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    Posts: 3995
  • Darwins +530/-9

You would do well to remember that we, here, are not necessarily a comprehensive cross-section of atheism. You're taking a poll of sorts from a group of people that identify as atheists, yes, but we're also atheists who are computer literate, are inclined to post in discussion forums, and one of the forums happens to be directly about the topic of atheism.

There are a lot of other atheists who do not do any of these things, and may give you a very different perception of what atheists are like. It might be fair to say that you've now got a sampling of what some atheists who are somewhat open about it have to say about how we arrived at our position - but I would be hesitant to consider that representative of atheists in general. We're not an ideal control group, as we aren't a random sampling - we're atheists who virtually mingle in a specific virtual location.

There is actually is pretty decent variety on this forum if you eliminate the similarities of computer literacy and forum visitation.  There is a wide age range.  There are representatives from across the globe.  There are numerous professions.  There are gays, bis and straights and I believe at least one member of this forum identified as transgender.  The personalities which are presented on the forum run the gamut from kind and likable to belligerent and annoying and many points in between.  So while this is in no way a random sample I think it is a pretty good representation.

A statistician I know IRL says that the thing to remember about polls is that the respondents share a common trait that's completely independent of the question being asked - they are people who are willing to answer poll questions posed by strangers. It made me giggle a bit the first time he said it, but it does have an effect. I know lots of non-believers who don't necessarily identify as atheists, or even agnostics, as it's just not that important to them. Our very presence here indicates that we may see it as more important than others with the same basic lack of belief about god. We're a great sample of what we are for all the reasons you said, we just might not be quite as great at representing atheism in general, simply because we're vocal about it and interested in discussing it.

The internet provides a level of anonymity that real life doesn't. I wouldn't have participated in this IRL (I would have thought it was extremely invasive), but Jag the internet forum member doesn't mind. That in itself may influence the results. voicjit asked the questions he wanted answers to, I just don't think anyone else should read too much into this single example, voicjit included.
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