Columnists’ comment about atheism portrays group as ‘evil’ and ‘immoral’

In last Thursday’s paper, Blair Thomas wrote an article concerning the recent facetious request of Larry Flynt and Joe Francis for a $5 billion congressional bailout for the porn industry. In her second paragraph, I found this embarrassingly ignorant sentence: “[Larry Flynt’s activities are] not exactly admirable. He drinks, he does drugs — once even suffering a stroke from an overdose — and is enthusiastic about being an atheist.”

Perhaps some of you see nothing wrong with that sentence, however if Blair had replaced the word atheist with “Muslim” or “Jew,” I doubt the editors of the Kernel would have seen it through to print. And why is this? Is it acceptable to associate someone’s lack of belief with being a “bad person?” This is exactly what Blair implied, however why does she think this? Is there any validity to her generalization?

A recent study by the Journal of Religion and Society would argue no. Their publication in 2005 pulled data from 18 nations defined as “prosperous democracies” which included most of Western Europe, the U.S., Japan and Australia. They then compared the level of religiosity in these countries with the overall level of “social ills.” Of course with any study, the results varied .But according to their overall findings: “In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, and abortion in the prosperous democracies.”

Of course, I’m not one to confuse correlation with causation, but the data is still saying something, most loosely, that being an atheist does not mean you are more likely to drink excessively and do drugs to the point of a stroke, as Thomas may believe. It is hardly surprising however, that most Americans agree with her. Atheists have been classified as the “least trusted” demographic in American society; more than communists, white supremacists, or Arab-Americans. Atheists are somehow branded as evil and immoral” even though the former groups have more “reason” (however ignorant) to be mistrusted given past correlations with those groups and events in history. The fact is, atheists — people who simply don’t subscribe to a series of supernatural or dogmatic beliefs — are no more prone to committing immoral acts than any other group, perhaps, it seems, even less.

Bennett Jerrow

international studies junior