[POLL] Do You Feel Oppressed?

post by maia · 2012-05-03T02:42:27.005Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 28 comments

At Reason Rally a couple of months ago, we noticed that a lot of atheists there seemed to be there for mutual support - because their own communities rejected atheists, because they felt outnumbered and threatened by their peers; the rally was a way for them to feel part of an in-group. Reason Rally is definitely an event that selects for people who feel excluded by their communities most of the time. But there may be a different concentration of people who have had this sort of experience on LessWrong, and we wondered what that concentration was.

Hence, this survey: LessWrong Members and their Local Communities.

If I get a decent sample size, I will post the data for all to enjoy.

EDIT: I added two questions about current and previous religious views to the poll. If you took it before 11:30PM EST 5/2, I'd appreciate it very much if you would take the time to retake it. :)


Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by Risto_Saarelma · 2012-05-03T15:38:58.704Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

So what is a "local community" exactly? University students? They tend to be pretty much anything-goes in terms of weird ideologies and discussion topics. Workplace communities? Mostly have a tacit agreement not to discuss religion or politics ever. People living near each other? Discussions beyond "nice weather we're having" are pretty rare.

Replies from: thomblake
comment by thomblake · 2012-05-03T16:37:00.747Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I was also confused by this. I don't know what a "local community" would be, or why I would talk to one.

As far as I can tell, in any reasonably large grouping of people, for all speech acts X, there is some person who will react violently to X.

comment by Desrtopa · 2012-05-03T14:39:17.464Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

In most of the places where I've lived, I have not felt oppressed as a consequence of being an atheist, although this may be related to the fact that I am not particularly community spirited to begin with. However, I did feel oppressed while I was attending Brandeis University, an officially non-sectarian Jewish school. The pervasive sense that Judaism was the in-group on campus, and that one was expected to identify with other Jews above others regardless of what else you might or might not have in common, was a major affront to my sensibilities, and I started associating with online atheist communities in response.

It may be worth noting that what I found oppressive was not being surrounded by people who had different spiritual beliefs than mine, and took issue with mine, but being surrounded by people who expected allegiance to a social group I had no attachment to. It would have been okay for me to be an atheist, as long as I was a Jewish atheist, but although I am Ashkenazic on my mother's side I neither have nor want any attachment to Jewish culture.

comment by Gastogh · 2012-05-03T11:43:35.610Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I took the survey. A couple of points:

  • "I talk about controversial topics, like atheism and utilitarianism, with others in my community." The question is kind of vague, and as such will probably lead to vague answers. For example, this presupposes that atheism is controversial. So, if I answered "Strongly disagree," will that be interpreted as my not talking about controversial topics, or as my not talking about atheism? If I talk about atheism and it's hip and cool (and no one speaks up against me because the local culture is heavy on negative politeness), which option should I pick?

  • The "childhood situation" section is a bit weird. For one, it'd be helpful to spell out the concrete age range you're thinking of. For two, most people, children or otherwise, don't talk about stuff like utilitarianism. I mean, most people of any age probably don't even know what it means, and I wouldn't bet money on my being able to produce a serviceable definition, either. I wonder if it will mean anything if the results for that question come up like 80% "Strongly Disagree". (V urerol thrff gung gurl jvyy.)

Replies from: maia
comment by maia · 2012-05-03T14:02:18.958Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

That's true. It might have been better to phrase it as "topics sometimes considered controversial." I was trying to delineate a rather large blob of ideas in not too many words.

The results for that question are actually quite variable so far. Maybe this says something about the childhoods of people on LessWrong?

comment by Grognor · 2012-05-03T03:01:47.339Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If I get a decent sample size, I will post the data for all to enjoy.

Do precommit to a specific number above which you must post the data.

Also, your poll doesn't allow you to say what the religion is and was of the person taking it. Even if you specify that only atheists should be taking it, not all atheists were always atheists.

Replies from: maia
comment by maia · 2012-05-03T03:37:37.913Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

If I get at least 30 points of (usable, non-spam) data, I will post it, once the rate of submissions has slowed to much less than its highest point.

You're right; I added two questions on current and previous views. If you'd like, you can retake the poll and add that information so that we'll have more data.

comment by Pavitra · 2012-05-04T05:33:40.490Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would suggest that you not release the full raw data, because in some cases the combination of answers (or conceivably even a single answer in isolation) could be personally identifying.

comment by kilobug · 2012-05-03T07:41:08.758Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm lucky to be in France, a very secular country, in which atheists and agnostics together make a majority of the population, so all is fine for me on those issues. Transhumanism is a bit harder, but it's more a "huh you read too much scifi" than real hostility.

Replies from: Emile
comment by Emile · 2012-05-03T09:09:37.563Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Yeah, I find it hard to relate to the way some American atheists feel. Maybe I should go live in Texas for a while or something.

In terms of importance in public discourse / disagreement between people, it seems that "Islam vs. European values" and "Left Wing vs. Right Wing" loom much larger than "Atheist vs. Christian".

comment by Dolores1984 · 2012-05-03T17:50:20.490Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You might want to add a check box for 'are you in college?' Most colleges are wildly different, cosmology-wise, from their surrounding environs.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2012-05-03T03:54:05.807Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It might make sense to also have questions concerning how actively people are involved in local groups that are friendly to atheists such as local atheist organizations, local skeptical groups, and local Less Wrong meetups. I for example am heavily involved in Boston Skeptics.

comment by knb · 2012-05-03T03:05:12.742Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I noticed that you didn't include a question about what our religious views are now/in childhood. If you only want atheists to take this poll, you should state it in the post.

