AI: Surprising Beliefs (Or Lack Thereof)


One of these days, one of my fellow co-workers at the lab said to me, upon finding out I was an atheist:

“Seriously? You don’t belive in anything? Anything at all? Man, I can’t imagine what that feels like.”

Now imagine hearing that. In a lab. While you’re making science.

When I decided to become a biologist, I expected a somewhat skeptical environment, where one could lack spiritual beliefs and be considered a normal human being. An environment where most people were or aimed to be, you know, scientists. But from day one, when the Phylogeny professor asked to a 40-people class “Who believes solely in evolution, without any higher power behind it?” and only two people raised their hands (whilst nine said they believed solely in a higher power), I’ve been proven wrong and wrong again.

And if I’m constantly surprised to find out this many future biologists are actual creationists, people are just bewildered by my inability to believe in a God.

Have you ever been in an environment where a lack of beliefs was expected? Do you think there is such a place? Is there a situation where you are surprised to be in a mostly-religious crowd?

The Afternoon Inqueery (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Queereka community. Look for it to appear on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, at 3pm ET.

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  1. Well, I live in Sweden. I would say that as long as you’re not in a church, non-belief (or at least absence of organised religion) is expected.

  2. I’m in a similar position to you. I work as an astrophysicist. Some of the basic tenets of the field (such as the age of the universe) contradict religious teachings, and yet you still find religious people doing it. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful force.

  3. A lack of belief has been assumed in the majority of my friend groups, though being a student in a large Canadian city probably has more to do with that than anything else. Lots of them are hesitant to identify as atheists, seeing it as being confrontational, coming from a religious background. This summer though I’m living in a city that is 95% Catholic and for the first time in a while I’ve been cautious to come out as an atheist or as queer.

  4. Lack of belief is pretty typical among invertebrate paleontologists (at least young ones). Usually, you’re surprised when someone mentions they’re a believer. You feel bad because you probably said something insulting at one point or another.

  5. I worked briefly with a very, very not mainstream political group where people pretty much assumed you were an atheist. They still would have allowed you to work with them if you were religious, but I imagine a religious person would feel really uncomfortable and get something of a sense of what atheists live with on a day to day basis. The difference is that they still wouldn’t have tried to “convert” a religious member to atheism. A religious person who just focused on political issues that didn’t directly concern religion would still be totally accepted.

    I still can’t imagine most Christians being able to handle it though.

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