Friday, October 24, 2008

Is the problem merely lack of awareness of the world?

Wow, it's been over 2 weeks since my last post. I've been totally occupied with my first love, traveling. And as it turns out, the theme of travel will be relevant to this post.

I don't live in my home country. I've been an expat for about 8 years now. I work with other expats from different countries. My friends are mostly expats, too. And as I look around at my friends and coworkers (including those from my current job and my last job) here, something strikes me as odd. That is that a lot of them are atheists. In fact, nearly all of them are atheists. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure that even a single one of them is religious in any way. It also strikes me that an unusually large number of travelers that I meet are also atheists.

Why is this strange? Because if you know anything about the countries that these people come from, then statistically, one would assume that many of them should be religious. If I know a bunch of Americans, then statistically, with all other things being equal, well more than half of them should be Christian, and even more should be religious. But they're not. Why? I have a theory.

If you've ever read my de-conversion story, you'll know that what ended up destroying my faith was finding out more about other religions in the world, and recognising that they had just as much validity (ie. zero) as mine did. In the face of this new awareness, it became impossible for me to justify my faith, and I was instantly converted to atheism.

People who leave their country to go to another will naturally have a certain level of awareness of the outside (of their country) world, which is likely higher than that of the general population. Therefore, all of my expat friends, coworkers, and fellow travelers, might be considered to have above-average 'worldliness'.

The connection seems apparent. People who understand more about the world and have been out to experience it, will have a higher awareness of the outside, and not be so inclined to just believe whatever religion was forced on them as a child. They can examine and compare beliefs from one culture to another, and many will probably come to the same conclusion that I did when I was faced with alternatives to the only ideas that I'd been taught up until then.

This thinking was somewhat confirmed to me when one of my friends two weeks ago told me how he figured it all out. He told me that he could not just blindly follow the religious beliefs he was born into, when being born elsewhere would have led him to believe something else.

I then thought about it from the other side. If travelers and expats are more worldly and more highly prone to atheism, then is the opposite also true? It seems so. In the U.S. for example, it is widely known that a relatively small fraction of the people have a passport when compared to other developed countries, so it can be assumed that they haven't seen much of the world (except for trips to Canada or Mexico, but even these are impossible without a passport under new border-security rules). And not coincidentally, the U.S. also has one of the highest rates of religious belief (especially fundamentalism) of any Western developed country. Zooming in even further, we see that religious belief is stronger in the parts of the population which are, how shall we say...... less cosmopolitan (ie. southern and mid-west states, rural areas, etc.).

On the other hand, Britain has a rate of religious belief much lower than the U.S. (about half, I believe), and they are legendary travelers. I meet far more Brits while traveling than any other nationality, and their young people are fiercely into traveling during gap-years. Certainly one of the more worldly societies in the world.

Turning to the developing world, we can see that the percentage of religious believers, and the intensity of their beliefs, seems to be extremely high. The poor of India, Haiti, the Middle East, and South America, for example, are strong believers. It shouldn't surprise us that these people don't travel the world a lot, and many probably have never left their village. Even reading about the outside world might not be possible if they are illiterate.

So is there truly a connection between awareness of the world and atheism? Would many more people de-convert if they crawled out from under their rocks and experienced the world? I think so. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

Yes i think your theory is very highly possible.

May i try to take it a little further.I was born into a religious cult ,it wasnt until i left the cult which in losing all family in the process was not a easy thing to do.That i was able to find out that all the supposedly nasty people outside id been told were evil ,were not all the nasty evil people that i had been told that they were.Many in fact were nicer than any id ever met inside.


Those of my family and others who stayed within ,have stayed there through thick and thin even though much they have experienced could not be thought of by anybody thinking with a sane mind to ever be that of whats good.

I suggest that the part within religion that suggests separation and excommunication , is merely mans method thought up to manipulate and control .

Even within most more placid religions and beliefs ,those who stray a bit are still shunned and often treated badly.Its a method of manipulation and control.

They dont want people to learn to much even if its actually about the truth .

By the way very interesting blog and i enjoyed your thoughts .

Admin said...

Wow, thanks for the story, and the compliment. Amazing. Did you become an atheist because you left the cult, or did you leave the cult because you became an atheist? (ARE you an atheist?)

Anonymous said...

Actually for a long time after i left the cult i still had thoughts of God.I even went along to other mainstream churches .But to tell you the truth even though i couldnt suggest they were the same as the people i knew in the cult,they still were kind of reserved and even with all the love they supposedly read about.These were still really not totally loving people.Being amongst them one all most felt a kind of tupperware sensation oozing from them.Tupperware being plastic containers often made to replica real glass vessels,the books these folk read suggested love and kindness! but sadly i dont think these things can be told by anyone to be learned it has to come from reality within ones own heart.And with reading a book that also suggested so many other things such as shunning judgement and separation and things,and with a father that didnt come to bring peace to the world but divide.

Quote: Matthew 10:34 (New King James Version)

Christ Brings Division

34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.

