If the New Religiously Unaffiliated are Not Choosing Atheism, Then Just What are They?

People are leaving religious affiliation in droves. Indeed, almost 18 million persons over the last seven years in the US alone left the faith on a statistical basis.¹ But only a slim margin inside this conversion base† is filing into the comparatively paltry ranks of atheism. Just who are these people electing this third option, the “nones” as they are titled by the Pew Research Study pundits? Why were Social Skeptics shocked at the results, and why do their shrill voices continue to pretend that this enormous and fastest-growing demographic group in the United States, does not even exist?
In fact, these numbers, countermanding the 150 year old false dilemma under which we have all been trained, belie a more staggering statistic that as much as 65% of the United States adult demographic has something other in mind than simply “atheism” versus “believing.”
What is this “other” category, and what does it comprise? Perhaps they, and not the material monists, big-A Atheists and Nihilists, are the real free thinkers and skeptics? As a true skeptic, I want to know what this new and growing demographic has in mind. I want to know why they are leaving traditional religion AND are resoundingly rejecting atheism at the same time.

US demographic shift away from both atheism and religiosity (2) - CopyBased on the recently released Pew Religious Landscape Research Study on America’s changing religious makeup, significant unrest is afoot inside the ranks of United States adult demographic.  Of the 245 million estimated adults comprised by the 2014 US population base, a staggering 50 million of these individuals have elected to opt out of both atheism and religion. A full 26% of the US adult population makes no comment on the issue of a ‘god’ and instead has chosen some form of different path from the polarizing mind trick which has enslaved American ontology for close to two centuries.

Who are these people? Just what manner of change is precipitating this gargantuan shift in the mindset of American adults? Well, one thing is clear, the shift is either stemming in part from or is closely associated with new information technologies. Technologies embraced and influenced by the youngest of our demographic. According to the Pew Research Study,

“While many U.S. religious groups are aging, the unaffiliated are comparatively young – and getting younger, on average, over time. As a rising cohort of highly unaffiliated Millennials reaches adulthood, the median age of unaffiliated adults has dropped to 36, down from 38 in 2007…”¹

Perhaps this is why Social Skepticism has taken such a great interest in changing the way in which information is ranked inside Google searches? Do they feel they are losing the battle at hand? Or surely this must all simply stem from the “War on Science?” Yes, that must be it! Heck, at least the churches, mosques and temples for the most part are not apparently threatened by this information technology change.  But Social Skeptics are threatened by these changes; highly threatened. Interesting… and perhaps now we see here why. This is worth scientific consideration.

Both Atheism and Religion are Losing Ground to the “Nones”

from the right and the left booksThe new and existing demographic are not embracing the false dilemma (mandatory selection inside a bifurcation fallacy) of religion or atheism. Just what then are they embracing? Certainly agnosticism (and very likely ignosticism) is represented in this count according to the study results;¹ to the order of 30% more persons in total than atheism itself. But both these tallies of atheist and agnostic, taken together, account for less than a quarter of all those who indicated that they are “unaffiliated.”¹ The new ontology, apparently free information based as it should be, is not enriching the collection plates of Nihilist or Fundamentalist alike. Perhaps Fundamentalists should join Skeptics in the Pub to drown their sorrows about losing the battle for the American mind. They can commiserate over their slipping grasp on controlling this old argument. But to my perception an idea set is winning. It just does not have coherence yet; and to my best suspicion, is exciting to a great number inside this demographic. But this is science yet to be conducted, so I can make no substantiative claim therein.

they are not listening any more buddyIt is remarkable really how persons who are religiously disconnected, reject the notion of calling themselves ‘atheist’ even when prompted with the chance to anonymously do so. On the order of 8 or 9 to one, they exhibit a distaste for the moniker. Why a distaste for either categorization? Is it attributable to apathy? Or is there something else, which we are not acknowledging, which is dawning on the ontological consciences of American adults, and especially our new adults? As an ignostic atheist myself, I want to know.

