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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

All skewed up

From time to time, we feel the need to point out that the weekly poll we run on the editorial page is meant for entertainment only. It is not designed as a "scientific" poll, and we've never claimed it is. This is one of those times.

We can usually count on a couple of hundred votes for the poll, although we've passed the thousand mark a few times. We did a poll a few years ago about whether our newspaper should publish the county gun-carry-permit database online. Word was passed around on gun-enthusiast Web sites, and we got a few thousand votes.

For this week's poll, we're above 6,000 already, so something must be going on out there. The question --  "Do you identify with some form of the Christian religion?" -- was one I chose because of recent stories in Newsweek and elsewhere to the effect that this was becoming a less-Christian nation. It might be fun to see how Fort Wayne stacks up against the national trend. Alas, we're not likely to discover that. The latest results show that more than 5,800 have chosen the "No. I'm an atheist or agnostic" option, which would make Fort Wayne a community of 94 percent unbelievers.

What happened is that someone at the FreeThought Fort Wayne blog took note of the poll when the atheist/agnostic contingent was showing about 12 percent, and the poster said:  "I don't know how long the poll will be open, but feel free to vote. It'd be interesting to see if our little site can skew their results." Well, looks like they got their skewing done. I seriously doubt if 5,800 individual unbelievers took the poll. It's supposed to allow only one vote from each computer, but anyone who knows about disabling cookies can get around that little limitation.

Of course, the other explanation would be that the Fort Wayne community is 94 percent atheist or agnostic. You know how those Lutherans like to fool around.

Anyway, if you'd like to go join the fun, the poll will be open until early Monday morning.  You can find it here.


MRev. Kenneth White, Jnr.
Wed, 04/15/2009 - 7:17pm

Leo they have been twitting it like mad.... thanks to your post I finally voted on the thing and here is my response to the poll:

I am a Christian but I also recognizes the beauty and truth of other religions including atheism and agnosticism. Which by definition is still a religion even though you would be hard pressed for anyone to admit as such. They keep us on our toes and force those of us that are willing and open enough to admit the logical falsities of both our personal relationships with a pissed off Mediterranean Storm God who likes to be called Daddy, even when we talk back to him, and in some cases our theology/doctrine etc.

Fr. Fozy Bear

Andy W.
Wed, 04/15/2009 - 8:36pm

Fr. Fozybear,

It has been making its way around the Twitterverse, hasn't it? I am, curious, though, as to why atheism, in your book, is a religion. Can you back up that comment?

Thank you, Leo, for blogging about this! We didn't realize we could throw off the poll like that. I guess we have more freethinking ears than we thought!

-Andy Welfle

Andy W.
Wed, 04/15/2009 - 8:38pm

Oh, and we have to thank Dr. PZ Myers of Pharyngula, a nationally recognized science/evolution/atheism blog (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula) picked up the story, so most of the comments likely came from him and his cadr

Ultima Thule
Wed, 04/15/2009 - 8:57pm


with that a land slide you can also admitt that more than 90% of atheists read more this website than any other people who believe in something...

Wed, 04/15/2009 - 9:18pm

MRev Kenneth White,

how can the lack of belief in something,which is what atheism is, be a religion?Is bald a hair color??
Please make an effort to understand what you are talking about before you post blog entries,thank you.

Marcus Ranum
Wed, 04/15/2009 - 10:31pm

I'm one of those thousands who voted, and I'm quite real. More importantly, I only voted once. If I cared about your silly site and your silly opinion or your sillier poll, I might be offended that you insinuate I'd condescend to stuff your ballot-box. You should be so lucky.

John Phillips, FCD
Wed, 04/15/2009 - 10:45pm

MRev. Kenneth White, Jnr. Yep, atheism is a religion like bald is a hair colour or not collecting stamps is a hobby :) However, you sound like the type of xian that we need to be more vocal, rather than leaving it to the loudest and most obnoxious fundamentalists to appear to represent all xianity and to try and force their views and politics on all, believer and unbeliever alike.

BTW, this from one of the many responsible for skewing the poll, but just for fun and just to show how meaningless they are. I.e. how easily they are skewed and are thus a waste of time ifor showing anything of real value.

Thu, 04/16/2009 - 1:33am

Came to vote on the poll, stayed to look at the ads and articles.

Well, you see, it's like this. Someone at that little freethought blog passed it on to a much more popular blog with international readership, and there you are. Yes a few of them voted more than their share. Tsk. Still, they're good for the ad revenue, eh?

Thanks for the hospitable reception.

Thu, 04/16/2009 - 2:27am

I firmly believe at least 6,000 individuals voted, as your poll has been pharyngulated.


