Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New Gallup Poll on Religion (CORRECTED)

From Gallup:
Over three-quarters of Americans (77%) say religion is losing its influence on American life, while 20% say religion's influence is increasing. These represent Americans' most negative evaluations of the impact of religion since 1970, although similar to the views measured in recent years.

But look at the following data(corrected:  previously I had the wrong table). While about 75% of Americans in aggregate think more religion would be good, the breakdown between more-religious and less-religious is dramatic.  People who are not religious think it would be bad to increase religious influence.
And that is because for most non-religious, the face of American religion isn't Bp Gene Robinson, but Abp Timothy Dolan. The public face of religion is anti-gay zealots like Tony Perkins and Brian Brown. It's people who denigrate atheists and argue that we should live under Biblical rules (even if mis-interpreted).   It's people who deny evolution and climate change as part of their anti-intellectualism.  That's the face of American religiosity, and no, we don't need more of that.


dr.primrose said...

A N.Y. Times article today raises the question of (1) do most religious people first believe in God and then act on that belief or (2) do they first just assume a belief in God and then act based on that assumption without really resolving the issue of belief -- Belief Is the Least Part of Faith.

Based on the title alone, she obviously thinks the second is true. She concludes:

"To be clear, I am not arguing that belief is not important to Christians. It is obviously important. But secular Americans often think that the most important thing to understand about religion is why people believe in God, because we think that belief precedes action and explains choice. That's part of our folk model of the mind: that belief comes first.

"And that was not really what I saw after my years spending time in evangelical churches. I saw that people went to church to experience joy and to learn how to have more of it. These days I find that it is more helpful to think about faith as the questions people choose to focus on, rather than the propositions observers think they must hold.

"If you can sidestep the problem of belief — and the related politics, which can be so distracting — it is easier to see that the evangelical view of the world is full of joy. God is good. The world is good. Things will be good, even if they don't seem good now. That's what draws people to church. It is understandably hard for secular observers to sidestep the problem of belief. But it is worth appreciating that in belief is the reach for joy, and the reason many people go to church in the first place."

JCF said...

Excellent piece, dr p.

I'm not sure whether author considers TEC to be "evangelical", but I certainly experience something very similar (unsurprisingly, I'm a cradle Pisky).

Counterlight said...

I doubt that very many pew sitters could pass a thorough belief test, even in the most policed of doctrinal churches. I sometimes think it is only egg-heads like me who constantly interrogate themselves over whether or not we really believe in certain things, and believe them so exactly as the script says.

Religious life is much more than a positions paper itemizing exactly where we stand on this or that issue. Religious life is community, identity, shared history, and living life in such a way that assumes that we are all connected with each other, with nature, with our dead, and with God (whatever that may be), that our dying is an end, but not necessarily a conclusion. Whole philosophies and aesthetics come out of all that which can be powerful and sustaining independent of belief or non-belief. A lot of people come to church for the show and the community, and why not.

On the other hand, it is impossible to neutralize that doubting questioning part of my being (or anyone's being). We mortals will inevitably try to look beyond our station.

JCF said...

When we look at corporate and/or societal sin, we understand that such sin perpetuates itself---usually. That is, a child raised in a racist environment will tend to become racist. A child raised 1% "Don't bother me w/ the Have-Nots" environment will tend to embrace the same values (right along w/ the "Abolish the Death Tax!" moolah).

What I don't understand, is why the secular world doesn't see that the SAME is true of religious values (or rather, ONLY see those "values" perpetuating themselves in socio-conservative and/or hypocritical religious communities).

I was raised as an Episcopalian. OF COURSE I'm going to tend to perpetuate Episcopal values, ABSENT a compelling reason to abdicate them. "Don't you know 'God' is a delusion, you moron? Don't you know [a zillion facts and/or arguments I ALREADY know, thankyouverymuch, that have BUPKUS to do w/ my Episcopal faith]???" are NOT such compelling reasons!

"Don't you know the Bible tells us Jesus died for your sins---sins that would otherwise take you to hell?"

"Don't you know it's been conclusively proven that 'JesusNeverExistedDotCom'?"

Seriously, can anyone see a dime's worth of difference in these blithering declarations of certitude (packaged in the most self-righteous ways possible)? Feh!