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Do Atheists Enjoy Fiction?


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Initial post: Oct 31, 2012 5:22:39 AM PDT
Ambulocetus says:
In my experience, atheists (as a group) see great moral value in accepting reality as it is, in following evidence where it may lead, in rejecting everything which cannot be arrived at through empirical observation and logic, etc.

So I'm curious: do atheists (as a group) take pleasure in novels, plays, and short stories, or do they instead prefer nonfiction?

Along the same lines, do atheists typically prefer to watch TV shows and movies which involve fictional characters, or do they prefer news, documentaries, and other informational shows?

Gender may play a role here, too, of course: men are quite a bit more likely to be atheistic or agnostic than women, and men are also quite a bit less likely to read fiction than women :
http://www.vanderbilt.edu/curbcenter/files/Poetics-fiction-reading.pdf
http://pewresearch.org/pubs/743/united-states-religion

Here are some interesting pieces that have fueled my interest in this question:
http://atheism.about.com/gi/pages/poll.htm?linkback=&poll_id=7820295035&poll6=1&poll7=1&submit1=Submit+Vote

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/01/07/why-reading-fiction-should-matter-to-atheists/

I look forward to your responses.

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 5:39:15 AM PDT
Daniel Dickson-LaPrade,

I'm atheist and enjoy all forms of fiction, so much that I have evolved limitations on my reading of it, only in the "library (toilet ;-) and a few pages in bed before lights out. About the only things I don't watch or read is works that focus on making the blood flow.

I buy my fiction books from yard sales and 2nd hand stores. If I pay more than 50 cents I really, really have to want the book, and never more than a dollar :-)

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 6:07:39 AM PDT
Brian Curtis says:
Most of the atheists I know enjoy fiction a great deal. The only thing they dislike is when fiction is presented as fact.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2012 6:09:55 AM PDT
Wulfwig Fox says:
I can't speak for a group. This isn't the Borg.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2012 6:21:19 AM PDT
Irish Lace says:
"In my experience, atheists (as a group) see great moral value in accepting reality as it is, in following evidence where it may lead, in rejecting everything which cannot be arrived at through empirical observation and logic, etc."

Highly overstated. "Moral value" is an odd choice of words as "morality" has nothing to do with accepting reality as it is. As an atheist, I don't see any value in accepting reality in any other way than "as it is" or in not following evidence where it leads. I don't know what "rejecting everything which cannot be arrived at through empirical observation and logic," means specifically, but it sounds suspiciously overblown. I would never reject the fact that my grandchildren are the finest, smartest, dearest, most extraordinary little humans on the Earth or that a beautiful sunset can make me cry or that my hub is the finest man on Earth. But I couldn't give you empirical observation for any of that; just my opinion and it has nothing at all to do with being atheist.

"So I'm curious: do atheists (as a group) take pleasure in novels, plays, and short stories, or do they instead prefer nonfiction? "

Must it be one or the other? I love good fiction and take great pleasure in all its forms. I also enjoy and appreciate non-fiction as it can be educational, enlightening, entertaining and even inspirational. Being atheist really has nothing to do with it. I also have no use for professional sports. That also has little to do with what I like to read.

"Along the same lines, do atheists typically prefer to watch TV shows and movies which involve fictional characters, or do they prefer news, documentaries, and other informational shows?"

Ibid the answer above.

You appear to be looking for a way to confirm a stereotype. This is like asking if _atheists_ prefer classical or country or rap music. The only thing - ONLY - that you can assume about an atheist is that this is a person who does not believe in the existence of deities or other magical creatures, usually because there is no empirical evidence for these beings.

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 6:24:40 AM PDT
Bubba says:
For books and movies, I like science fiction, especially space opera and end of the world scenarios; I also like war movies. I like stage plays of several different genres. I also like live comedy, such as Dame Edna.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2012 6:31:19 AM PDT
DDL - "So I'm curious: do atheists (as a group) take pleasure in novels, plays, and short stories, or do they instead prefer nonfiction? "

I suspect that, as in most things, atheists will be all over the map. I enjoy both fiction and nonfiction, even to include overtly religious writers like Dostoevsky. Same with movies--both fiction and documentaries, and even mockumentaries, are great.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2012 8:02:26 AM PDT
Ambulocetus says:
"You appear to be looking for a way to confirm a stereotype. This is like asking if _atheists_ prefer classical or country or rap music. The only thing - ONLY - that you can assume about an atheist is that this is a person who does not believe in the existence of deities or other magical creatures, usually because there is no empirical evidence for these beings."

Yes, yes, atheists are all wonderful individuals and not the Borg, and the same is true of Christians, and of white people, and Americans, blah blah blah.

