The rejection of science and confusion of morality amongst Evangelical Christians

Pew has put out a new survey in which it asks Evangelical Christians what they believe about life:

First, and probably of no surprise to anyone, is the result of the question regarding acceptance of the scientific theory of evolution. The survey posed the question:

Which statement comes closest to your own views?” – the options being:

1. Humans and other living things have evolved over time due to natural processes such as natural selection.
2. A supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today.
3. Humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.

In other words the choices are evolution, intelligent design of the Michael Behe variety, and standard creationism. It is important to note that the Pew foundation used a wording for the evolution option that, unlike some previous surveys, doesn’t specifically exclude a role for God: for instance, someone who believes that God set up the laws of nature and that biological evolution is just one of the consequences of these laws should answer option A.

What proportion of evangelicals accept the scientific theory of evolution?

The answer is 3%

In addition to this confusion over the underlying foundation of all of biology, many Evangelical leaders don’t seem to be so sure of what their little cultural god is telling them:

“A majority (73%) of the leaders from the Global North consider alcohol consumption to be compatible with being a good evangelical Christian. By contrast, a similarly large majority of the leaders from the Global South (75%) say alcohol consumption is not compatible with being a good evangelical.”

And there really is no way to resolve the issue. The Bible, written and changed by men, is like any other piece of literature – all interpretations of it are subjective. These divides amongst Christians – even Christians of the same subgroup, no less – amply demonstrate that fact. Furthermore, even where something is straight-forward and hardly ambiguous, it is still interpreted by humans, under human constructs, and by the human brain. It can’t help but be subjective. And unlike, say, science, it doesn’t have any methods which can remedy these facts in a way that works.

What’s more, there appears to be a marked difference in views on how women should be treated.

“Among U.S. leaders, 44% agree women should stay at home, while 53% disagree. Leaders in Europe, however, reject the idea of women staying at home by a more than two-to-one margin, 69% to 28%.”

and

“European leaders (62%) and North American leaders (54%) are especially likely to reject the idea that a wife must always obey her husband. On the other hand, upwards of 60% of leaders from sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East-North Africa and the Asia-Pacific region agree that a wife must always obey her.

Even the “good” numbers (62% and 54% for the latter part) are awful.

I’m well aware that many fields today are dominated by men. That is often a legacy of past sexism as well as a problem of current, though undeniably reduced, sexism. It’s true of science, it’s true of atheism, it’s true of video games, and it’s true of so many other fields. But those areas don’t tend to attempt to perpetuate the worst of their legacies. That isn’t what we see with Evangelicals.

More liberal and/or more aware Christians have this habit of denying the nature of the fundamentalists within their religion. ‘Surely they aren’t as bad as everyone describes them, right?’ Wrong. This Pew survey pulls back the curtain and shows many of these people for what they are. And let’s not forget just how many people we’re talking about. Estimates of Evangelicals in the U.S. range from 25-30% of the population. That means, to put some of the results into real numbers, about 35 million people in the U.S. believe a woman should obey her husband. (And how many of those people ironically also describe themselves as libertarian, I wonder?) Only a few million of these people are willing to accept established and overwhelmingly evidenced science. And when we look at Evangelicals around the globe, they sometimes demonstrate a deep confusion over what their particular cultural god is telling them. (Yet how many claim that the Bible is objectively true or that they can objectively know something?) This all presents a very real challenge to the progress of the nation and the world at large. The delusions and confusions of faith-based thinking are holding back real knowledge and clarity of thinking, and that ought to make everyone nervous.

You aren’t really a moderate

I’ve long found it extremely annoying when someone claims to be a political moderate despite, ya know, all the positions he or she holds. Aside from being wrong, it feeds into this idea that simply because something falls into the middle, it must be the best, or at least better than the extremes.

Let’s take something clear like the civil rights movement. It was considered radical and extreme to be of the position that blacks and other minorities deserved equal protection under the law. On the other hand, at least as time moved on, it was also considered extreme to want to curtail too many rights. After all, blacks were people, right? The best position, then, was to be a “moderate” and fall right between those nasty extremes: let’s give blacks some rights, but also keep them in check. MLK lamented these moderates in his Letter from Birmingham Jail. Clearly something is not right simply because it happens to be a middle position.

But at least those people actually were moderates by the standards of the day. In the political sense, they were intellectually honest.They actually did take a road between two extremes and thus deserved the title “moderates”. But today? The so-called “moderates” of today definitely are not straddling the middle ground. How many of us have friends who want so desperately and pathetically to cling to that label, yet there’s virtually no chance they would ever vote for a particular party? I know most people have to know someone like that.