Finally, how many persons inside the 71% percentage points of the religiously affiliated, indeed sympathize with these ignored but latent new understandings on the part of the unaffiliated? It is incumbent upon real researchers that we begin to understand this ‘unaffiliated’ group, the philosophies to which they do affiliate, and the currently influenced religious ‘in-transition’ demographic. Why they are leaving in droves (or are about to leave†)? Why do they remain unconvinced by material monists, Atheists and Nihilists while in their religious exodus? Why are Millennials not adopting atheism either?

in general social skeptics get it that religions loss is not their gainIn general, Social Skeptics are getting the fact that a decline in religiosity does not immediately portend an increase in atheist rolls. In fact they have no idea what is driving this change in demographic, nervously citing the results as a victory. The pseudo-victory is quickly glossed over, dodging the ominous fact that these numbers might indicate something they fear even more than religion – people actually becoming activists, seeking that science be done – rejecting Nihilism – intolerant of dogma – and smart enough to distinguish the difference; even on tough and controversial issues. They are visiting the credulous websites, viewing the disdained videos, they are asking the forbidden questions. They are not intimidated with how ‘rational’ you are. They put credence in eyewitness testimony and a mountain of ignored ‘anecdote.’ They want research, not pre-cooked answers, and this does not bode well for Social Skepticism. The Center for Inquiry understates the results of the Study in the graphic above.

Note that the realization that this group in transition ‘aren’t all atheists‘ Ξ in reality to a 9 : 1 trouncing and rejection of atheism as an alternative to religion on the part of the “nones.”‡

perhaps the real pictureAccording to Encyclopedia Britannica and the traditional surveys they cite,² Fundamentalism, or the literal interpretation of one’s choice of religion, of all types, composes anywhere from 25 – 32% of the United States demographic adult population.² If we back this figure conservatively out of the ‘affiliated’ sample of respondents in the Pew Study, even if we attribute the top end 32% or one-third of the US population as being characterized by Fundamentalist traditional beliefs of all faiths, we end up with a whopping 65% of the population which is considering something else.

It is this something else which I, as a skeptic, want to understand.

I condemn or prejudge no one in these groups, save for those who are violent or seek to oppress others and squelch freedom of thought, education and speech. Were we to identify these oppressive and violent groups, we would have to demarc a very thin sliver of the population overlapping both the atheist and fundamentalist portions of the graph to the right.

As a true skeptic, I want to know more about this unheralded and latent group set, and why they have chosen to reject both of the bifurcated ideals which have been artificially forced upon them from their youth? Under the Scientific Method, when the right question is asked, I feel the next methodological and deontological question to pose is “Who are these people, and what is it that they believe?”

Without the asking of that question, are we really performing science here, or simply a 150 year old form of bandwagon entertainment?

please note that the term ‘leave’ incorporates statistically both those in the Pew Research Study who have changed their individual allegiances regarding religious persuasion between 2007 and 2014, as well as those we have lost by attrition and have been replaced by the new generation of adults inside that same timeframe.

please also note that I think this aversion to atheism stems from a malpractice of atheism on the part of Social Skeptics. Those who enforce Nihilism and material monism on others, but mistakenly refer to their beliefs as ‘atheism.’ Perhaps this, in as much anything else, explains the overwhelming public aversion to the term atheist.

There is Another Path to Consider: The Rejection of Dogmatism and Fear

dogmatismThe third pathway in all this, which is being given rhetorical short shrift vis-à-vis poll questions formulated from an 1800’s mentality, is the pathway I call Ethical Skepticism.  Now of course that terminology is not in the common vernacular and neither can I make the claim that these 50 million adult Americans are now choosing the pathway of Ethical Skepticism. They are not. But I can cite a case for research along the lines that the thinking inside this group bears some very common characteristics with Ethical Skepticism.  Research which makes the following substantiation for further, more philosophically savvy investigation regarding the new mindset dawning on modern Americans.

The Zone of Fear 23 - Copy1.  I reject Fundamentalism because it is a low information set, high in condemnation and dogma, and extracts money by means of the resulting fear of the unknown. I reject this for ethical reasons. I also understand that dogmatic denial of the unknown can stem from non-religiously generated fear as well.  Overly assured regard of what one holds as ‘truth’, with or without personification by a bearded grandfather icon, is not necessarily indicative of a philosophy developed independent of fear.

2. I reject Material Monism and Nihilism for now because they are operating on only a little more information than is Fundamentalism, in the grand scheme; yet the dogmatism is still disconcertingly high. Why? I just left dogmatism being used to generate fear and make money. Should I not hold off on jumping into another dogmatism, until we all as a species know more information?

3. The empirical evidence, scant or ephemeral as it may be, is NOT confirming Material Monism nor Nihilism; in fact is predictive in its falsification of both.  I await more information however. I hear the clamor from ‘Big-A’ Atheists about the fallibility of the mind, perception and memory. But, I am not ready to start drawing their conclusions and dogma until I know more than simply a collection of one-liners.

