3 Questions – The Results Part One

Posted by on September 9, 2012 in 3Q, Featured, Thoughts | 1 comment

Here is the first part in my three part analysis of the responses to my 3 Questions project survey. The first question I asked was:

How does your worldview, (atheism, skepticism or agnosticism, whichever is applicable to you), influence your life?

The answers varied greatly, from “not at all” to “greatly”, but these fell into several categories:

1. Atheism/agnosticism/skepticism has no influence on my worldview, it is the default worldview/it is the way people should view the world.

2. It has a little influence on my life, but affects how I look at information.

3. It has a fair amount of influence, as it’s inescapable when looking at the world.

4. It influences my life greatly, in every aspect, because it informs my view of the world from the ground up.

For the most part, the answers fell into category 4 at about 50%, followed by category 1 at 30%, and categories 2 and 3 filling up the remaining 20% equally. It seems to me that atheism/agnosticism/skepticism is either seen as a platform from which to build all of life’s experiences, or that it is just accepted as “the way things are”. In either case, it does inform parts of the respondents’ lives, particularly when it comes to the analysis of doubtful claims.

What it does show is that, of the 326 respondents, there is a level of certainty about how their worldview of atheism/agnosticism/skepticism influences their lives, and that most respondents did see this as an important part of them being themselves.

Of the category 3-4 respondents, here are some highlights:

My atheism is an integral part of my identity. It means I question my life and the world through the prism of a search for evidence. It also means I keep a watchful eye out for the undue influence of religion on what should be a truly secular society. – (name withheld)
My world view (skeptic, atheist) influences every part of my life. From how I raised my (now adult, happily skeptical atheist) son, to the books, blogs, tweets, TV programs, etc I entertain myself with, to the people I choose to associate with everyday. My identity as an atheist is even more significant to my daily life than my being a lesbian. – Athena1955
I am so comfortable in my atheism, it sometimes makes me frustrated at believers. I am fine with dying and that makes some around me uncomfortable. My 24yo son is a proud atheist, a more intelligent atheist than me – I’m very proud of passing it on! – mikethepom
In every way. I evaluate all claims in terms of their factual nature, I ask, “What does the evidence show?” about all aspects of decisions before me. I realize that this is the one life I’ll get and there’s nothing that will save me or forgive me or let me do it all over if this isn’t the life I want to have. – (name withheld)
My worldview is heavily impacted by both my atheism and skepticism. There are so many aspects of life that religion (when it comes to atheism) and pseudo-science the lack of common sense (in terms of skepticism) that impacts my life and also the lives of others around me. My brain has been taught to see these issues and act to resolve them. – Jin-oh Choi
Strong atheism with healthy skepticism lets me be free of arguments from long dead authorities and allows me to question long standing myths and cultural biases. – Zachary Lorentz

Of those that answered in category 4, one thing I noticed was the acceptance of the immediacy of life, the realisation of only “one chance” at life, and the fact that, without an afterlife, people feel compelled to make the most of this one life they have.

My atheism allows me to enjoy and value every moment I have in this world, since there is no life or existence afterwards to make up for any bad things or behavior in the here and now. Wishing or hoping for a paradise later only serves to cheapen and trivialize the wonder and beauty of my life today. It makes me want to achieve the best life now rather than hope for a better one later. – Robert Harvilla
Short answer, I work and think carefully instead of praying. Longer answer: I keep in mind the fact that my imperfect human brain can fool me if I let it, especially if I want to convince myself of something. The more I want an idea to be true for my own benefit, the more closely I have to examine that idea. Also entailed in atheism/skepticism is the fact that people do not live forever, and thus my atheism/skepticism is a constant reminder that we have to make a better world for ourselves and for people in the future, both because this life in incredibly precious in the absence of any afterlife, and also because the effect we have on the greater world around us, for good or ill, is the only thing about us that will survive the end of our consciousness. – Christopher Stephens
Because I have accepted the evidence that there is no afterlife, no supernatural entities, no second chances, I have acted much nicer to people. I am much more concerned with leaving the world a happier, better place in my wake. However, I have also become much more concerned with the truth. When people are deluding themselves, including me deluding myself, that frustrates me. When people delude others, that enrages me. Life is too short for inaccuracies and deliberate falsehoods. And since there are no second chances, those people will never be able to atone or make right their choices. – (name withheld)
It makes me realize that this life and this world is all I’ve got, and to raise my son and treat my wife the best way I can to make an impact in that way at least. – (name withheld)
It influences most areas of my life and how I choose to live it. – (name withheld)

