The Old Guys & the Old Order

From “Modern American Atheism Is Reaction to Christian Right, Sociologists Argue”

CP: You find that atheists are mostly highly educated, wealthy, old, white, men, and that was consistent with some random samples as well.

Yancey: Yeah. The only thing that might not be as consistent is a couple of studies suggest that atheists may not be quite as wealthy as some other studies did. But the other things, they tend to be men, educated, older. Although, there is some indication of some younger atheists coming up.

CP: So demographically, they look, more or less, like the U.S. Senate.

Yancey: [Laughs] I hadn’t thought about it that way, but, yeah, that’s a good way of looking at it.

CP: You’re basically talking about a privileged group – wealthy, old, white guys. You say it makes sense that atheists would come from a privileged group. Explain.

Yancey: If you are a person with social status and power, and you want to do things the way you see it, and then there’s religion out there that says, no, this is the way it should be done, that’s going to make you less willing to support or accept that sort of religion. Something we write about in the book is this notion of control. If you have social status and others who don’t tend to see things the way you do because they have religion and follow that, then it will tend to make you more antagonistic toward religion than you would normally be.

Now, wealthy old white guys can stand for God and liberty: but if they have been feeding at the government trough for 40+ years (be they Republican or Democrat, politician or academic or financial elites) that isn’t the way to bet. ‘Eye of a needle’ and all that, you know. Far better to make laws that strip wealth and liberty from your foes, and give it to yourself and your friends.

Still, our current Lord and Masters feels a bit antique, as if a Rousseauian dream of the People’s State, free of church and family and all lesser organizations, was still a viable alternative. As if the heavy levels of organization and information needed to undergird the world we live in was free, or was some magical fluke that you can get if you just roll enough dice enough times for billions of years.

Better to just call it a miracle, and leave it at that. Such a wondrous result with such long odds can certainly be rightfully be called that. It is certainly more reasonable and rational to call it the work of God, than to insist on random origins in order to protect the notion of a State above all moral laws.


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