Last night I returned home early enough to tune into "Chronicle" on WCVB. For those not from my neck of the woods, Chronicle is a "news magazine" program on television that covers lots of the comings and goings of New Englanders. Last nights episode was concerned with the rise in non-believers in new England. In general it was pretty good, they had some humanists (read: atheists for those not scared of the word), and even a nun on to discuss the role that religion or non-religion plays in peoples lives. The best moments of the broadcast were the explanation of how important it was that President Obama mentioned non-believers in a number of key speeches (including his inaugural), and profile of some parents who chose not to induct their young children into any church and the pressure they faced from family to do so. Very strong people...i admire them.
The low points of the evening came not from the profiles (not even the nun) but rather from the hosts. Mary Richardson stated that the numbers of new atheists has dropped since 2000 and suggested that the tragedies of September 11th and the Iraq war may have something to do with it. The implication is that atheists feel fine until they are emotionally tested and then they see the light and return to the fold. Christian evangelists oft like to quote stories of death-bed conversions of atheists and other heathens. I would guess it happens very little because if you are an atheist, dieing without god is far easier a process than living without god in most societies. To make matters worse, Anthony Everett, the other host, implied that atheists lack a sense of community that people of faith have from their church. He should talk to the legions of disenfranchised Catholics or the secular Jews about that. I know from personal experience that my sense of community with other people who I know to be without belief is much stronger than it ever was when I might have called myself catholic. Certainly not everyone has that experience but a sense of community is not really a good reason to believe in magic. As mom always said of following the crowd no matter how silly, "if they all jumped off a bridge...would you do that too?"
All that being said, the high point of the broadcast was the poll question at the end which asked what people believed. 46% of respondents said they didn't believe in god. Someone must have crashed it and I love it. Patrick OUT!!!