Top-down study of beliefs

You may doubt it but you’re wrong. Have you ever lived in Europe?

George is right. Many atheists are still inspired by forms of Hinduism, Buddhism, or by theosophy and anthroposophy. All these believe in reincarnation (or at least some of their schools). Not embracing the idea of a single (Christian) God, does not necessarily mean not believing in an afterlife or some other non-naturalistic ideas.
PS And yes, I live in Europe…

This is precisely why we need a study like this - otherwise we can't know for sure if clergy practice what they preach. :) I suspect the vast majority do not practice what they preach, but this is based on my personal experience and chatting informally with family and friends about their personal experiences.
Basically, you don't have any good evidence to support your claim.
I thought that my example clearly illustrates that belief has nothing to do with behavior. I was not singling out a single person (pope), I mentioned him as the very representative of god who allows thousands of cases where clergy (teachers of morality) engagedin a specific immoral behavior and instead of addressing the real problem, deflecting the conversation by condemning a natural phenomena (homosexuality), which has nothing to do with morality.
The child abuse was covered up because these people believed that it was more important to protect the Church than it was to protect children. This belief determined their course of action. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor". Scripture leaves no room for choice. Your example of acting on a belief is actually the corruption of belief in scripture.
UU congregations tend to be full of free-thinkers and atheists. There maybe some people who adhere to some form of religion, such as Christianity or Wicca, but in a very liberal manner. Also, depending on the congregation, there is really no "preaching" and definitely no dogma taught from the pulpit, if you want to consider it a pulpit. All the UU congregations I've been to tend to teach universal messages that are applicable to anyone, even to me as an atheist; for example, we might learn about a myriad of social justice topics, respect for the environment and earth, the importance of science, equality etc. So, a Wiccan could definitely attend and draw meaning from the messages; however, it would be highly unlikely that there would ever be a message that would promote the adherence to any specific religion. Personally, I enjoy learning social justice topics and the community that the UU congregation offers me. Many say, atheists or free-thinkers lack community, but it is not true. For me, I need community, so I found one that respects my athiesm. Atheism does not have to mean a lack of community as traditional churches are thought to provide.
Thanks, I've been curious about what draws people to this type of church. For me the best part of being a non-believer is skipping church. :) As an ex-Christian, looking back, I hated going to church too (who wants to get up early, dress up and go study mythology on a weekend?); but I don't view this as the same. So, if you're curious about UU, you should try!
UU congregations tend to be full of free-thinkers and atheists. There maybe some people who adhere to some form of religion, such as Christianity or Wicca, but in a very liberal manner. Also, depending on the congregation, there is really no "preaching" and definitely no dogma taught from the pulpit, if you want to consider it a pulpit. All the UU congregations I've been to tend to teach universal messages that are applicable to anyone, even to me as an atheist; for example, we might learn about a myriad of social justice topics, respect for the environment and earth, the importance of science, equality etc. So, a Wiccan could definitely attend and draw meaning from the messages; however, it would be highly unlikely that there would ever be a message that would promote the adherence to any specific religion. Personally, I enjoy learning social justice topics and the community that the UU congregation offers me. Many say, atheists or free-thinkers lack community, but it is not true. For me, I need community, so I found one that respects my athiesm. Atheism does not have to mean a lack of community as traditional churches are thought to provide.
Thanks, I've been curious about what draws people to this type of church. For me the best part of being a non-believer is skipping church. :) As an ex-Christian, looking back, I hated going to church too (who wants to get up early, dress up and go study mythology on a weekend?); but I don't view this as the same. So, if you're curious about UU, you should try! You don't have to get dressed up to go to a Unitarian meeting--at least not in Southern California. And they often start at 11 AM. Some meetings are even later. But Unitarian churches are a little too church-like for my taste. Some even have pews and hymn books. I prefer a Humanist or atheist meeting. They usually go out of their way to avoid everything churchy, which suits me better.
George is right. Many atheists are still inspired by forms of Hinduism, Buddhism, or by theosophy and anthroposophy. All these believe in reincarnation (or at least some of their schools). Not embracing the idea of a single (Christian) God, does not necessarily mean not believing in an afterlife or some other non-naturalistic ideas. PS And yes, I live in Europe...
So is most atheism really anti-Christianism? Westerners being reactionaries against their cultural upbringing? psik

No, atheism is ‘not believing in God.’ What the heck is wrong with you, people?

"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor". Scripture leaves no room for choice. Your example of acting on a belief is actually the corruption of belief in scripture.
"Though shalt not kill" the Bible says, yet how many thousands did the Israelites slaughter after they received the commandments? It seems there's always room for interpretation. The Catholic authorities believed that it was more important to protect the Church than the children. This belief determined their course of action. Whether they actually take the Bible seriously or not or whether they believe what they claim to believe is irrelevant. Whatever it is these people believe, those beliefs determine their behavior.
No, atheists believe that God doesn't exist. I know many atheists think that life goes on after death.
Atheists dont think god doesnt exist. Some do. Some are absolutely certain that there is no god. Some are not as certain but highly skeptical. Some have carefully examined the arguments for god and found them unconvincing and flawed, while others have simply not been exposed to religion and so belief in god is foreign to them. In short, there are different kinds of atheists. The only thing we all have in common is our lack of belief in deities.