4. I do not hold the answer, save to say that I know that I no longer have to live in the past four millennia of ignorance.

5. I know this is a shocker:  But I do not have to even want an answer.  In a low information environment, both nihilism and fundamentalist dogma are sometimes an attempt to force an answer-from-want, spawned by such urgency. The universe is not going to crumble in despair and hellfire, simply because I cannot comprehend its extents.

6. The observable universe appears to be regulated by a cohesive set of laws which serve to bring us into being. I must trust that the philosophies which underpin such rigor – continue on further beyond the horizon of that which we can comprehend, much less observe or measure. I am not equipped to judge an intent (nor lack thereof) with the information set I now possess. Nor is this lack of information indicative of some form of shortfall or lack of faith on my part.

7. There is much much more that we don’t know, than we do know.

¹  Pew Research Study, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape;” May 12, 2015, Pew Research Center: Religion & Public Life; http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/.

²  Fundamentalism, Encyclopedia Britannica, Henry Munson, 2015 Encyclopedia Britannica Inc. Chicago, IL; http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1191955/fundamentalism.

An Internet Pre-filtered by Authorized Knowledge is a Mistake

Google rankings, rather than misleadingly being based upon how many profit producing Knowledge Vault ‘facts’ a site can dredge up, should instead hinge upon a site’s degree of original thinking, publicly valuable content, lack of profit seeking and ethic of providing first hand/active field research based information. We should not fear a plurality of information, because in the end, incorrect information is much more informative than partially correct regurgitated facts. The latter is ‘not even wrong.’

facts are undeniableMuch akin to null result discovery in scientific testing, incorrect information falsifies itself through accrued verity and research. It does not last forever. And in its falsification, the process of knowledge development becomes extraordinarily informative, not simply about the nature and intent of those who hoax and lie inside an issue, but as well lesser-known aspects of the true story, interleaved inside unauthorized forums which seldom surface. The enforcement of partially correct authorized answers is the antithesis of sound investigation. Stored in vaults of fact-vomit dogma, repositories no longer able to discern lies from truth, they ossify and serve to scaffold a surreptitiously misleading gospel. Many times having never been vetted by science at all, rather simply a representation of someone’s idea of what they want science to be. The neutral witness learns nothing but a canned answer. Google, do not betray us. All information is subject to challenge, especially in arenas where substantiative debate exists. Do not let these people take power through the authorization of what is considered fact. They are not benign in their intentions. There are fact repositories we can all access and there are popular resource topics which arise – and the users determine which they need when. Do not let these people ‘fix’ this.

The end of freedom

“Withholding information is the essence of tyranny. Control of the flow of information is the tool of the dictatorship.”
     ― Bruce Coville
 Fact-Vomit Fraud is a SSkeptical Art

Google takes controlA nightmare in the making for a constitutionally driven people and nation.  Determining Google query rankings by ‘facts’ contained in the website drawn from a central reserve, Knowledge Vault, will serve only to put ONE group in power over information.  One of the tactics available for ‘correct thinking’ and SSkeptic websites will now be to regurgitate endless facts, in an effort to up their ranking over sites which offer observations, new data, and new ideas.  This will end in tyranny of information through fact-vomit fraud.  Much akin to how spam messages work their way through the sensors by alternating a series of coherent sentences in order to appear as legitimate comments or emails.  Now forcing everyone to see only these sites saturated in irrelevant and in-cohesive facts might sound good to the shallow minded.  But to those who have witnessed first hand how corruption works through ‘authorized information’ – we recognize that this is not a benign act.¹

Your Thoughts and Ideas Were an Experiment that Failed

This principle, the concept that it is experimentally moral to change government and begin to remove ideas based on their ‘truth and reason’ content is no better expressed than by Michael Shermer himself; grand master of social morality and truth enforcement on the populace.  A product of religion himself, now spinning his new religion with a blood-thirst by which even Jerry Falwell would be awed.

If you want different results [government], change the variables. “The founders often spoke of the new nation as an ‘experiment,’” Ferris writes. “Procedurally, it involved deliberations about how to facilitate both liberty and order…” As Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1804: “No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth.”†

~ Michael Shermer, The Work of Michael Shermer, Scientific American, Sept 2010.

We will note with the Cabal that, the only thing which will not be an experiment, is their power. That is absolute and unquestionable. They have made this clear.

