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All content © 2002-2005 Anne Zook

May 12, 2004
So Not True

Here I mentioned that I mistrust being given the results of polls without any discussion of the polling methodology. At the time, it seem like everyone was discussing the (Liberals Get Cross-Wise) article.

For instance:

All polling data indicates that more than 90% of Americans think of themselves as religious.

All polling data, huh? All polls done since the beginning of the world or just in the last century or two? All polls, including those conducted by communist bricklayers? All polls, including those conducted Martians temporarily domiciled on the Moon?

Please be informed that I distrust such sweeping, absolute statements unless I'm the one making them.

And progressives must accept the fact that people who are religious might dare to apply the moral concepts they derive from their faith in the public square. After all, progressives would claim that morality does have a place in public policy whether it applies to a declaration of war or the enactment of legislation to care for the poor or the ill.

To be honest, I seriously doubt that the majority of liberals object to people who are religious applying their moral concepts in the public sphere. We want morals and ethics in public servants.

Heck, we want them in everyone. We just don't want Judge Roy deciding that his religious belief trumps the country's secular law.

(rant deleted) There's a difference between applying one's personal moral standard and force-feeding one's religious beliefs. That's all I'm saying.

Topic…topic…do we have a topic?

Yes, we do.

Via the invaluable Avedon Carol, I was led to this page where I see that my original objections were valid.

In 1990, ninety percent of the adult population identified with one or another religion group. In 2001, such identification has dropped to eighty-one percent.

So, you see, I was right to question the methodology of the poll cited in the Cross-Wise article. (At least one poll differs significantly from what Cross-Wise claims. Also, please note that "ninety percent" is not the same as "more than 90%".

(And that not all of the 81% currently identifying as "religious" also identify as "Christian.")

[…] the greatest increase in absolute as well as in percentage terms has been among those adults who do not subscribe to any religious identification; their number has more than doubled from 14.3 million in 1990 to 29.4 million in 2001; their proportion has grown from just eight percent of the total in 1990 to over fourteen percent in 2001 […]

The good news is that more people in this country are shaking off the shackles of religious superstition, so the religion problem may solve itself. Like those doomsday millennium cults.

That last paragraph was unfair (Sorry. Cranky.), and the article didn't say that religion is dying out. What it said is that there's also been an increase in the number of people identifying themselves as non-religious and in the number of those refusing to discuss religion, which is odd and interesting.

Even at "only" 81%, the religious far outnumber the non-religious in this country and yet I'll bet it's not long before some wingnut says these people have been "intimidated" into hiding their faith.

Actually, the thing that stuck with me longest was the thought about how tired I am of people fudging the facts to make their point.

(Consider yourselves lucky. The original draft was three times as long, but I decided that the amusement value of reading me ranting, yet again, about the iniquities of organized religion was…so very limited.)

Posted by AnneZook at 10:18 AM


I live on the Florida Panhandle about a block from one of the largest Southern Baptist Churches in the area. I don't need a poll to tell me what is visible in the parking lot for anyone driving by.

People may say they're religious, but they don't seem to actually make it to church except on Easter, and to a lesser extent Christmas.

People lie on polls and say what they think the people asking the questions want to hear.

When you compare local economic polling to the hard facts, you find out people double their salary when asked.

When you ask them about their belief, they are at church every Sunday and never miss a Wednesday prayer meeting.

Posted by: Bryan at May 12, 2004 02:04 PM

Hypocrisy...another favorite soapbox of mine.

Posted by: Anne at May 13, 2004 07:43 AM