As I expected, some intriguing (and potentially controversial) points emerged in the interview with Elaine Ecklund (show website here; listen here; download/subscribe here). In particular, at around minute 15:10 or so, I ask Ecklund about her finding that there are two types of atheists in her scientist sample–first generation, and second generation.
First generation atheists start out in a faith tradition and then, at some point, reject it. By contrast, second generation atheists start out with atheist or non-religious parents, and so never really have to reject anything. (I don’t know how many third, fourth, etcetera generation atheists there are out there.)
On the air, Ecklund observed that the first generation atheists tend to be more critical of religion, and more driven in making such criticisms. After all, religion is something that is much more personal to them, and that they have rejected. We second generation atheists, though–for I am one–we tend to be more mellow. Or so Ecklund finds, anyway.
But I pressed her on the point. After all, although I’m “second generation,” I was pretty angry at religion when I was a college atheist activist. I was pretty driven. Yes, I mellowed with time–but I was and still remain second generation.
What’s more, I’m sure that there are some first generation atheists who aren’t particularly driven to bash religion, no matter the difficulty of their deconversion experiences or the powerful impact these had on their lives–it’s just not in their temperament.
Still, Ecklund defended the generalization despite my devil’s advocacy. In general, it is of a piece with her finding that family upbringing is a central predictive factor for later life religiosity or the lack thereof, as well as for who actually becomes a scientist (they tend to come from less religiously observant households).
So what do folks think–is there anything to this idea?
Links to this Post
- From Point of Inquiry: Why Use the “S” Word? | The Intersection | Discover Magazine | May 11, 2010
- QotD: Generations | Unreasonable Faith | May 27, 2010