The illogical atheist

It’s always amusing to watch atheists attempt to use logic. It’s rather like watching an orangutan try to waltz. Consider the most recent example here, courtesy of Anon, who insists that atheism is growing rapidly and may make up more than one-third of the world’s population:

There are probably over 1 billion agnostics and atheists in the world today. In fact, there may be over 1 billion agnostics and atheists in China alone….

Specifically, atheists comprised only .2 percent of the world’s population in 1900, whereas atheists now probably comprise 15% to 35% of the world’s population….

But the percentage of atheists in the world may not be as high as 35%. A lot depends on the percentage of Chinese that are atheists. A recent poll estimated that only 31 percent of Chinese 16 or older are religious, putting the number of believers at roughly 400 million. The rest of Chinese would presumably be atheists, agnostics or those who haven’t thought about the issue, and there are 1.3 billion Chinese. So maybe 800 million to 900 million Chinese are atheists or non-theists….

By my calculations that is 15% of the world’s population. But if there are 800,000 million Chinese atheists, I wouldn’t be surprised if you get to 2 billion atheists total in the world, because there is such a larger percentage in Japan, Korea and Europe. And there are probably 25 million to 30 million in the US. A lot of Japanese are Shinto. They don’t believe in God. It is ancestor worship….

Anon makes all the usual errors. In this case, it’s clearly logical ineptitude, whereas in others, it is outright intellectual dishonesty. In any case, here are the logical blunders he makes as he attempts to avoid stumbling over his own words:

1. Failing to distinguish implicit Low Atheism with explicit High Atheism. Of course, this is only done when attempting to inflate atheist numbers, the two are always held to be two different groups when adding the two groups together demonstrates that atheists have lower IQs and greater criminal proclivities. In reality, High Atheists only account for around one-twentieth of the collective non-religious, secular population. The greater Church of Secularism is much larger than the small, but influential denomination of High Church Atheism.

2. Mutating definitions of atheism. Anon asserts that there is no God, but then backtracks and says that atheism is a mere lack of belief in God. Both of these definitions dance around the fact that most atheists also include a lack of belief in the supernatural, the human soul and anything immaterial as inherent aspects of their atheism.

3. Mathematical generalities. Forget “probably”, I can state with absolute, 100 percent certainty that between 0 and 100 percent of the world’s population is atheist. This is only marginally less meaningful than saying “atheists now probably comprise 15% to 35% of the world’s population”. One cringes at the thought of asking Anon for his estimate of the actual probabilities of that “probably”.

3. Attempting to claim the practitioners of Chinese folk religion, Buddhism, Confucianism and Shinto as atheists. This is absurd on its face, but more importantly, it is a demonstration of a Christopher Hitchens-like self-refutation that completely demolishes his own argument if accepted. Anon is trying to claim atheism is growing globally based on the idea that it once accounted for only .2 percent of the world’s population in 1900, but this argument relies on counting the estimated 12.69 percent of the global population that practice those Eastern faiths as theists in 1900 and atheists a century later. Sam Harris makes a very similar mistake on this basis in his second book.

4. Ignorance of demographics. There is a great detail of data indicating that neither atheist societies nor individuals are capalbe of reproducing successfully. Most secular researchers fail to note that atheists and the irreligious convert to religion in the years after college as readily as theists convert to atheism during college. I am myself an example of this, as are both of my college roommates. It would be interesting to study the twin phenomenons and see how they relate when combined with reproductive tendencies.

5. Ignoring the development of new and numerically less-significant religions. The supposed growth of atheism from .2 percent to 2.35 percent is impressive. Even more impressive is the growth of hitherto nonexistent religions from 0 to 2 percent. And as it stands, according to the 2005 Encylopedia Brittanica, there are still nearly twice as many people around the globe practicing indigenous tribal religions as there are atheists.

But even if one assumes that atheism has grown quickly over the past century, this is much more indicative of its relatively trivial status than anything else. Many small companies have growth rates that dwarf those of Intel, Microsoft and Apple combined; it would be mathematically impossible for Christianity to grow anywhere nearly as fast as either Atheism or Scientology.

As I have stated previously, the New Atheism is actually indicative of a peak, not a trend. I’d still be interested to see projections from those who believe otherwise, though. If atheists are now, on average, 25 percent of the global population – the second largest “faith” group in the world – what do you project will be the global percentage of atheists in 2050?

In any event, the reliability with which one can count on atheists making the same logical and factual errors over and over again leads me to wonder if perhaps they are evolutionarily challenged in ways other than the merely reproductive.