Sunday :: Aug 27, 2006

Out Of Their God Fearing Minds?

by pessimist

The folks over at The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life have discovered some interesting things about the American people due to a poll conducted July 9-16 of this year. In just about every case, those questioned took contradictory positions.

For instance, in an example which outlines clearly why the Founding Fathers chose to limit the exposure of religion to governmental power - and vice versa:

"63% of the public says the will of the American people – rather than the Bible – should be the more important influence on U.S. laws.

But most white evangelical Protestants (60%) say that the Bible should be the guiding principle in making laws when it conflicts with the will of the people.

See where the GOP gets it from? There's more.

But the GOP, howver, shouldn't be secure in the belief that these white evangelicals will be supporting them this fall:

The percentage of white evangelicals who believe the GOP is "friendly to religion" has dropped by 14 percent in the past year, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life said.
Overall, the percentage of respondents
who say Republicans are friendly to religion
dropped to 47 percent from 53 percent.

Yet, despite all of the religious-based opposition to things like stem cells, these same people aren't ready to surrender their earthly progress to dogmatic rule:

... there is broad agreement across the religious spectrum that scientific advances will help rather than harm mankind. Overall, 65% of Americans express a positive opinion of scientific advances.

In fact, the tradtitional separation between church and state appears to be important to them:

The poll also found that uneasiness about the mixing of church and state has edged up, with 49 percent saying Christian conservatives are going too far in imposing their religious views.

However, they are also not ready to give up religion and its public influence altogether:

On the other hand, 69 percent say liberals have gone too far in the other direction.

Religious beliefs motivate political positions:

People’s religious beliefs continue to shape opinions of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Fully 63% of those who believe that Israel was given by God to the Jewish people sympathize more with Israel than the Palestinians, compared with 36% of those who do not believe this.

And yet, the earthly is quite important to them:

79 percent of Americans believe there is solid evidence that the earth is getting warmer.

Those were the easy results. The rest are a bit more difficult to swallow.

For instance, The survey found that 71 percent of respondents wanted more religious influence in American life, and 51 percent wanted more religious influence on government, because they were feeling like religion's influence on society is waning.

These contradictions bother me. Besides the fact that this poll was conducted by a polling group whose focus is religious-based issues, one needs to look at some methodology numbers:

... among 2,003 adults ... More Americans (32 percent) think of themselves as "liberal or progressive Christians," than identify as white evangelical Christians (24 percent)

And yet:

The percentages of American political/religious life remain relatively small, with only 7 percent of the public identifying with the "religious left," while just 11 percent identify with the "religious right."

Above they claimed that they wanted more religious influence in public life, and yet:

Less than half of the population (44 percent) holds a favorable view of Christian conservatives.


... the proportion expressing reservations about attempts by Christian conservatives to impose their religious values has edged up in the past year, with about half the public (49%) now expressing wariness about this.

Personally, I read these contradictions either as an indication that people don't understand the religion the profess to follow, or that they want their earthly cake and their elderly bearded Anglo cloud being too.

Either way, I begin to understand why it is so hard to reach people who claim to be religious, for if they truly don't understand their religion, then they can't know when they are straying off the dogma reservation - or much of anything else, for that matter. One has to wonder if they know much of anything, or if they are just responding to leading questions (I haven't looked at them to see if this comment describes them accurately), but let's say for the moment the questions are leading. Those who don't know their own minds will respond as they believe the questioner is asking them to.

As for the other possibility, situational ethics determines which position to take, and makes the holder of the opinion very susceptible to suggestion based on tried-and-true advertising techniques.

Either way, bad for American democracy and the opposition to one-party rule.

This last survey point becomes very important to the fall election, as this Pew political observer points out:

That [GOP approval] slippage could mean fewer evangelical votes for Republican candidates in November's midterm election, said John Green, a senior fellow at Pew and an author. "It may make it much more difficult for Republicans to mobilize evangelicals in elections," Green said.
"The danger is not so much that they'd vote for Democrats
but that they'd just stay home."

Saint Augustine is reputed to have echoed Socrates' dictum that 'the unexamined life isn't worth living', adding, "Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart."

As far as I'm concerned, if those polled don't know their own religious minds, and if they aren't able to make solid decisions - secular or religious - for themselves, they would be doing the nation and their Deity a favor by staying home.

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pessimist :: 8:10 PM :: Comments (17) :: Digg It!