I have to agree with George that atheists do not believe in the existence of any god. Quoting Lois:

Atheists dont think god doesnt exist. They simply have not seen any evidence that one (or many) exist. There is a big difference between having no belief in a concept and believing the concept doesn’t exist.
Sorry, Lois, but I can recognize the existence of a concept without believing the phenomenon it describes exists. As a child I enjoyed the stories that included winged horses, but I didn’t believe they actually existed. I recognize the concept, but that isn’t synonymous with believing in it.
About the UU demomination, I agree with Lois. When I was introduced to it about fifty years ago, the hall (they didn’t call it a church or santuary) had chairs not pews, the books in front of them had folk songs, not hymns, the minister gave talks (he stated they were not sermons) on political and social issues, never religion, and he was a strong atheist. Most of the members were atheists or agnostics. However, when the Universalists took over (to my mind) they ruined a great organization and dragged it back to quasi-theology. Unfortunately, there aren’t many meeting places for humanists and atheists to congregate.
Occam

"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor". Scripture leaves no room for choice. Your example of acting on a belief is actually the corruption of belief in scripture.
"Though shalt not kill" the Bible says, yet how many thousands did the Israelites slaughter after they received the commandments? It seems there's always room for interpretation. The Catholic authorities believed that it was more important to protect the Church than the children. This belief determined their course of action. Whether they actually take the Bible seriously or not or whether they believe what they claim to believe is irrelevant. Whatever it is these people believe, those beliefs determine their behavior. You cannot place rationalization and justification in the same category as a belief system. No one says, "I believe it is better to have children abused than to have the priest prosecuted". That would be criminal complicity. And probably is the reason for Ratzinger's 'retirement'. And that is why we are discussing the hypocrisy of religion. Instead of a moral guide, religion often allows or even demands actions contrary to it's own teachings. Seems that everything is allowed, as long as you finish your justification with, "for the greater glory of God". It all becomes so very dishonest

Add a few cents…
The term ‘atheist’ is only meaningful in an environment where believing in some kind of deity(ies) is the norm. The atheist is the one who does not join the common believe. So the meaning of ‘atheist’ depends on the cultural environment. ‘What is it you do not believe?’ The honest reaction on the question if you are an atheist would be ‘In what kind of god I am supposed not to believe?’. Only then you can answer the question. Many modern day Christians do not have the simple believe of God as the Jewish jealous war God of ancient Israel. But for those who believe in this Jahweh, modern day Christians might be viewed as atheists. And then some people define God as ‘the laws of nature’, or ‘Potential’. Are these people atheists? Depends on what you believe (for me the first one is, the second isn’t).
So I think the negative word ‘a-theist’ is only useful in certain contexts, and if asked what your ‘belief’ is, rather use a positive term, like ‘humanist’, or ‘naturalist’. The word ‘scientist’ is already occupied by people who make their living with doing science, otherwise I would add ‘scientist’ to it: the belief that the only source of truth is scientific investigation.

However, I’ve met humanists and scientists who are theists, so I’d be hard put to substitute either of those terms for atheist.
Essentially every human is a scientist because we all observe, reach a conclusion (hypothesis), check it out, and modify if our check doesn’t work.
Unfortunately, even some professional scientists, while they may believe " the only source of truth is scientific investigation" in their field, still believe by faith in other fields such as theology, politics, society, etc.
Occam

You cannot place rationalization and justification in the same category as a belief system. No one says, "I believe it is better to have children abused than to have the priest prosecuted". That would be criminal complicity. And probably is the reason for Ratzinger's 'retirement'. And that is why we are discussing the hypocrisy of religion. Instead of a moral guide, religion often allows or even demands actions contrary to it's own teachings. Seems that everything is allowed, as long as you finish your justification with, "for the greater glory of God". It all becomes so very dishonest
The Catholic authorities weren't rationalizing or attempting to justify their actions. They already believed that their actions were justified. We're not discussing the hypocrisy of religion, we're discussing the relationship between beliefs and behavior. I don't think that our beliefs always dictate our behavior. Sometimes we do or are forced to do the opposite of what we believe to be right and sometimes our behavior has nothing to do with our beliefs, but is determined by other things. By and large though, yes, our beliefs shape our behavior and our treatment of those around us.