However, it really IS possible to make general statements about groups of people. These statements will be GENERALIZATIONS, but that does not make them false. My point here is simply to see what sorts of differences there are, if any, between atheists and non-atheists. For example, the gender difference cited in the OP. This does not mean that all atheists are men, or that all theists are women, but it is a useful and intriguing fact about how these two pairs of groups intersect.

Here is a useful and accurate generalization. People love to use generalizations when talking about groups other than their own, and they despise generalizations which are used about groups which they themselves belong to.

So: generalize with me! It's fun and informative!

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2012 8:04:58 AM PDT
Wulfwig Fox says:
Why don't you just say 'I enjoy pigeon-holing people. Do you?'?

And I'd reply 'no'.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2012 8:28:21 AM PDT
DDL - "People love to use generalizations when talking about groups other than their own, and they despise generalizations which are used about groups which they themselves belong to."

The wariness perhaps comes from not knowing where the generalization is headed. A characterization that would be otherwise benign in one context can be pejorative in another. I'm thinking of a "biography" of Darwin I saw that put a curious emphasis on how much he loved to make up stories in his youth. Kids often love fantastic stories, but in this context the author was leading somewhere.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2012 9:43:12 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 31, 2012 9:46:09 AM PDT
S. Kessler says:
This atheist loves good novels and literature and prefers scripted TV dramas and comedies to anything referred to as "reality" TV. I'm also an avid theatergoer and movie watcher. Why would being an atheist affect my appreciation of literature and theater?

That being said, I also enjoy good documentaries and nonfiction books, especially on science and historical topics.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2012 6:11:25 AM PDT
Irish Lace says:
"So: generalize with me! It's fun and informative! "

I can sort of understand how you might find it "fun." Not so sure what there is about it that is "informative."

Posted on Nov 1, 2012 9:38:47 AM PDT
I don't see why you would think atheists would be any different than theists in their reading of fiction. The only difference between us is we think there is 1 more fiction book in the world than you do.

As for me I live by the philosophy of Desiderius Erasmus: "When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes"

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2012 9:42:59 AM PDT
Astrocat says:
Ah yes, books first, Kevin, always books first.

Posted on Nov 1, 2012 9:45:51 AM PDT
Predictable snarks about the Bible being fiction aside, yes I enjoy fiction? Who doesn't? I'm curious what prompted you to ask the question?

Posted on Nov 1, 2012 10:17:58 AM PDT
Newbomb Turk says:
Atheist here. I'm a voracious reader and love fiction. I'm finishing up the fourth book of the Songs of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones) series.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2012 10:52:06 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 1, 2012 10:52:37 AM PDT
I hadn't considered the role of fiction in my transformation from mindless religious drone to functioning adult. Thank you for the thought-provoking thread.

To answer your question, I do enjoy fiction. I keep up on current events during the day, but I read fiction every night before bed. I'm currently reading The Redeemer by Jo Nesbo. But to bring the topic around, I hadn't thought that fiction contributed to my deconversion, but on reconsideration, there are 3 books I think were essential:

Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes. To me, this epitomized the struggle between what is accepted and what is considered unacceptable, between tolerance and intolerance. It also touched on the ethics of science in an interesting way. Religion has a default setting for "ethical" but science must always interact with society with ethical implications. But is that realistic? Does religion deserve a free pass?

The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood. A famous dystopian novel about the devaluing of women carried to the extreme dictated by religious fundamentalism. It should be required reading for anyone in modern society.

Shardik, by Richard Adams. Adams' first novel was Watership Down. Many readers seemed to focus on the cute bunnies and ignored the underlying morality tale. But his second novel was "Shardik." Set in a harsh and savage fantasy world, the book focuses on the creation of a religion out of whole cloth regarding the sudden appearance of a bear thought to be a god by the primitive people who first encounter it. The author is candid about his experiences in wartime influencing how he saw the role of religion in the world. In particular I was struck by his realistic depiction of how cruel people can be when they are absolutely convinced of the rightness of their cause when they have a god on their side. A friend and I read this back-to-back with Watership and the earlier book in no way prepared us for the brutality of this very mature book.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2012 11:09:43 AM PDT
Rothery says:
I agree that generalizations are useful when trying to determine answers to certain questions. I also believe that stereotyping is similar, and need not be discriminatory or prejudiced. Basically these are assumptions that arise from a kind of statistical analysis of a population sample. If we were to graph the results of a poll we would get some sort of distribution and it would probably look like a bell curve, and we could infer certain assumptions from that. This does not mean that generalizations or stereotyping should be abused or misrepresented or taken as absolute and total truths.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2012 11:12:32 AM PDT
Rothery says:
Nothing is further from reality that so-called 'reality TV'. It's the silliest thing ever to hit the airwaves. An insult to the intelligence of the viewer. There's nothing wrong with producing a show with all kinds of silliness, but let's call it what it is, a comedy or parody, not reality TV. Reality TV is video footage of the streets of Syria these days.