Now it won’t just be the irritating ads which will fake answer your Google search – but as well, fact stuffed ‘knowledge’ sites who don’t even pay a fee, which also intercept your quest for information in an attempt to mislead. An Orwellian Utopia of correctness and scientific morals, which inevitably begins through the control of our interactions and media.

Paul is Dead - we will never knowWe already are witness to what About.com, Answers.com and Ask.com have done to prostitute the internet with top-of-the-list fake and incorrect answers to questions posed in a web engine search. The majority of the time when I ask a question in an arena inside of which I am an expert, variants of these three service questions are answered at the top of the web search list, and consist of incorrect, neophyte babble or are out of context. But at least these services are not dictating these answers as true.  This action bears the potential that incorrect, neophyte babble and out of context answers will become permanent authorized fixtures in the social memory.

In the 1970’s, SSkeptics attempted to squelch rumors of an early 1900’s unimaginably large explosion over Siberia. I remember the articles decrying those who pondered the potentiality as alien theorists and believers of bunk. Today we know the Tunguska Impact to exist as a well documented fact.  But in 1972, it was a popular SSkeptic whipping dog issue. There was no such thing. ‘Fact’ based websites, as such, were deployed into the major media networks. The only way to hear about Tunguska research articles were in rogue publications such as Argosy and Omni magazines.  We were lied to regularly and with impunity. This will happen again.

Not every issue is so readily resolvable as was the Tunguska Impact. Let’s not let the 1950’s style of Official Media Information gain another foothold on our information and our minds.

And just who will determine the relevancy of the “facts” presented on each high ranked site? Who will be populating this reserve of authorized knowledge? The CIA World Factbook? When I travel into countries where I am on the ground working with relief agencies and governments, I find their information to be consistently incorrect.  Ministries chuckle at the inaccuracies in some cases. Will I be able to correct this information in the Knowledge Vault? And if my direct observation runs afoul of the CIA World Factbook/Knowledge Vault information – will my website be forced to the bottom of hundreds of noise-sites, replete with fake ‘facts?’ All for the simple audacity to actually hold a truthful but lesser known direct observation?  Again with Wikipedia, one who has first hand knowledge cannot correct errant information as it is.  When ‘factual information sites’ appear that present lies about people, issues and businesses – will they be accepted as a fact simply because one has been approved to tender information (see AAAS and ‘War on Science’), and not because one has direct knowledge of the subject, as is the practice of Wikipedia now?

What if I want to know the evidence behind a cult understanding of a phenomenon, and not just hear the regurgitated ‘facts’ from The Skeptic’s Dictionary, spinning a brick wall from three bricks and some spit? I don’t want to have to step to result #987 because the search result has been corrupted by hundreds of fake sites reciting canned authorized ‘facts’ – all replications without recitation of each other.

The information will simply not be good enough. The people are simply not ethical enough.¹ The method simply too prone to Social Skeptic manipulation – to take this totalitarian step on managing what can and cannot be seen – what is promoted as truth along with the paid ads.  Yes, keep vaults of authorized knowledge and let us know how to get to them, but don’t start squelching information which does not fit the model it supposedly portrays.

On matters of well established science and cultural data it is fine to keep information repositories and highlight them.  But we already have a multiplicity of these sites on the internet. As well, we already have the bullies patrolling and posing as skeptics spinning extrapolated and fake science off scant ‘facts.’ We have seen this now with Wikipedia, blocking first hand information in favor of information from authorized activist sources seeking to dominate a topic. The victims of this ‘truth’ will be controversial and challenging subjects against which Social Skeptics and their cronies will petition and threaten Google and its partners to squelch. That precedent is well established.

And soon, when will the supposed ‘facts’ begin to bleed into the Knowledge Vault to impugn you, your career, your business, your faith, your neighbors and your family?  This precedent, the cheat, the corrupt fakery of showing authorized information is well established with respect to Google.¹ Not long after Social Skepticism takes power – anyone who disagrees with them will be eviscerated on the web. And if there exists any evidence which does not agree with their defamation, it will never be seen. Notice here, two case examples where existing Google Knowledge Graph mistaken representations impacted two businesses with potentially severe repercussions on their branding strength. Now these were accidents which were immediately corrected by Google and were spun into case anecdote justifications for the trustworthiness of Google. Well Google may or may not be trustworthy, but those who will be able to manipulate this process, have proved themselves to lack intellectual integrity, adorned with facts; tendering the appearance of correctness in order to damage and harm people and squelch topics.

