The reality is that the New Atheist campaign, by discouraging religion, won't create a new group of intelligent, skeptical, enlightened beings. Far from it: It might actually encourage new levels of mass superstition. And that's not a conclusion to take on faith -- it's what the empirical data tell us.
'What Americans Really Believe,' a comprehensive new study released by Baylor University yesterday, shows that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. It also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.
Hat-tip to Stephen Murray.
I wouldn't really have paid much attention to this, were it not for the high proportion of militant atheists on Scoutle, a relatively new social blogrolling site that I've been trying out. As a result of that, I've seen an unusual number of atheists posts trumpeting about how rational they are, and how irrational everyone else is. An agnostic friend had a run-in with some of them about a year ago, and told me how irrational he found them, so there's not much new there. It's just interesting to see a bit of research backing up the anecdotal evidence.
As for Scoutle, well, it's an interesting blogging tool, and perhaps will improve once more people are using it and it has a bigger variety of members. The idea is that instead of going looking for interesting blogs on Google or Technorati or Amatomu and such sites, you send a "scout" out on Scoutle to go and do the looking for you. Your scout then presents you with a list of possibly interesting blogs, which you can then confirm or reject. I'm assuming that it learns from these confirmations and rejections and learns to revise its choices -- a bit like Stumble-Upon, only for blogs instead of ordinary web pages.
Though it has some quirks (like showing lots of militant atheist sites to a Christian blogger like me), I'm willing to give it a go because some of the other sites that are supposed to do something similar seem to have been misbehaving recently. Technorati, for example, has been quite slow. If you want to find out what they are saying in the blogosphere about Thabo Mbeki's ousting as president, you want to read it today, and not wait until Technorati gets round to pinging the blogs in two weeks time.
Another one that is disappointing recently is BlogExplosion. It is really a sort of manual version of Scoutle. You select a category of blogs you want to see, and a category of blogs you don't want to see, and it shows you the former and not the latter, and a few others thrown in for variety. In my case, I want to see blogs on books and literature, and don't want to see ones on business. But the last few times I've used it, it's shown me blogs on anything but books and literature, and very often repeats the same ones I saw last time, and worst of all, some of them haven't been updated since the last time I saw them. While you are looking at blogs on BlogExplosion, it shows your blog(s) to other people, so when I do that I try to do it just after I've posted new things on my blogs, so that the people who read them won't see the same old posts umpteen times. At least it gives you the option to say "don't show me this again".
As I said, Scoutle does much the same thing, but the process is automated. You don't have to go through five dull blogs to find one interesting one. Scoutle is supposed to find them for you. So if you've got an interesting blog, please join Scoutle now!