What would it take for you to declare with certainty that “There is no $100 bill in my sock drawer?” (That statement, by the way, is what epistemologists call an “Instantial Negative” because it is about the “not-ness” or not-being-there or non-existence of one instance of a class of phenomena, in this case, of one hundred dollar bills. You’re not saying there are no $100 bills, ever. You are simply saying that there isn’t a $100 bill in your sock drawer.)
To confirm or disconfirm your declaration, you or I would have to look in your sock drawer and see with our own eyes that, indeed, there is no $100 bill in there. Right?
The same — and more — applies to a declaration that “There is no God”. (That statement is a “Categorical Negative” as it is about the “not-ness” or not-being-there of an entire category of phenomena: God. You are not saying that a particular god, e.g., Apollo, doesn’t exist. You’re saying there is no god, any god. Period.)
Atheists are those who, despite not having seen EVERYTHING in the Universe or on Earth or even their own back yard (some don’t even know what’s in their sock drawer), are so intellectually arrogant that they dismiss the existence of God.
Atheists cling to their unbelief with great fervor. Indeed, it takes a great deal of unbelief to not believe that God exists.
In other words, atheism is an intellectually (logically, epistemologically, empirically) indefensible position. Agnosticism, however, is defensible. Agnosticism is a skepticism about the existence of God because there’s an absence of evidence for what that individual would accept as sufficient evidence. An alternate definition of an agnostic is one who, while doubting God’s existence, does not subscribe to any religion or creed.
Given their intellectually indefensible position, it is not surprising that a new study found that if atheists are considered as a religious group, they have the lowest retention rate compared to all other religious groups. “Retention rate” is defined as children who grew up in a particular religious household who maintain their religious beliefs as adults.
Napp Nazworth reports for the Christian Post, July 11, 2012, that according to a study by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), only about 30% of those who grow up in an atheist household remain atheists as adults. This “retention rate” was the lowest among the 20 separate religious categories in the study.
Dr. Mark Gray wrote at CARA’s blog:
“What these findings reflect is that in the U.S. atheists are for the most part ‘made’ as adults after being raised in another faith. It appears to be much more challenging to raise one’s child as an atheist and have them maintain this identity in their life. Of those raised as atheists, 30% are now affiliated with a Protestant denomination, 10% are Catholic, 2% are Jewish, 1% are Mormon, and 1% are Pagan.”
Jehovah’s Witness, congregationalist and holiness churches had the next lowest retention rates at 37%, 37% and 32%, respectively. 38% of those who grew up with no particular religious faith or belief system remained that way.
Hindus had the highest retention rate at 84%, followed by Jews (76%), Muslims (76%), Greek Orthodox (73%), Mormons (70%) and Catholics (68%).
Baptists had the highest retention rate of the Protestant Christian categories at 60%, followed by Lutheran (59%) and Pentecostal (50%).
The study used the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life’s 2008 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. Pew provided CARA with the original data sets for the study.