These are some answers which fell variously into categories 1 and 2:

Atheism in itself doesn’t really influence my life in any significant way. I’m maybe more skeptical of things in general, I dismiss most things presented without evidence, and I make decisions based on reason and rationality, such as my decision to become vegetarian. I suppose you could say that it makes me appreciate the wonders of the universe more, but that would be implicitly condescending to the religious. I could say with certainty that taking an interest in the atheist community has helped to open my mind further and deepen my interest in philosophy and science, but that isn’t my atheism doing the influencing; that’s the atheist community. Ultimately it seems that my worldview doesn’t influence my life significantly; my circle of friends isn’t confined to atheists, for example. I find it difficult to see how a lack of belief could, in itself, influence anyone’s life significantly unless they had once been genuinely religious. – (name withheld)
I really don’t think it does. I mean the only difference is that I don’t live for some higher being. Just myself. – Matt
Very little. In my family we pretty much keep such things out of conversations. And I don’t have too much interaction with non-family. – Thorne
In many ways, it doesn’t, though my worldview is composed of all three of these. The culture of my parents, which was always a bit counter-culture, has influenced me more. That’s what gave me an outsider’s view as I grew up in a fairly insiders’ world. Well, that and poverty. That said, the fact that I don’t rely on any god to fix the problems I see is related to my atheism, even if that atheism was articulated late. The world doesn’t have to be this way. Differences between people are just that and not deviations from some divine plan. We can live, usually quite comfortably, with any of them that aren’t harmful (as determined on a skeptical basis that compensates for my biases in determining “harm”). We can demand that others do the same. We must demand that others do the same, as well, if we want change. No heavenly hand is going to reach down and soften hearts hardened with bigotry. No divine sign will appear to the rich to impress upon them the harm they do by deciding that staying rich or getting richer is their first priority (not that a sign would be believed). We have to act if we want change. – Stephanie Zvan
Atheism doesn’t inform my worldview/politics not at all. I would hold the same values and politics if I were to decide there was a god or gods tomorrow Skepticism informs it much more. But the two are not the same thing. – cehbeach
I don’t think it does – I think my life has produced my atheism, not the other way around. – (name withheld)
My atheism is nothing more than a rejection of theistic existential claims for a god or gods, so it doesn’t constitute a worldview at all. My skepticism affects every aspect of my life, though it also fails to constitute a worldview. It is rather the critical analysis of other worldviews. My secularism is the strongest positive influence on my life, because I believe skepticism of theistic claims should be separate from the machinations of administering state issues. If I possess a worldview at all, I wouldn’t know how to label it. – Tris Stock
I see atheism not as a particular influence; but as a way of removing or avoiding influences. I don’t think “atheism” influences my life as such. It tells you what DOESN’T influence my life. – Chris Ho-Stuart

For many, the answer is simple; it is a natural response to the world, without the clutter of religious doctrine to could the view:

I see my atheism as the natural outcome of a rational, skeptical, scientific worldview. In any situation, I try to view the facts to determine what makes sense.goes here – Ben Zvan
To borrow a format from Ian Cromwell, because I am an atheist I live my life free from fear of imaginary tyrants. My morals are based on the real-world implications for living in a society with other people. – ayla

Many highlighted the fact that their worldview gives a kind of intellectual freedom, one that allows them to judge situations based on real their merits, rather than the merits imposed upon them by religious tradition:

