Monday, March 23, 2009

Survey research project

Reader Robert Eldredge sent me a request, and I've decided to post it here on the blog since I didn't get around to mentioning it on the Non-Prophets this weekend:

I am in a research methods class for my graduate school program. Listening to several years of the atheist experience and non-prophets spawned my interest in my research topic: How does the threat or presence of hell effect the relationships and lives between religious and nonreligious people. Because we have no funding I will not actually be doing a full on research study, but merely, an in depth proposal. However, because little to no research has been done on my specific topic (that I have been able to find anyway) I will be doing a little pilot study, one directed at religious people, and one directed at atheists. It would be extremely helpful if you could mention this survey on the air, and/or put it up on the atheist experience blog. While all atheists who want are encouraged to answer, I am specifically looking for those that have religious family members or loved ones. I will be asking about their experiences coming out to those people, or, if they have not, why not. As this is a pilot study and I have nothing to offer the participants but my gratitude, I have worked real hard to keep the survey as short as I possibly can, and I think most will be able to complete it in about 10 to 20 minutes. I will be posting the results of the survey sometime in May at my blog, or people who are interested can go to a website I set up specifically to publish results of the survey: (I did this so I could direct fundie Christians to a website without the rantings of a liberal atheist). The survey is currently open, but will close Saturday April 4th at 11:45pm eastern time. This should give me about 3 weeks to study the results and put together my proposal to be graded for class.

My end goal is that hopefully more research (hopefully it will be me doing the research!) will be done on this topic. People have differences of opinion on religion, but hopefully, if we understand the emotions and attitudes that go along with the differing opinions, how people react when such things come up, and the reasons for conflict, strategies can be developed in dealing with these situations so that these issues need not tear loving families apart, and suffering over these issues can be minimized.

Go help out with the survey if you feel like it.


  1. I did. It's painless. Took me 4 minutes if that.

  2. Nice survey. It will be interesting to learn to what degree religious types use the threat of hell not as a means to evangelize, but attack their family members over matters unrelated to faith and perhaps due to other grievances.

  3. Interesting survey. Lately I was just brought down a bit due to finding recontact with an old friend who is a born again christian. the idea that he thinks I deserve to go to hell on even an implicit level makes me feel bad.

  4. I wish there were some more direct questions on the threat of hell in the survey. What I find most distressing about the idea of hell is not that I am going there, but that people of various faiths believe that all human beings outside of their faith are going there.

    Think about it for a minute. Approximately a third of the world belongs to a Christian denomination. (see According to the CIA, the world population was estimated at 6,706,993,152 in July 2008. If all non-Christians go to hell like most Christians believe, then 4,426,615,480 people living today are damned to be tortured for eternity. That's almost 4.5 BILLION people, which is 14.4 times more people than are living in the United States today. And if we look at another religion like Islam, the number of those who are damned grow even higher.

    Why would someone want to believe that is true? I don't want to believe its true. Not for my own sake, but because I give a damn about people and I don't think the nice old Chinese lady I met the other day deserves to go to hell. Or the young Hindu children in India. Or the tribesmen of Africa. No one deserves to go to hell described in the Christian bible. Not a single one of them.

    Yet why do so many people still believe it? There are many answers. I think the most popular one would be that they want to believe in the promise of eternal life in heaven. But to believe in heaven they feel they have to believe in hell. (I know not all Christians believe in hell). So screw everyone else. If I can have eternal life and happiness as long as I believe anyone who disagrees with me is going to be tortured forever, well gee that sounds like a good bargain to me!

    You're going to die one day. Accept it, and enjoy the life you have now instead of waiting for the one you think you'll get later.

  5. I took this survey and it made me think about something I haven't told anybody about. I never talked to my family about it because I wasn't sure how they'd take it.

    A few years ago my grandmother was diagnosed with lung cancer. By the time I found out she was in the hospital and it had spread to her brain.

    The last time I talked to her she was no longer in a lucid state of mind. My aunt put the phone to her ear and told her it was me. I think she knew who I was. She was muttering sometimes coherently.

    So the last thing she said to me was to ask me to pray with her. And she started to say the Hail Mary. I couldn't do it. I couldn't bring myself to say the words and after a bit she just trailed off and stop praying. And that was it.

    It just really pissed me off that the last moments I spent with my grandmother was spent saying something meaningless instead of being able to tell her something meaningful, how much she meant to me or something like that.

    It was the only time in my life I've really regretted being an atheist, that I've just wished I could believe like everyone else, so I could have comforted her without hesitation. I was raised Catholic so I guess I'm prone to guilt. Well, that was a downer, sorry.

  6. c,
    I think the very fact that you feel sad about this shows that your empathy and compassion are very great. Wouldn't it be a poverty if you could share compassion only within a ritualized form, as so many believers have been conditioned to do, almost like Pavlovian animals? It may sound cold of me, but I really have the experience that makes me think some don't feel much at all; they have replaced real compassion with the right lines to say at the right moment for effectively all the wrong reasons.

  7. What I find most distressing about the idea of hell is not that I am going there, but that people of various faiths believe that all human beings outside of their faith are going there.


    Christianity is the only religion that promotes this. Yes, many Muslims believe this as well, but for the most part, it's only the fundamentalists. Originally, it was only the "idolaters" who were going to hell (not that that's much better). As far as I know, Christianilty is the only religion that has made the doctrine of salvific exclusivism the foundation of its theology.

    As far as the rest goes - the fundies will tell you that we all deserve to go to hell. The Calvinists (and their influence is pervasive throughout the fundie world, even among people who wouldn't identify as Calvinists) have no problem with the vast majority going to hell, and that it's awfully generous of God to bother to save any of us. Of course, they also believe that he created the vast majority of us for no other reason than to torment us for all of eternity - but it's still somehow our "fault", And none of this seems insane to them.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again - Christian fundamentalists are the worst people in the world.


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