An apologetics site, when discussing atheists and atheism, will most often focus on belief claims and rational arguments. We know a lot about what atheists believe and the arguments they use to counter the faith claims of Christians in particular. What may not be so well-known is “the community in which atheists sustain their social reality.” Who are atheists? George Yancey, a professor of sociology at the University of North Texas, has begun a series of blogs in which he describes research aimed at rectifying this neglect.
Yancey highlights some of the findings:
In our sample, we had a high percentage of individuals with college and post-graduate degrees. This is reflective of the reality that atheists have higher levels of education than others in our society. We also interviewed more men than women. We even made an attempt to interview more women but still interviewed almost three men for every woman we interviewed. Research has shown that men are more likely to be atheists…. Our respondents were also highly likely to be white which also matches what national probability samples have indicated about the racial makeup of atheists.… The educational, racial and gender status of atheists suggests that this is a group with a relatively privileged societal position.
And yet, Yancey notes that
many atheists feel marginalized, and there is research indicating that atheism is less accepted than other religious beliefs. In fact, [research shows] that atheism generates more relative animosity than other religious beliefs. So it is true that as it concerns religious status, atheism is a marginalized position. But in other ways, atheists are not so marginalized. Being more likely to be white, male and educated means that they have advantages in society that offset the disadvantages their beliefs about religion can bring them.
This is important research, and I agree with Yancey when he says, “Being a Christian, I believe it to be important to understand those who do not agree with me.” I will keep you posted on further blogs as he adds them.