Well these people reading such often conflicting material just dont quite know how they should be.Yes they read words that suggest being loving but with other words on their mind suggesting also to be harsh.The love they might (try) to show is like the love from a robot and so oozes that of a tupperware container being that it is only a reproduction .

No friend , through things such as indoctrinated fear with many long moments of confusion, it really has taken me many years to fully deprogram.

Some might call me an atheist but what they might call me matters not to me,just so long as they dont call me "late for lunch" .Specially if im hungry .

But the thing is what it comes down to is i just see so no reason to believe or real proof of any god/s.And as ive grown and experienced life ive noticed how confused and often contradicting thoughts of man can be ,ive seen how man wants to control .And when i compare these things to these religious books once again i see thoughts and words of men ! but no real reason to believe them as any real words of God/s.

So im a atheist i guess as people will suggest i am , but only because i think im more honest to be that way until i see good reason to think otherwise .People might say yes but can you prove there is no god ? i would say no not categorically as a matter of total fact but in saying that neither can i when thinking of the tooth fairy and many other things as well .And i would ask would i be better to believe things by the default theory ? in that even though there is no categorical evidence so far either way.That i should be compelled to believe just incase?,should i maybe believe there might be many other gods as well such as Thor and Neptune ?.What about father Christmas then?.

See what i have found is yes in this world there is some not very nice people .But there many many very good loving people as well and these people can also often be non believers.Should these non believers either being loving or not , one thing about them you can be sure of is they are being honest and its actually who and what they really are.They have nothing they read that suggests they should be loving and so if they are it comes right from the heart .

So if in speaking of morals then what matters the most ,honesty or belief ?.

Hutch said...

As an American expat who's lived in Berlin, Germany, ever since serving here (or rather: former West Berlin) back in the mid-'70s as a U.S.A.F. sergeant, I can only confirm your observation.
Funny, I had always thought it had something intrinsically to do with my being gay (since I had my doubts about religion at a very early age, in fact, back in Lutheran Sunday School "daze" and the time of my "Confirmation" in '68). The alienation of growing up (a strong-willed) gay in a small North Dakotan town of 100 inhabitants (and five churches) somehow left me impervious to religious (or heterosexist) indoctrination. Both compulsory heterosexuality and incessant pressure to go to church were, for me at least, interrelated. For me, they were both coercive, authoritative systems employed to control both people's consciousness AND their behavior, while wholly disregarding people's individuality and their right to be different. Both heterosexuality and religion were "belief systems" that forced people to conform to a certain set of beliefs (set up by whom? for what reason? to whose benefit?) which I could only reject. Still, as a young adult, I, too, noticed there was additional connection between being "worldly-wise" (after having actually gotten out and SEEN the world) and being an atheist.

Magnamune said...

I've pretty much proven my newness to this site with my posting in long since dead posts, but I finished reading this and realised that Australia has one of the highest Atheist, and Non-practicing Religious populations in the civilised world. (I do acccept that this statement may be wrong, and if that's the case, please tell me so I don't make the mistake again). I bring my first point.

In the city one night I saw a large group of people all huddled around one man, screaming at the top of his lungs the word of god. My immediate thought was that the group had gathered to listen to his preaching, as most Christians I know would do. I stopped and turned when I heard from the crown "You are a F-ing moron!". There was not a single supporter of the man in this large crowd, nor were any willing to just let him yell and scream idiocy. At every turn a new person pointed out flaws in his arguments, making this (now red faced) man look completely inept. Shortly after I left, I realised that man was acctually in a lot of danger, he was surrounded on all sides by an angry mob, who would likely want to completely disprove and forcebly deconvert him, therefore not allowing him to leave. I returned to help the man at this realisation, only to see the crowd opening to allow him through. He wasn't physically assaulted in any way, though he was almost in tears at leaving, and was holding his bible close, like a teddy bear.

I tried to figure out why this had happened. Had the man instead have cried out that he preferred Holdens to fords, and began to explain why, he would have been beaten to the ground, literally. But he was instead ridiculed and proven wrong, and allowed to leave peacefully. Why? Then it hit me. Our multi-culturalism. Here, you'll find people from every corner of the globe. Every belief, every race, everyONE, has a place here. Even those who don't beleive that everyone has a place here, have a place here. (Boguns - The Australian Redneck).

I actually managed to, just by walking up the street, collect 5 holy texts. a Bible, 2 Hare Krishna texts, A book of the latter-day saints, AND (surprisingly) a copy of Dianetics. I got a clear reading on an e-meter my first time, but that's a different story. It seems to me that throughout my life, I've been constantly exposed to other peoples beliefs, and I'm pretty sure that my upbringing wasn't that far out of the ordinary. I feel I'm more wordly then most Americans, yet the furthest I've gotten from my home, was a three day fishing trip in another state. I will NOT say I'm am very worldly, only more worldy then most average americans.

That's a cool word: worldly.

I had other points, but have forgotten them in the hype of my previous writings, though I doubt they were as important. If I'm wrong please explain why. If I'm right, find the flaws (As there must be some in there)