© Glendon Mellow, The Flying Trilobite

Most many likely fairly tend

memingwordleRegular readers will know that I like me a good condensation — wordclouds (like this one, for this blog), concordances…anything that can boil a book down to its essence are my friends. Saves all that actual reading, don’t ya know.

In 2007 I compared the concordances (lists of the 100 most often used words) from What the Bible Says About Parenting and Parenting Beyond Belief. That the former, written from a conservative religious perspective, included the words SIN, DUTY, EVIL, FEAR, AUTHORITY, DISCIPLINE, COMMAND, COMMANDMENT, SUBMIT, and LAW in its top 100, while PBB had not a single one of those (and instead had things like REASON, QUESTION, and IDEA) is as telling as any other analysis.

I also mentioned at the time that both books had GOD in the top three. If you think it’s surprising to mention God a lot in a nonreligious parenting book, consider that the top four words in Quitting Smoking for Dummies are SMOKING, SMOKE, TOBACCO, and CIGARETTES.

This week I began wondering what words would end up in the top 100 of Atheism for Dummies. Because I’m working in 21 separate chapter documents, I haven’t done a scan yet, but I have a guess.

ATHEIST and the other labels will be up there, of course, as will GOD, our very own cigarette. But I’m willing to bet that qualifiers like MOST, MANY, LIKELY, FAIRLY, and TEND will also be in the top 100. That’s because it’s damn nigh impossible to speak in absolute terms about who atheists are, how they behave, or what they believe beyond the definitional thing. So I end up saying MOST atheists consider X to be true, atheists TEND to be Y, a given atheist is LIKELY to also be Z.

Obviously there’s variety in every worldview, but at least others can USUALLY point to a canon of presumed beliefs and practices, even if adherents diverge from them in the uh, real world.

(Eighteen days to go.)

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This was written on Friday, 26. October 2012 at 09:53 and was filed under The Dummies Diary. You can keep up with the comments to this article by using the RSS-Feed.

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  1. The diversity of thought among atheists is no surprise, given the enormity of that umbrella. On the theist side, though, I’ve been surprised at how diverse thought has seemed, in my anecdotal experience, to have become, and also to be simply ALLOWED, within, say, Christian denominations. (Of course, this is more true the more liberal-ish the denomination and far less true the more right-leaning the church or institution.)
    It seems as though theological and political ideas that not too long ago would have been met with something between shunning and stake-burning are now tolerated or at least spoken of in tones above a whisper. I wonder if my personal sense of this corresponds with any more objective data?
    And if I’m right, I wonder if this might be more because of the increasing visibility of contrary views through electronic and other media, or just because modernity itself, science / technology in particular, is slowly eroding the saleability and plausibility of traditional theological ideas? Or could it be that as traditional theology must attract increasingly credulous people, increasingly bizarre ideas and ideologies naturally seem more credible and acceptable to those who continue holding to the old notions, too?

    Comment: Brad – 29. October 2012 @ 10:01 am

  2. 21 chapter documents… out of interest, what software are you using for writing?

    Comment: macronencer – 29. October 2012 @ 10:07 am

  3. @macro: Plain old Word, with (interestingly) macros. The publisher provides templates that have made life MUCH easier.

    Comment: Dale – 29. October 2012 @ 2:07 pm

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