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A Groundbreaking Study of America’s Nonbelievers

Bruce Hunsberger and Bob Altemeyer

Book Review

Has organized religion (monotheism) really begun a terminal decline? This question reverberated in the backs of our heads as we got into this readable book on a subject that is still taboo in many quarters. Yet it is groundbreaking; indeed, it is eyeopening as well. What sets this book apart from those by other atheists is that it provides actual data and may be the first attempt we have seen that ties the need for, and expression of, religion to such traits as authoritariansm—Right Wing variety--but basically a genetic expression of society first codified by Adorno et. al. and extended by Milgram and Altemeyer himself.

  • Is atheism an "ism" in its own right?
  • Many say yes, including some atheists.

  • How can atheists be moral, find purpose, face a future of nothingness?
  • They can and do.

  • Is atheism really gaining ground?
  • Recent history affirms that it is.

    These issues and more are discussed from a sociological perspective by these authors.

Some of the mumerous reasons why believers eventually leave the church :

  • The carnage (including genocide) reported in the Old Testament,
  • The numerous textual problems with blot5h the Old and New Testaments,
  • modern-day abuses of children (and cover-ups of same),
  • The violence church leaders have wrought (and still wring) in the name of God over the millennia,
  • Hypocrisy on the part of church leaders,and
  • Incongruence with nature.
  • The kind of God that allows children and innocents to suffer.
It is not surprising that monotheism is in decline among thinking folks--increasing levels of education enable rational thinking over ideology. On the practical daily level, children of fundamentalists find hypocrisy, boring services, constant requests for money, and changing social norms often out-weigh the more intellectual factors. [Some Protestant mega churches seem to be addressing some these shortcomings.]

Underlying it all is the Authoritarian Personality, AP, which, the authors point out, also affects politics, economics, business and other such sectors of society. The AP in turn arises from our genes, though this is not emphasized by the authors.

The close connections observed among fundamentalism with bigotry, zealotry, and and dogma appear to be features of the AP. On the whole, this book is consilient with the findings of Milgram.

If there is a weakness in this book, it is in its limited samples--which the authors point out. Nevertheless, this groundbreaking book belongs on the book shelf of anyone who seeks broad insights into the issues of living in our troubled times.


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