In article <505h3q$259 at gazette.bcm.tmc.edu>, spallas at bcm.tmc.edu says...
[excellent exposition of thoughtful atheism snipped]
>imply that religion is the cause of murderous intent). I have had
>several people tell me that without their faith they don't see what would
>keep them from committing heinous crimes for personal gain, as if fear of
>God is the only thing that keeps them on the straight and narrow. Have
>others encountered this attitude?
Not in person (since I've spent most of my life in academia, which
has a disproportionate representation of agnostics and atheists), but
the attitude that people can't possibly be expected to act morally or
ethically unless constrained to do so by religious beliefs seems
pervasive in American society.
There was a survey published in the L.A. Times a few months ago asking
people if they felt that people with particular religious beliefs had a
good, bad, or neutral influence on society. Christians and Jews did
pretty well (i.e. a large majority felt that they were a good influence
on society), Muslims got mixed reviews, and a siginificant majority
(60% or so) felt that atheists were a bad influence on society. As
another "thoughtful atheist," I really resent that attitude. However,
I have to repeat that I've never faced it in person.
Division of Biology 216-76
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125