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   Author  Topic: Atheists identified as America’s most distrusted minority, according to new U of  (Read 1300 times)
David Lucifer

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Atheists identified as America’s most distrusted minority, according to new U of
« on: 2006-03-21 20:26:31 »
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What: U of M study reveals America’s distrust of atheism
Who: Penny Edgell, associate professor of sociology
Contact: Nina Shepherd, sociology media relations, (612) 599-1148
Mark Cassutt University News Service, (612) 624-8038

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (3/20/2006) -- American’s increasing acceptance of religious diversity doesn’t extend to those who don’t believe in a god, according to a national survey by researchers in the University of Minnesota’s department of sociology.

From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.

Even though atheists are few in number, not formally organized and relatively hard to publicly identify, they are seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public. “Atheists, who account for about 3 percent of the U.S. population, offer a glaring exception to the rule of increasing social tolerance over the last 30 years,” says Penny Edgell, associate sociology professor and the study’s lead researcher.

Edgell also argues that today’s atheists play the role that Catholics, Jews and communists have played in the past—they offer a symbolic moral boundary to membership in American society. “It seems most Americans believe that diversity is fine, as long as every one shares a common ‘core’ of values that make them trustworthy—and in America, that ‘core’ has historically been religious,” says Edgell. Many of the study’s respondents associated atheism with an array of moral indiscretions ranging from criminal behavior to rampant materialism and cultural elitism.

Edgell believes a fear of moral decline and resulting social disorder is behind the findings. “Americans believe they share more than rules and procedures with their fellow citizens—they share an understanding of right and wrong,” she said. “Our findings seem to rest on a view of atheists as self-interested individuals who are not concerned with the common good.”

The researchers also found acceptance or rejection of atheists is related not only to personal religiosity, but also to one’s exposure to diversity, education and political orientation—with more educated, East and West Coast Americans more accepting of atheists than their Midwestern counterparts.

The study is co-authored by assistant professor Joseph Gerteis and associate professor Doug Hartmann. It’s the first in a series of national studies conducted the American Mosaic Project, a three-year project funded by the Minneapolis-based David Edelstein Family Foundation that looks at race, religion and cultural diversity in the contemporary United States. The study will appear in the April issue of the American Sociological Review.
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Re:Atheists identified as America’s most distrusted minority, according to
« Reply #1 on: 2006-03-22 01:55:25 »
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I was wondering what "cultural elitism" might be. It sounds like a memetic hangover from the Cold War or a PC euphimism but it turns out that the phrase is most often used to mean "intellectual snobbery".

Atheists are, apparently,  thought to consider themselves an intellectually superior cultural class. TMM the fascinating thing about this is that the implicit criticism seems to be not that the atheist position is incorrect but that it is unegalitarian.

It seems atheists are viewed as antisocial not because what they say is untrue, but because they refuse to subscribe to a useful and necessary social convention.

All of which leads me to wonder whether it makes any sense at all to attempt to poll people on their beliefs unless there is a box included which can be checked to indicate "Of course I believe in God and I have no intention of comitting social suicide either. Have a nice day."

Returning to cultural elitism. The natives are restless tonight.


cultural elitism: your opinion sucks

The conversation starts off innocently:

"We don't own a television."

Good for you. I admire that. As a tv addict, I know how all-consuming television can be. Unfortunately, any conversation that starts off with that sentence usually devolves in about three seconds.

"We're so much better than you. We're smarter, more cultured and just better people all around. Our shit smells like roses and the sun always shines on our home."

At least that's what's implied most of the time. Most of the no-tv people I've met are evangelical about it. They preach, they rant, they try to convert you. They want to save you. Even if you don't want to be saved.

The cultural elitism doesn't stop with the people who choose not to own a television at all. There are twice as many people who actually have tvs in their home, but only use the "idiot box" to watch PBS or The History Channel. And they'll tell you that in no uncertain terms while they wrinkle their nose in disgust at the thought viewing anything else.

"Oh, Muffy and I only watch educational shows or public television. Everything else is just dreadful. We just don't understand people who watch those - what do you call them? - oh yes, sitcoms. The bane of society, I tell you." Meanwhile, the guy knows damn well that you watch not only sitcoms, but cartoons, reality shows and late night movies with gratuitous sex and violence. He's talking at you, not to you.

I don't like being made to feel as if I have to defend my choice to watch American Idol or Family Guy or any of the other dozen or so shows I'm loyal to. When the discussion about any of this comes up, anyone who says to me "I've never seen a single episode of any of those shows and I'm proud of that" is automatically labeled a prick. You're purposefully insulting me in an elitist sort of way. You are better than me because you watch eight hours of Law and Order a week but you don't watch anything on FOX? Please.

This isn't exclusive to tv watching. There are musical elitists, book snobs, movie purists. They will scoff at your album collection, laugh at your bookshelf and recoil in horror at your DVD purchases. They will think less of you if own any romance novels. Never mind that you have a PhD, you spend ten hours a week volunteering at the homeless shelter and you take in stray cats. You're a lower class of human being because you own the Skid Row box set. You'll be the scourge of the next MENSA meeting when word gets out about your Harlequin collection.

I love television. We have four people and five tvs in this house. Every tv has a cable box attached, with about 500 channels at our fingertips. Do we watch them all? Hardly. Do we watch tv constantly? No. We actually do things like play board games, read, go to restaurants. But in the mind of a cultural elitist, we are neanderthals who stare at the screen every night for eight hours or more, drooling, stuffing our face with chips and beer, and lowering our IQ by five points an hour. Smart people don't watch American Idol. Intelligent people don't even know what MTV is. Good, honest citizens have their remotes (if they have tv at all) programmed to skip over any channel that doesn't have a scroll on the bottom begging you for cash. Of course, those public channels are turned off during the day, and their kid has never even heard of Barney or Arthur. Their kid is better than yours.

I am a cultural swamp, according to the elitists. Even though my book shelf contains the entire works of Shakespeare and Poe and there's a whole section dedicated to the literature of western civilization (I was an English major, you know), somewhere in my trove of reading material is a worn copy of Flowers in the Attic and if that doesn't let me out of the culture club right there, the ten shelves of comic books and graphic novels will.

The music snobs can be even worse. You make a list of your favorite songs - 500 of them - and they come out of the woodwork to inform you that your list is shit because there's no Beatles, no classical music. You try to explain that it's your list, your favorite songs, but the snob doesn't care because he can't understand why his favorite music isn't everyone's favorite music. His is the only opinion that matters and until you get some of that High Fidelity indie music on your list, you're nothing but a corporate whore and you suck, man.

You know what? I like things that you think are crap. I'm listening to Dashboard Confessional right now and I know you are pointing and laughing, but I don't care. And as much as I make fun of Fred Durst, I think that the first Limp Bizkit album is pretty good. I've read Flowers in the Attic about twenty times. Not only do I watch American Idol, but I like Trading Spouses. I've never seen Titanic. Or Gone with the Wind. But I've seen Cannibal, the Musical ten times. It won't matter to you that I have an extensive theater collection on both DVD and CD. My love of Les Miz means nothing because the next song on my iPod after Master of the House is by a band called Anal Cunt. So if I like what you like, I'm in your little club. Until you find out that I also like what you don't. And then not only am I out, but I'm ridiculed, pointed at and told that I'm not worthy of breathing the same air as you.

If you want to be a snob about the things you find entertaining, that's your prerogative. But the minute you start unleashing your tirade of thinly veiled insults at me, I will turn you off like a bad tv show. You are the bane of my existence.

I just thought you should know.


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