mandag 22. september 2008

Stark discovers irreligion

One of my favs, Rodney Stark (though I must admit some mixed feelings as he sometimes is a bit too hasty) is out with a new book - as is his habit every year.

This time it is about What Americans Really Believe.

One important finding is that the new atheism never really happened.

During the past 63 years, several polls show the percentage of atheists has not changed at all, holding steady at only 4 percent of Americans who say they do not believe in God. Not only is atheism not growing in the United States, the majority of Europeans are not atheists (Ch. 14, "Atheism: The Godless Revolution That Never Happened"). Russia now claims 96 percent of its population believes in God, while a recent poll of China showed that atheists are outnumbered by those who believe in God(s).

In both the 2005 and 2007 Baylor Religion Surveys, researchers found than 11 percent of the national sample reported they had "no religion." Although nearly a third of the "no religion" group are atheists who reject "anything beyond the physical world," the Baylor Religion Survey found that two-thirds of the "no religion" group expressed some belief in God and many of those are not "irreligious" but are merely "unchurched" (Ch. 17, "The Irreligious: Simply Unchurched-Not Atheists"). Delving into the actual religiousness of those who report having no religion, the Baylor Survey found that a majority of Americans who claim to be irreligious pray (and 32 percent pray often), around a third of them profess belief in Satan, hell and demons, and around half believe in angels and ghosts.
The importance of Dawkins and his disciples then may not be so much in converting people to atheism (whatever that is), as to train Christians for public debate. It speaks volumes that The God Delusion is now being used as a textbook at several Christian Schools and Universities.

It has in short proven to be a rare gift to theists, just like the equally badly researched The da Vinci Code.

Another of a myriad of Stark's sometimes surprising findings (which naturally will lead to a lot of checkings and denials), supports one of the most famous things Chesterton never said - When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn't believe in nothing. He believes in anything.

In short, to be a skeptic, it helps to be a Christian.
The Baylor Survey found that traditional Christian religion greatly decreases credulity, as measured by beliefs in such things as dreams, Bigfoot, UFOs, haunted houses, communicating with the dead and astrology (Ch. 15, "Credulity: Who Believes in Bigfoot"). Still, it remains widely believed that religious people are especially credulous, particularly those who identify themselves as Evangelicals, born again, Bible believers and fundamentalists. However, the ISR researchers found that conservative religious Americans are far less likely to believe in the occult and paranormal than are other Americans, with self-identified theological liberals and the irreligious far more likely than other Americans to believe. The researchers say this shows that it is not religion in general that suppresses such beliefs, but conservative religion.

"There's an old saying that a man who no longer believes in God is ready to believe in just about anything, and it turns out our data suggests it's true. That is to say, religious people don't believe this stuff, but there's no education effect," Stark said.

Among other interesting findings on paranormal or occult beliefs: People who have read The Purpose-Driven Life or any book in the Left Behind series are less likely to believe in the occult and paranormal, while those who have read any book on dianetics or The Da Vinci Code are more likely to believe.
Something we never doubted.

3 kommentarer:

Snirkelsnorkel sa...

I disagree somewhat when it comes to the Da Vinci Code/Holy Grail, Holy Blood/Discovery Channel. My recent experience as a teacher of comparative religion has shown me that Dan Brown and his cohorts has indeed had quite an effect upon a generation no longer familiar with Christianity even from an academic point of view.

Bjørn Are sa...

Precisely, still it has had the unintended effect of making people interested in the issues.

While learning about the Historical Jesus and the early church earlier was considered even beyond boredom, my experience is that pupils these days are attentive and willing to at least look at facts.

Anonym sa...

Baylor University Press
One Bear Place #97363
Waco, Texas

Dear Mr. Are:

My name is Mac Prodger, representing Baylor University Press. In a follow-up to the release of the latest results of Baylor University’s Survey of Religion, published in book form in What Americans Really Believe by Dr. Rodney Stark, I came across your blog on, in which you commented on elements of the survey data that interested you.

After reading your blog, I wondered if you would be interested in reviewing the book What Americans Really Believe, published by Baylor University Press, for your blog. If you are interested, I’d be more than happy to send you a complimentary review copy as soon as possible.

Thank you,

Mac Prodger
Marketing Assistant
Baylor University Press