Ignore beliefs, good idea. That leaves self preservation the only principle, since any ideal only effects the temporal status quo, and dies with the last individual in
the group that believed it.
But since we have this supreme principle down pat, and beliefs are out, we need to come to the aid of those who differ view points from ours, those who
we call criminals who wish to express in their day to day activity their opinion of what constitutes a chaotic life which they feel is the norm. There is no longer a mens rea, since “bad” implies a moral breach, who’s source is principle. Further, justice implies an overseer, therefore man is conflict of interest with man in any case since a judge cannot also be a prosecutor. There would need to exist a higher supreme justice, otherwise the definition of bad depends on man’s opinion. So from this day forward they are expressing a differing way of life we cannot discriminate against. We need to stop arguing about decency, and virtue. This in now unfair. They could now counter argue that all we need to do is stay alive for awhile, and eventually nothing else they do will affect us. Any worries about our kids we can rest assured only concern us and them for a short time.
And we consider further, death is so final, why should there be life at all, nor is there any need to care? Death is the ideal, since in that state you say we are no longer affected, in this life we are. We should be anxious for death for it is the ideal, with no concerns or fear of it, for fear presumes something that can adversely affect us, and you say that is no longer a concern.
So basically you are saying the only thing that ensures your quality of life and restrains others is …power.

Here is an humorous example of top-down application of beliefs. (warning; crude language)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmJ2snsLxWw

The discussion about definition of an atheist gave me this idea. When studying beliefs such as Christianity, atheism, agnosticism, etc. maybe we should ignore the details of beliefs and simply study the implications on behavior, mental health, etc? For example, we might take some ideal atheists, ideal Christians, ideal Buddhists, etc. and measure various parameters - physical health, income, criminal background, whatever. So for example, the definition of atheist becomes: a person whose parameters match the ideal atheist (as opposed to claiming to believe or not believe something). This is analogous to the gender-identity tests where a person can be biologically one gender and behaviorally the other gender.
Mr friend there is no "ideal" anything. Many people refer to "true" this or thats, but again there is no such thing. With about 7 billion of us advanced apes on the planet I believe you will get 7 billion answers when questioning if anyone is an ideal or true, this or that.
Ignore beliefs, good idea. That leaves self preservation the only principle, since any ideal only effects the temporal status quo, and dies with the last individual in the group that believed it....................... So basically you are saying the only thing that ensures your quality of life and restrains others is ....................power.
No, actually cooperation is the only thing that ensures everyone's quality of life of all species. Symbiotic relationships (such as the honey bee and flowering plants, which now feed 75% of life on earth). Their power is in the remarkable ability to provide a service to another species and thereby ensuring their continued existence, while harvesting the fruits of that cooperative behavior for their own continuance. IMO, that is Divine Quality found in a simple honey bee. Power and Greed corrupt, Symbiosis and Sharing reinforce behaviors and yield increased survival for both or all who are willing to participate.

Your premise is a high risk wager, since at the most you can only conclude we are or are not accountable for the proper use of our unique ability of self awareness and gift of intellect. In the end we need to ask ourselves, “For what purpose is our self awareness, but for a loftier purpose?”. Corruption occurs naturally in this world even to ourselves eventually.
A survival strategy would also logically address the contingency of an existing deity who may be watching to see who among the masses he has given intellect
observes his obligations. Your converts are asked to wager that they are obligated only to the experiential and empirical, and to conduct their lives accordingly, against the likelihood there is an existing God who has made demands on his subjects, and takes kindly those who are bent on swaying others into error.

Your premise is a high risk wager, since at the most you can only conclude we are or are not accountable for the proper use of our unique ability of self awareness and gift of intellect. In the end we need to ask ourselves, "For what purpose is our self awareness, but for a loftier purpose?". Corruption occurs naturally in this world even to ourselves eventually.
The premise on which we operate today is a high risk wager, since we are accountable to ourselves and our environment. Our brains do not insure wisdom, we are still learning about truth and consequences. Power and greed are not a slow onset of corruption. They are an expression of our brain power. That is the curse. Our brains are a double edged (literally) sword. Where we have practiced symbiotic relationships like husbandry (farming) stable communities followed. Where we practice greed as in money manipulation (money changers) an unnatural imbalance will follow and eventually we pay a price for our wanton disregard for the laws of nature.
A survival strategy would also logically address the contingency of an existing deity who may be watching to see who among the masses he has given intellect observes his obligations.
Psychologically the anticipation of punishment is as old as the first hominid and like wise is a community able to live a stable life in love and cooperation without a deity, as is already evident in the Bonobo chimp.
Your converts are asked to wager that they are obligated only to the experiential and empirical, and to conduct their lives accordingly, against the likelihood there is an existing God who has made demands on his subjects, and takes kindly those who are bent on swaying others into error.
I am not trying to convert anyone, I am making my observations from a personal (and hopefully) logical view of how Nature works. Does it matter who punishes the offender? God, Nature, Man's self regulatory laws? Power and greed are not a slow onset of corruption. They are an expression of misuse of our brain power. That is the curse. Our brains are a double edged (literally) sword.