Survey Results: Thoughts on Atheism

Thanks to all who took the time to complete our survey on atheism!

There were over 80 respondents, and of those, 46 sent in written responses.  We believe that the number and diversity of comments proves that atheism deserves a place in the national conversation. 

The survey's "yes or no" questions were responded to as follows:

  1. Does atheism have similarities to religion?   Yes-63%  No-37%
  2. Can atheism have spiritual qualities?    Yes-76%   No-24%
  3. Does atheism make positive contributions to the common good?   Yes-82%   No-18%
  4. Do you think atheists experience discrimination?   Yes-76%   No-24%

What was perhaps most interesting was what you had to say to us in the final question of the survey, where we asked if you’d like to elaborate. We received great responses. Here’s a sampling:

  • My definition of "spiritual" means a connection larger than present physical life–be it God, The Force, whatever, but something "out there." As I understand atheism, it is a denial that there is any such existence beyond what we see and touch. There can be a moral dimension to atheism, but not a spiritual one.
     
  • Atheism is more of a religion than agnosticism. It is a systematic belief system with an overarching world view, just like any religion has.
  • This is a great beginning to a needed conversation.

  • The faithful would have you believe that atheism is just another religion with a belief system. Perhaps some atheists like to take on the trappings of religion – ceremonies and such – but I think most atheists would agree that we're guided more by the scientific method than by dogma. When facts and understandings change, we change with them…

  • Declared atheists can be at a disadvantage if they seek elected office.

  • Atheists can be as narrow-minded as the most fervent believers. I believe atheism brings to the table balance… doubt is not heresy as some institutions would have us believe and should be a healthy part of every religious identity.

  • As far as I understand it, atheism is the absence of religious or spiritual belief. As an absence, a quality defining itself by not being there, I don't think atheism can have similarities to religion, or spiritual qualities, or make positive contributions, because it isn't an active force. *Atheists* can be spiritual people, *atheists* can have beliefs with similarities to religion, *atheists* can contribute, and they certainly suffer discrimination. Atheism itself doesn't.

  • Atheism is similar to religion in that it is a belief system, albeit one that is sourced from the scientific method rather than sacred texts. I don't know if atheism is spiritual per se, but atheists certainly can be.

  • Atheism causes so many problems because people define it in so many different ways. I think, when using the term, people need to state what they mean by it. For example, I am part of a Christian community of faith (an Episcopal church) and find meaning in many of the Christian traditions and practices and writing, but I am definitely not a theist. I don't conceive of the most Sacred or the Divine or the Ground of all Being, or whatever else, as a Being who is separate from us and "hears" and "sees" us in an anthropomorphic way. So, in a very real sense, I am not theistic, thus I am an a-theist. I don't think that being atheist has anything to do with what you believe, but how you conceive/perceive or imagine ultimate reality.

  • My father was an atheist because of his belief in the truth of science above all else and he felt science had not proved the existence of god. but he was the most spiritual person i have known.

  • #3 – I don't think anyone can answer that question. All people have the ability to contribute to the common good but many self-professed believers are also self-interested and unkind. I think the question needs to be rewritten: Does someone need to believe in God in order to contribute positively to the common good? In that case, I would say no.

  • I believe it has similarities to religion in that it is fundamentally about someone's personal beliefs that they hold true to themselves and likely inform their life decisions, interactions, relationships, etc.

Again, thank you all of your responses.  And, although we only printed a small sample of the comments, we are using every response to inform our work. We look forward to hearing from you in our next survey. 

If you have a suggestion for a survey topic or question, we’d love to hear it!  Please send your ideas our way.