My atheism frees me from thinking I have to obey a mysterious hidden god that I’ve never met or encountered or had any communication with. It frees me from thinking I have to obey rules I think are vicious and horrible. It frees me to judge moral questions in human, this-world terms. – Ophelia Benson
I am an atheist. I subscribe to secular humanism, and try to apply those values to my life every day. I don’t accept pseudoscience like homeopathy etc. – Paraskevi Oppio
It makes me aware that there are many walls for others with regard to my views and that I do not have to bridge them all. I have a completely naturalistic worldview. “Everything has a reason” means to me – the opposite of what most “true believers” think it means – that the world and its universe have no supernatural governance. – (name withheld)
My atheism has fundamentally changed my worldview. I grew up as a conservative in a conservative household, replete with libertarian orthodoxy, homophobia, belligerence and ideological bullying. Atheism and relying on evidence to back up my positions lead me in a long walkabout across accomodationism and “color/gender/privilege-blindness” into my current new atheist, feminist, socialist, equal rights supporting self. I have no doubt that my atheism and subsequent introduction to skepticism are what made this possible and if I hadn’t been exposed to atheist arguments, I would still be a compassionless member of society, thinking I’m making things better while actually making them much worse. – Douglas Kirk

Atheism Plus (A+) was mentioned a few times in the responses also, and almost always in a positive light. This shows that those who subscribe to the A+ model or idea, see it as an important step, both for themselves, and for the communities at large.

I am an Atheist, and identify with the Atheist Plus worldview. In my religious background, God’s “word” was the justification for meanness and desire to disenfranchise others who did not agree, even glee at the thought of eternal punishment for others. Part of my path of doubt and disbelief came from the desire to denounce this bigotry and interact with kindness. I see people who have strong dogma absolutely feel that they must be cruel in their judgement of others. I denounce this in myself and challenge it in others where possible. – (name withheld)
My Skepticism affects my life completely and daily. With it I evaluate to claims in my personal and professional lives with assurance that I am making the best decisions I can. I am an Atheist+ but that is an outcome of my use of Science and Skepticism not the source. – Wendell Henry

In all I was struck by the overwhelming positivity of the answers given. More than a badge of honour, for the people who responded, identifying themselves as atheist/agnostic/skeptic seems to me to be an affirmation of people’s positive ability to judge the world around them with a certain amount of critical analysis.

I think that atheism allows me to look at the world and people in a more objective way. I wasn’t raised in a religious family and so I didn’t grow up with some of the prejudices some religious people have toward socially progressive ideas. I also wasn’t raised with a fear of god, the ten commandments, etc. I make decisions for myself (as much as my lack of free will allows me) based on my own values and not because I’m afraid that the sky daddy will get mad at me. I also think that in some ways, being an atheist has allowed me to be more tolerant to the beliefs of others. I think they are wrong, but I don’t condemn them for it the way that a Christian might condemn a Muslim, or a Muslim might condemn a Hindu. I’ve lived and traveled extensively in other countries with large Hindu and Muslim populations. I’ve been lucky to develop really strong friendships with people of different faiths in these countries. It scares me that their faiths lead to some pretty scary encounters for them – and not just terrorism – riots, fights, families torn apart, etc. My atheism doesn’t prevent me from loving other people of different faiths, sharing my friendship and my life with them. I’ve seen the way religious faith can tear apart the lives of others. – (name withheld)

Also, the results showed that people tend use their worldview as an acceptance of personal responsibility.

It holds me accountable for me. – (name withheld)

This is just a snippet of what I received, with many many more voices not represented here. The survey shows that people across the online communities of atheism/agnosticism/skepticism hold these views with varying degrees of importance, and with varying definitions of what they actually mean.

In Part 2 of this blog, I will be tabulating the data from the second question which was “Why is it important to be vocal as an atheist, skeptic or agnostic (if at all)? “ Stay tuned, and I hope you find this as interesting as I do.

Part 2 can be found here.

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1 Comment

  1. Because religion has become detrimental to me by breaking my family up,  I have become an anti-theist.  By doing research on a regular basis I have become an angry atheist because the more I learn ,the more I realize what a divisive, power-hungry, money collecting, controlling scam religion is.   The ignorance and refusal of the majority of mankind to question their ridiculous beliefs irks me to no end.  If I can help put religion where it belongs, in the past,  then I have done mankind a service. 

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