Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Stats and Declining Attendance in Churches

Consider the following post, including its comments: Triablogue: Rod Dreher on Declining Attendance in American Churches


In the meantime, the post links to the webpage of American Grace: How Religion Divides Us and Unites Us.  The book apparently presents a copious and interesting list of statistics, yet the information either within the book or in its review is to be taken with a grain of salt.  An example:
…What really distinguishes rank-and-file Tea Party supporters from other Americans and even other Republicans, is their desire to bring more God into government.
This is not true.  Members of the Tea Party movement are conservatives; Republicans are not absolutely conservatives, hence the acronym “RINO.”  Another example:
Republicans are far more hostile toward Muslims than are Democrats.
This is misleading.  It looks like a global assessment of the groups mentioned there: as if virtually all Republicans are hostile toward virtually all Muslims.  How many Republicans do you know are on the Internet calling for all American Muslims to be deported to Canada?  How many mosques or homes in Deaborn, MI have been firebombed by Republicans who just can’t stand to have Muslims in the United States anymore?  Meanwhile, another example of questionability:
Religious Americans are better neighbors than secular Americans. They volunteer at much higher rates for both religious and secular causes, give more money to religious and secular charities, and are roughly twice as engaged in their communities as comparable secular Americans. And they do more everyday good deeds: they're more likely to donate blood, help someone find a job, give money to a homeless person, or even let a stranger cut in front of them. The reason for this is not their theology, but the friendships they make through their congregations. Having religious friends is more important than simply having friends and being religious yourself. In other words, religious networks are "supercharged" in their effect on neighborliness.
Nope.  Religion, spirituality, theology, or even the divine works of regeneration and sanctification per Christian theology absolutely do not ever make a person more charitable or kind toward others: not in cases of holding doors for strangers, not in cases volunteering in places where people do not live, etc.  No, this is not the fruit of theology or works of God but is all due to desires to become someone’s BFF.  Continuing:
One downside of religion's effect on public life is that religious Americans are consistently less tolerant of dissent and less supportive of civil liberties than secular Americans. Secular Americans are more tolerant of fundamentalists than religious Americans are tolerant of atheists.
What the heck were the authors of this book or its reviewer thinking at this point?  Who in this country does not tolerate dissent but the people who want to bury Kirk Cameron and Chick-Fil-A’s president for those two’s candor and personal beliefs regarding homosexuality?  And at which ports or harbors can I find the ships that religious Americans are preparing to round up this country’s atheists and ship them off to Cuba or Russia?  Continuing:
Religious Americans, especially evangelicals, are more likely to have friends of a lower social class than are secular Americans. On the other hand, religious Americans are also less likely than their secular counterparts to favor public policies to address poverty and inequality.
Allow me to translate the second sentence for the reader: On the other hand, religious Americans are also less likely than their secular counterparts to favor public policies that attempt to eliminate poverty through welfare and through liberal economic theory and practices.  More:
African Americans are the second-most religious group in America (just behind Mormons)….
Wait a minute: aren’t Mormons religious by definition?  Finally:
In spite of these differences in how religions are perceived, Americans have a remarkably high level of religious tolerance. Eighty-nine percent of Americans – including 83 percent of evangelical Christians – believe that a person who is not of their religion can go to heaven.
The word “religion” in this case almost certainly is broadly used to connote, perhaps among other things, denominational differences within Christianity.  Otherwise this claim simply is not credible.  Try finding 8 evangelicals out the next 10 that you find who will tell you that it’s possible that a Muslim, Hindu, or wiccan as such will enter the kingdom of heaven: you won’t succeed if you try.  Then again, if you do find these eight people then one thing is clear: it will become necessary within the next thirty years to reintroduce or introduce Christianity to the western world.

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