What do you believe? Is there a God? What is your faith? Do you have a faith?
I wanted to know how the aniblogging community would respond to these questions. About half of all respondents were either atheist or agnostic, with responses split exactly evenly between the two. In other words, 49% of respondents don’t believe in a god or are unsure about a god’s existence. If one combined the respondents who declared themselves Catholic, Christian (Protestant), Orthodox, and non-denominational Christian as one group, 35% of anibloggers believe in the Christian religion, which would be the highest percentage of all. Within that group, most were either Protestant (20%) or Catholic (10%).
Why We Believe What We Believe
Let’s look at some of the comments by atheists about why they chose their belief (or lack thereof):
I don’t think god(s) is necessary for the equation of the universe/life/etc, and the evidence against is much better than the evidence for.
As a scientist, I require hard empirical evidence to prove or disprove supernatural beings.
Learning about history and other cultures, I can see how human (and thus man-made) religions are. Science only confirms this
These answers, and many like them, point at science and history (particularly the stories of those with religious authority) as evidence supporting atheism. Science, of course, and particularly evolution, is the silver bullet that many believe will kill religion. Surprisingly enough, at least to this writer, is that 69% of respond ants believe that science and Christianity can coexist. Personally, I’ve come across many who believe religious people are just simply ignorant…but perhaps that’s not a prevailing attitude.
Moving on, the other major trends among atheists’ answers has to do with logic:
Because logically, I don’t think religion makes any sense. I understand that some people need it so they can have hope when things are bad, or because it teaches them to follow good principles. But, I think you can achieve all that just by logically accessing situations, without needing to pray to feel like things will be alright. I also believe I have a strong sense of justice and right and wrong and that religion is not perfect in that aspect. Even more, with extremists, I think religion has done more harm to the world than good and I really think it’s the single worst thing that ever happened and that should disappear if I was allowed one wish to make Earth a better place. Not trying to sound to extremist myself lol.
In other words…
I have a logical mind.
I used my brain.
Agnostic responders also presented some telling comments:
Agnosticism is the most logical, whilst most other religions are just old fiction.
You will never know until you die, so I will just keep the question out of my head while waiting
The first response tells of an idea that comes up time and time again – that religious texts are simply fictional. The second reflects two more trends – the idea of needing to know for sure before believing and the lack of urgency in finding an answer.
Regarding Christianity, some stated their belief based on the principles of the religion and the character of God:
He has always been there during the most critical times of my life.
I identify with the basic Christian ideals of loving your neighbors, showing kindness to all, & forgiving others like Jesus forgave us all
However, to my disappointment, many responded with simple declarations like “born again.” While these answers may be more telling of my phrasing of the question or of the responder’s mindset when answering, I can still say definitely that the Christian answers were generally less thoughtful than those from atheists and agnostics. Unfortunately, Christians’ responses to why they believe what they believe may be inadequate, perhaps adding fuel to the fire that adherents may be suspending their intellect to abide by their faith. The lesson to Christians may be to become more familiar with why they believe what they believe, and to study up on science, history, archeology and apologetics to have sound, logical, and strong responses for critiques of their faith.
Of course, other faiths were represented. Here is a sample of those responses:
I believe the teachings of Islam are timeless and universal.
Because I worship the Greek pantheon.
From the comments, we also see an interesting trend about one’s religion. As with many other aspects of our lives, like traditions, politics, and mannerisms, one’s religion is often related to how that individual was raised. Many are part of their religions because that’s what they’ve always known:
My family is Catholic and raised me that way.
The country I live in is quite atheistic and my family is completely atheistic, thus I had no religious influence and don’t consider religion necessary for life.
Because I grew up as Jewish and I find the religion to be comfortable and accepting.
Anibloggers v. The World…or the Nation, at Least
But back to the numbers. It’s interesting to compare the anibloggers’ religious beliefs with those in America as a whole. While many respondents are not living in the U.S., most are (see the demographics on Monday’s post). The Pew Forum, which made headlines a couple months ago from their recent reports, gave statistics based on 35,000 American respondents. Look how some of these numbers compare:
Christian: 35% (Anime Poll), 78% (Pew Forum Poll)
Protestant: 23% (Anime), 51% (Pew)
Catholic: 9% (Anime), 24% (Pew)
Orthodox: 1.7% (Anime), 0.6% (Pew)
Atheist: 25% (Anime), 1.6% (Pew)
Agnostic: 25% (Anime), 2.4% (Pew)
Buddhist: 3% (Anime), 0.7% (Pew)
Muslim: 2.5% (Anime), 0.6% (Pew)
Jewish: 0.8% (Anime), 4.7% (Pew)
What pops out most is that atheists and agnostics in the anime blogosphere outnumber those in the population as a whole by huge percentages. Think about it this way – every other blogger is atheistic or agnostic. In the U.S. as a whole, only about 1 out of 40 is an agnostic; even fewer, 1 out of 60, is an atheist.
