A year ago this month, I covered a study by researchers at the University of Kentucky that showed there may be a lot more atheists in the United States than previously thought.
And then in this month's Scientific American, Michael Shermer has written about the growth of non-religious Americans. In the article Shermer cites the same study I covered before, but he also covers some worrying statistics.
While it is great that up to a quarter of Americans might be atheists, agnostics, or otherwise not affiliated with any particular religion, there are some indications that some of these people are latching on to other ridiculous beliefs.
Shermer cites a study conducted at the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture that found that 32 percent of those who identified as atheist or agnostic stated that they believe that “there is life, or some sort of conscious existence, after death.” So, apparently those atheists and agnostics are not quite ready to embrace all that science tells us about the possibility of an afterlife. Sorry, guys, there's no afterlife. Deal with it.
And it gets even worse than that. Six percent of those atheists and agnostics actually said that they believed in the bodily resurrection of the dead! WTF? At that point you might as well just start praying to Jesus. I mean, he's the one who supposedly resurrected himself from the dead, right? If you believe the Christians.
This ties in to my recent article about a post-Christian Europe. In that very post I discussed the possibility, which it seemed Richard Dawkins warned about, that people would just start believing in other nonsense instead of traditional religion.
What we need to do is to continue promoting critical thinking. We need to avoid nonsense like crystal healing, astrology, or Wiccan prayers, just to name a few examples. The list of cognitive biases I linked to in the post-Christian Europe article is extremely relevant here.
We need to rise above the trappings of our evolutionary history. At this point in our development as a technological and civilizationally advanced species, we need to embrace all that empiricism and science can give us. And we need to abandon superstition and wishful thinking.