe their minds fr five minutes and you'll find it littered with thoughts of magic.

I have never met an atheist, other than myself. I have never read anything written by an atheist that doesn't veer into the realm of magical thinking. Frankly, I think I may be history's first, and probably last, atheist.

Now, when I say that some thinking is magical I am not saying that it is wrong. Magical thinking is clearly a hardwired evolved trait and all people possess it, including myself. Since it is an evolved, biological trait it is indisputable that it plays some important role in human functioning, probably through regulating in-group solidarity.

Here's another way of determining whether or not one is an atheist: ask yourself whether or not you are constantly bombarded with magical thinking. If your answer is no, then you are clearly not an atheist, because an actual atheist is able to spot the magical thinking that saturates human cognition and behavior.

So-called atheists have their own brand of thinking that is every bit as magical as that of the Christian variety. They just prefer theirs. It's a tribal thing. Sort of like choosing Democrats over Republicans. Or drinking Pepsi instead of Coke.

Asher said...

There is no such thing as socialism. Anyone who uses the term is engaging in magical thinking. People who talk about socialism are as serious as people who talk about Santa Claus or the tooth fairy. So-called socialism are just alternate versions of the modern welfare state, albeit very poorly run ones.

The Soviet Union was just another welfare state, a very horribly ineffective one.