Those are huge differences.
In the opposite manner, there are less than half as many Christian anime bloggers as Christians in general. (Note: this is all assuming the sample population is a good representation of the whole aniblogging community.)
I’m Sure, I’m Not So Sure…I’m Sure, I’m Not So Sure…
This is a big leap here, but I want to make a conclusion based on personal experience and these numbers. To me, it seems as if the younger generation is as skeptical of religion (or more so) than ever. These numbers reflect mostly twenty-something adults. I think that the U.S. is going more European, with fewer people believing in a faith and more and more questioning whether they believe in a god.
Of course, I have to take the sample group into consideration. Those with interests in anime may not be interested in religion. Only 35% of those surveyed had a very or fairly high interest in religion; the same number were moderately interested, while the rest had low interest or none at all. This question is related to another, which asked what role religion played in one’s life. 33% said it played an important role, while a greater percentage (44%) said religion played little or no role in their lives.
46% of those surveyed were “sure” about their belief. About the same amount either felt strongly or moderately about their belief. More interesting numbers come up when breaking this question down by religion (or lack thereof):
Besides Mormons and Muslims, who made up only small percentages of the survey group, those who didn’t identify with any of the choices had the largest numbers of those who were sure about their beliefs. Perhaps this is because many of these individuals have given time and thought about what they believe and why they believe – enough to perhaps create their own religion which is somewhat or entirely different from others.
Meanwhile, atheists and agnostics are a bit more sure about their beliefs than Protestants, though I’m not quite sure how agnostics interpreted this question. My guess is that most that are “sure” are sure that they are unsure! From personal experience, the conflict we often see on message boards and through other mediums is between Protestants and atheists. It’s quite obvious that such arguments would occur when so many that identify themselves as part of these groups are so sure about their beliefs.
The groups containing the largest percentage of those unsure are Buddhists and Catholics. I’m not entirely sure why Buddhism would fit here; I studied this religion in-depth while in college, but those years are now long gone and I’ve forgotten much. Could it be that many Buddhists are more open to a variety of religious thought, as expressed in Gautama Buddha’s search for enlightenment?
Catholicism being at the bottom of the list is no surprise to me. Most of my friends growing up were Catholic, and very few of them would be people I considered faithful to the teachings of Jesus. For instance, I had one friend who wasn’t shy to tell others of his hatred for homosexuals, but also slept around and had the foulest mouth imaginable. Oh, and he was considering becoming a priest. He was a legalist and didn’t understand grace, much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time.
That said, I don’t think the Catholic Church is worse or less correct than any Protestant denomination. I don’t think Catholics are wrong. However, perhaps the ritual, extravagance, and cultural significance of the Catholic Church often eclipses its heart. If so, it’s no surprise that one would become jaded with the church, would find it hollow, and/or wouldn’t understand the message of Christ and presented in the church. The recent scandals certainly don’t help either.
In fact, out of the 29 respondants who admitted practicing a religion before becoming atheist or agnostic, 16 (55%) were Catholic. 28% were Protestant and 10% were Jewish.
That said, I should take a equal swipe at Protestants. Much of the disgust toward Christianity is specifically focused on the Protestant movement, which as was noted above, is the largest Christian movement in the U.S. Though not all Protestants are fundamentalists or are associated with conservative America, there is a reason why the Christian right wields such political power – large numbers of Protestants are “family values” conservatives.
Admiring Buddhism and Believing in Something More
When asked what religion they admired most, 38% of respond ants selected Buddhism, twice as much as the second-place choice, Protestant Christianity. Considered a religion of peace and tranquility, there’s much to admire about Buddhism. My only surprise is that atheism didn’t come in first; it received a 16% share. Perhaps there’s a schism in what one hopes to be true and in intellectually committing to a belief system.
Speaking of our hopes, we’ll end today with one final question. 44% of respondents believe in an afterlife, 21% are unsure, and 32% do not believe. With the exception of a dozen individuals, most non-atheists believe in an afterlife of some kind. Are agnostics hoping for something more? I think we can make the inference that many agnostic anibloggers do feel that way.
So what do you think of these results? Like myself, do you believe anibloggers’s ideas largely represent those of a young population in the west? What results stand out to you?
Tomorrow, we’ll delve into a fun topic – anime and religion!