Posted on Nov 1, 2012 1:02:54 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 1, 2012 1:08:13 PM PDT
Jack Vix says:
Personally(which atheism is not, while being white or a man is), I can't get into most fiction literature, except for maybe some Mark Twain or Catcher in the Rye, nothing too foreign to reality. It may have something to do with being a realist. I like deep shared feelings as opposed to distracting fantasies. Give me Bukowski over Dan Brown any day.

I don't know what it's like to be around vampires, Anne Rice, how am I gonna connect with that emotionally, ya know? I know there's the same basic feelings but they're toward things without parallel in my actual life.

I do really like movies that are fantastic, even wildly so, but books require too much energy because I lack interest in that medium for pure entertainment purposes.

I LOVE non-fiction. I like the disinfo books, anything involving religious psychology... right now I'm reading Quiet by Susan Cain, it's really interesting. In it she talks about the positive aspects of being an introvert. About a thrid to a half of the population is introverted but most act extroverted because that's what our culture is built around.

Someone who talks a lot and seems like a good presenter, is easy to get along with - their traits are rewarded, even though that has nothing to do with actual substance or critical thinking. Being how there's no correlation between more talking and greater insight it's alarming to see people treat those who speak a lot and fast as leaders and direct their attention to them and give them more power. Also mistakenly thinking that those who don't just blurt things out are somehow less smart. Usually the person who confidently initiates(just does something) drags people along with mere presentation and charm rather than good thinking.

It's an interesting thing about society, and it's enlightening and especially pleasing for an introvert to read. I had no idea introversion was as common as it is, I thought I was in a much smaller minority. Anyway, it's a good read.

The only "reality" media that I hate is reality TV. Everytime I see a self-entitled bimbo on one of those shows I just want to throw her in a grinder and feed her to African children. I know it's a character and she's really miserable inside but I think it's still a good idea.

Posted on Nov 1, 2012 7:05:45 PM PDT
Being an atheist has nothing to do with enjoying reading fiction or non-fiction. No more so than being an atheist and liking or disliking a food, sport or type of car. I concur with Brian, most atheists do not like obvious fiction being portrayed as being somehow historical, the ultimate truth. Something that is preached as being relevant in the modern world to guide one's life which is from the 4th century and earlier that originates in the Middle East.

Fiction is great, but when people begin claiming it is reality and the ultimate "truth." Then it becomes a sickness.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2012 8:28:25 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 1, 2012 8:31:04 PM PDT
RR says:
Daniel,
"In my experience, atheists (as a group) see great moral value in accepting reality.."

Only those who don't know what atheism is....

It's a false dichotomy almost as bad as dividing the world into believers and non-believers in astrology or believers and non-believers in Buddhism.

Wouldn't you think it a little meanigless if I asked, "In my experience, non-Buddhists (as a group) see great moral value in accepting reality as it is, in following evidence where it may lead, in rejecting everything which cannot be arrived at through empirical observation and logic, etc."

Consider about how meaningless it is to think of "non-Buddhists" as a "group", a group that would consist of Jerry Falwell and Sam Harris.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2012 9:03:16 PM PDT
S. Kessler says:
Yes, that is true "reality". As are the scenes of storm related destruction in my own neck of the woods.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2012 9:28:10 PM PDT
brunumb says:
DDLaP: "In my experience, atheists (as a group) see great moral value in accepting reality as it is, in following evidence where it may lead, in rejecting everything which cannot be arrived at through empirical observation and logic, etc."

I cannot see how you can make your generalisations without observing an extremely large sample of atheists and comparing the observations with those made of a similarly large group of theists. You have only a single criterion for selecting your 'group' when it consists of atheists. To me, atheists "as a group" doesn't really mean anything. Would you consider comparing the reading preferences of bald people "as a group" and expect anything meaningful to emerge?

Posted on Nov 1, 2012 9:33:15 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Nov 1, 2012 9:34:15 PM PDT
D. Thomas says:
Do Jehovah's Witnesses enjoy "Chasing Classic Cars"?

Do Orthodox Catholics like their french fries with just a little salt or quite a bit?

Do Methodists prefer scented or unscented facial tissues?

Is there any end to the number of ridiculous, meaningless questions that can be asked on these discussion groups?
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Discussion in:  Religion forum
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Initial post:  Oct 31, 2012
Latest post:  Nov 3, 2012

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