Should Google begin this style of ranking with impunity, and in service partnership with Social Skepticism, I will no longer use their search engine, nor attempt to rank or register my professional and commercial websites with them. They will have betrayed us all. I will support search engines which promote the freedom of information, only. We already have ample propaganda and ‘correct thinking’ sites on the internet.

As an ethical skeptic I want information which challenges norms and provides more than simply the authorized facts. That is part of my makeup as a skeptic. Truth comes through the accrual and vetting of facts, not through the squelching of information.  One cannot live in fear of incorrectness. Incorrect information is much more informative than partially correct information. The latter is ‘not even wrong.’

Living the Dream – Profits from Promulgating Authorized Facts

global social warming 4It’s not that I believe that Paul McCartney is dead.  I do not. But what if I want to examine that information or recent news about such issues? – and apply that skeptical and rational thinking about which Social Skeptics speak so much? I shudder at the prospect of receiving a search engine result like the one above, on all subjects of controversy (which is 80% accurate to reality now). I want to know the arguments from both sides without spin, fact vomit and agenda. I do not care in the least what Wikipedia and The Skeptic’s Dictionary have concluded about the topic. They have not conducted first hand research, they do not contain original ideas, nor are they free to frame the issue objectively – both serving higher order masters who already possess the answer/the facts.  Steven Novella, in his March 2, 2015 blog opines in pseudo parsimony and through crocodile tears:²

Novella on Knowledge Vault

This prospect already has Social Skeptics drooling, as they know exactly what to do in order to take advantage of what could turn out to be a big mistake. Steven knows this, and anticipates it with relish.  What he misses however, is that this totalitarian control of information and direction towards authorized correct resources – when used to further partner enterprises – constitutes anti-trust violations in the US, and yes, even in Europe (see Europe Charges Google with Anti-trust Violations). One does not have to be a member of a corporation in order to be charged with Anti-trust activity on behalf of that corporation or its oligopoly.  SSkeptics, as well as Google, should remember this. Eliminating competition might seem a giddy intellectual exercise for the SSkeptic, but they forget that economies, jobs, families, livelihoods and futures ride on competitive businesses they attack with shallow data and agenda.  This is not just some academic back-office/parent’s basement contest to see who is smarter, as SSkeptics perceive their debates.

But for now, his media partners know this as well. Now those sites which will have paid Social Skeptics who are in control of how authorized information is gamed into SEO rankings (see The Wall Street Journal)³ in granting top Google search engine results slots, will be able to charge internet users for access to information, because such information is now blessed by Google and Social Skepticism. Below is an increasingly common page block, this one issued by The Economist, which tweets me articles and then asks me to pay regular money in order to see it. This is a great model for the future of correctness. Social Skeptics will achieve their dream of being compensated for sitting around doling out correct answers. Their celebrities exemplify this as role models now.

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I suppose the only saving grace might be embodied inside this dilemma, will the market bear the price for authorized information, or will ‘free’ information turn out to be a more value laden deal?  Who possesses more value, a layman sponsor conducting actual field observations, or a tenured academic pontificating from his university/institute office chair? I would not be willing to pay money for the latter. As well Google has had the front row seat witnessing the chicanery which has gone on inside the SEO market in regard to artificial jockeying of search rankings among players looking to make profits currently from being ‘page 1.’ Finally, there are a number of true skeptics at Google as a result of this, so the imposition of power through domination of authorized information, might constitute a bigger challenge for Social Skeptics than they are anticipating. Social Skeptics, if Google is ethical, incorrectly assume that this move will tender them complete and final control of information, as well as a potential profit stream.

Google, your seminal mantra was ‘Don’t be evil.’ Don’t work to filter information through homage to the Knowledge Vault. Apply your skepticism about the power of authority, and yes, even skeptics.

¹  “How Google Skewed Search Results: FTC staff report details how Google favored its own shopping, travel services over rivals;” The Wall Street Journal, Rolfe Winkler and Brody Mullins, March 19, 2015.

²  NeuroLogica, “Google Wants to Rank Sites for Trustworthiness” Mar 2, 2015.

³  “Inside the U.S. Antitrust Probe of Google: Key FTC staff wanted to sue Internet giant after finding ‘real harm to consumers and to innovation;” The Wall Street Journal, Rolfe Winkler and Brody Mullins, March 19, 2015.

†  “Democracy’s Laboratory,” The Work of Michael Shermer, September 2010; Scientific American; http://www.michaelshermer.com/2010/09/democracys-laboratory/