Pete C
Thu, 04/16/2009 - 5:05am

The vote options in the poll seem odd. The only "yes" response says "and my faith is important to me." It implies that there is another "yes" answer not available in the poll, which could possibly cover all those who do identify with some form of Christian religion by way of family and community, though they might attend church services only at Easter and Christmas.

Avery Cook
Thu, 04/16/2009 - 5:14am

Leo, you can feel pretty certain that a large number of individual non-believers took the poll. The N-S Web site doesn't allow more than one vote per person. Didn't you know that? I suppose one person could vote multiple times if he were in a roomful of computers and logged in each one in order to vote. But that seems unlikely.

Allen N
Thu, 04/16/2009 - 5:46am

You might not have been votbotted. There really are lots of non-believers out there. If you put up a poll like this, you are asking people for their opinion and by golly, you got it.

If you are really concerned about restricting votes to the smallest class, open internet polls are a poor way to do it. For that matter, ANY internet poll is going to be misleading. I know they are "for fun", but you must know people are not voting for fun, but to share their opinions.

Thu, 04/16/2009 - 8:49am

I am a very real Fort Wayne resident, and I am a proud atheist. Even if it means being persecuted for my beliefs, being told I am going to hell, being told I am a horrible parent and that my child is going to hell, being bombarded with personal beliefs regardless of whether or not I asked for them, being told what an awful person I am, and constantly being questioned about my personal life choices (and then having them negated/ridiculed). We walk among you, Fort Wayne. I'm the PTA mom who babysits your kids and donates to your charity drive. And I don't believe if your god. To me it's not a big deal; others around me don't believe what I do, and that's okay. But the fact that I don't believe what YOU do, surely this means I need bombarded with your opinions that believe me, I've heard before. A thousand times.

That being said, I find comfort as a journalist in knowing that the News-Sentinel is a dying institution, and that this was simply an attempt to garner traffic and attention. What if this poll had been bombarded by a Christian organization to drive the vote up? Would you have posted a whiny editorial then, Leo Morris? Journalists are supposed to be unbiased, but something tells me that Mr. Morris, upon finishing this editorial, sent a forward to every member of his church congregation urging them to vote and SHOW US ATHEISTS HOW IT'S DONE! I don't care that you're a Christian, Mr. Morris, because I respect your right to your beliefs (or lack thereof, in my case)... however, don't write a pissy, whiny editorial about how unfair it is that people just happened to come to your site, of your pathetically dying newspaper, and spoke the opinion you asked for.

tim zank
Thu, 04/16/2009 - 8:51am

The results of that poll are about as reliable as Tim Geithners answers to math problems.

As for atheism, it most certainly is a faith of it's own, professing non-belief or disbelief. Atheists have just as annoying and repititious an agenda as any other group. Christians believe in converting folks to Jesus, Muslims believe in converting folks to Allah, Hindu's believe in converting folks to Bhudda, Atheists believe in converting folks to megalomania. Atheists (like everyone else) just KNOW their right and everyone else is full of sh^t.

The methodology is the same, just a different product.

Thu, 04/16/2009 - 8:57am

tim zank,

You sound angry.

Need a hug?

Someday you'll realize the difference between

Here is the evidence, so that's why I believe X


I believe X, so I don't need any evidence

Once you understand that, you'll understand the difference between theism and the LACK of theism (atheism).

Andy Welfle
Thu, 04/16/2009 - 9:31am

@Tim Zank

That is one of the most ridiculous things I've heard all day. Of course atheism is not a religion. It only takes one guideline to be an atheist, and that is to not believe in a god or gods. Religion has a set of rules

Michael B-P
Thu, 04/16/2009 - 9:57am

I think VoiceofReason must have at one time become a disenchanted follower of Saravanola. Either that or his "glass shard" diet proved to be unsustainable.

Andy Welfle
Thu, 04/16/2009 - 10:10am

@Voiceof Reason

The first graf of your comment was really good. Thank you for sharing that.

I am a little concerned about the second part. Did Mr. Morris actually *say* he was a Christian? And what exactly does this blog have to do with any alleged downtown of the News-Sentinel?

Us in the "atheist religion" thank you for your support, but a good defense is not always a strong offense.

Andy Welfle
Thu, 04/16/2009 - 3:29pm

Er, downtown downturn, that is.

Thu, 04/16/2009 - 11:17pm


"Even if it means being persecuted for my beliefs"

I don't know your history, but I'd be willing to bet that you've never actually been persecuted for your (non)belief. From what you stated, some people have said rude things to you. While, surely, unpleasant, it hardly qualifies as 'persecution'.

As a fellow atheist, I sympathise with your experience and hope that true persecution never rears its ugly head.

Not that it matters, but I voted in the poll twice - once on purpose and once on accident.