Replies from: maia
comment by maia · 2012-05-03T03:31:18.441Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're absolutely right! That's obvious, I should have put that in. I'll add those questions in. Hopefully those folks who took it already will be kind enough to retake, or a lot more will take it after the change.

Replies from: ArisKatsaris
comment by ArisKatsaris · 2012-05-03T11:04:42.471Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

How will it affect the statistics you gather if people "retake" a test they've already taken?

I'm always confused when I see people mention changing a poll after they've already started it.

Replies from: maia, Normal_Anomaly
comment by maia · 2012-05-03T13:09:08.497Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I agree. This seemed like an important and obvious enough addition that I should do it anyway, though.

As Normal_Anomaly says, the plan is to throw out the old data. Strictly speaking, I probably shouldn't mix it with the new, anyway. (It's possible there would be a slightly different bias to it without the additional questions.)

comment by Normal_Anomaly · 2012-05-03T12:28:28.364Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Presumably maia will throw out the data from before the change to avoid double counting.

comment by Emile · 2012-05-03T06:14:22.783Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I find it hard to imagine in what context utilitarianism is a controversial view met with social disapproval (and not just intellectual disagreement). Does anybody have an example of a "utilitarian" statement that might cause neighbours or coworkers to express outrage or disapproval?

Replies from: MileyCyrus, JoshuaZ
comment by MileyCyrus · 2012-05-03T07:00:44.859Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you have any religious friends?

In my experience, when religious people hear "utilitarianism" they:

  • A) Have no idea what it means.
  • B) Think that it means "ruthlessly chase power and wealth for yourself, with no concern for the well-being of others."
  • C) If they're educated they'll point to examples of people who justified atrocities with "the ends justifies the means." (ex, Mao's Great Leap Forward)

Unpopular utilitarian beliefs:

  • A) Someone with a high earning job should donate money to charity instead of volunteering.
  • B) The only reason I shouldn't rob a bank and the money to an efficient charity is because doing so will decrease net utility in the world.
  • C) By diverting money from more efficient charities, the Make-A-Wish foundation does more harm than good.
Replies from: Emile
comment by Emile · 2012-05-03T09:06:54.493Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you have any religious friends?

A few, but the "religious" here in France are milder than what you'd get in the states. The most religious people I know are Muslim.

If they're educated they'll point to examples of people who justified atrocities with "the ends justifies the means." (ex, Mao's Great Leap Forward)

That's a very reasonable answer! "The end justifies the means" is a common rationalization for terrible behavior (though probably not as much as it is in fiction).

  • A) Someone with a high earning job should donate money to charity instead of volunteering.
  • B) The only reason I shouldn't rob a bank and the money to an efficient charity is because doing so will decrease net utility in the world.
  • C) By diverting money from more efficient charities, the Make-A-Wish foundation does more harm than good.

Thanks for the examples, these make sense, though they seem somewhat tame (I would expect stronger disagreement and conflict over issues like how to raise kids, abortion, dealing with crime, race, globalization, immigration, taxes, nuclear power, the rich/poor divide, divorce, etc.)

But then, I don't go around telling people "I'm a utilitarian" anyway - unlike atheism, I don't see how it would come up in normal conversation (i.e. if someone disagrees with me about the relative merits of donations and volunteering, I don't expect them to say "but that means ... you're a Utilitarian!").

Replies from: khafra
comment by khafra · 2012-05-03T12:59:53.084Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

With some things, the label is less popular than the substance--like (in the US) saying you're a socialist is much more offensive than praising a worker-owned company. Utilitarianism is the opposite way, the unpopular part is being utilitarian, not saying you're a utilitarian.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2012-05-03T17:06:29.760Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Try bringing up trolley problems among the general population and see how they respond.

Replies from: Emile
comment by Emile · 2012-05-03T20:29:21.176Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's true that I don't go around telling people that pushing a fat man onto the tracks to save five lives is the right thing to do, because I don't think it's the right thing to do.

Replies from: JoshuaZ
comment by JoshuaZ · 2012-05-03T23:50:16.901Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What I mean is try to suggest that even it might maybe be the right thing, or that it might be at least a worthwhile question and see how people respond.

Replies from: prase
comment by prase · 2012-05-04T17:53:29.692Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For what it's worth, I have explicitly asked my friends about their opinions about the Trolley problem, and as far as I remember most of them would push the fat man without hesitation.

Replies from: thomblake
comment by thomblake · 2012-05-16T15:17:50.852Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I don't believe them.

Most people I've met would hesitate to perform the "pushing a fat man" action regardless of context. Think about what you'd have to do to physically push him onto the tracks. Make sure to picture your arms wrapped around him as you tackle him, the fabric of his tweed jacket abrading your face, your nose filled with his sweat, his cries of surprise and alarm and protestations all you can hear above the noise of the trolley as you strain against his bulk.

I believe all of that would be readily apparent in the moment, and most people would hesitate. But maybe I'm just thinking of northeasterners.

Replies from: prase
comment by prase · 2012-05-16T19:18:54.352Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Would push the fat man without hesitation" was lazy formulation on my part. They said without hesitation that pushing the fat man was the morally preferable choice, not that they would be able to act according to this belief.

Replies from: thomblake
comment by thomblake · 2012-05-16T19:33:49.602Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Aha. An important distinction.