But don’t take my word for it. A recent study confirms it: the nation is more polarized than ever, and true moderates are a dying breed:

Among the increasingly growing segment of Americans who identify with neither party and call themselves independents, there are fewer moderates. Many in the “middle” hold strong, ideological views. The study concluded that three groups in the center of the Pew typology “have very little in common, aside from their avoidance of partisan labels.”

“What we see is a much bigger and increasingly diverse middle,” Pew center president Andrew Kohut said. “What’s striking about it is that they’re not so moderate. People in the middle have some strong, well-defined ideological points of view.”

What the study doesn’t mention is that it’s always these jackasses who are also the first to chime in and question the very foundations of our labels. Say to someone “I’m a liberal” and the very first thing a modern day pseudo-moderate will say is, “But what is a liberal, really?” (And just the same goes for those professing to be conservatives.) It seems to me that the real issue here is that these people just have a problem with labels. They’re the popped-collar assholes of politics.

Damn hipsters.

Atheists score higher than religious on religious survey

Pew has a new and unsurprising poll about what Americans know about religion.

On average, people who took the survey answered half the questions incorrectly, and many flubbed even questions about their own faith.

Those who scored the highest were atheists and agnostics, as well as two religious minorities: Jews and Mormons. The results were the same even after the researchers controlled for factors like age and racial differences.

“Even after all these other factors, including education, are taken into account, atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons still outperform all the other religious groups in our survey,” said Greg Smith, a senior researcher at Pew.

One head of an atheist organization has an idea why we’re seeing these results.

That finding might surprise some, but not Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, an advocacy group for nonbelievers that was founded by Madalyn Murray O’Hair.

“I have heard many times that atheists know more about religion than religious people,” Mr. Silverman said. “Atheism is an effect of that knowledge, not a lack of knowledge. I gave a Bible to my daughter. That’s how you make atheists.”

And for some, I suspect, the deep conflict between science and religion helps to inform people about the religions of the world. People see the truth of what science has to tell us, then they hear the lies of religion (miracles, for example), and they look into both more deeply. I lend much more weight to Silverman’s more straight-forward explanation, but I think there’s something to be said of my suggestion; people want to know what’s true and religion hasn’t a single answer.

Good news for gay atheists

Your numbers and the numbers of those who accept you are on the rise.

According to a new report by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, the gap on some issues has widened into a chasm, notably on issues related to gay rights and tolerance.

“Young people are more accepting of homosexuality and evolution than are older people. They are also more comfortable with having a bigger government, and they are less concerned about Hollywood threatening their values,” said the report, which was released on Wednesday.

The report also found “Millennials” (aged 18-29) were far more likely than their elders from “Generation X” and the “Baby Boom” to be unaffiliated with a specific faith. Generation X was born between 1965 and 1980, Baby Boomers from 1946 to 1964.

While I fully plan on lamenting later generations as I grow older, I like to take advantage of earlier generations still being around to do the same thing to them*. Because really, Baby Boomers and Gen X really fucked a lot of stuff up, the least of which might be their slow come-around on social morality.

The number of those 18-29 who accept homosexuality (and presumably same-sex marriage, by and large) nearly double up the rickety old fogies who reject it (63 to 35 percent).

Those without any particular faith go from 13% for Baby Boomers to 25% for the 18-29 group. Unfortunately, this doesn’t fully translate into better acceptance of the fact of evolution. Only 55% of my generation accepts it while 47% of all other older groups accept it. (Incidentally, these numbers seem to be higher overall than what commonly gets touted.) One reason may be that while religion is obviously the primary root for ruining the thinking parts of people, the poor focus on science education is also to blame here. Of course, with the older generations making most of the policy decisions and passing most of the terrible laws, it’s not surprise the younger generations have been harmed.

And while this still seems like a generally positive trend, that may not be the case.

But in other ways American Millennials are not so radically different in their religious beliefs.

“Though young adults pray less often than their elders do today, the number of young adults who say they pray every day rivals the portion of young people who said the same in prior decades,” the report said.

“This suggests that some of the religious differences between younger and older Americans today are not entirely generational but result in part from people’s tendency to place greater emphasis on religion as they age,” it noted.

Credulity is as much a trait of the very old as it is the very young, it would seem.

*Of course, I don’t restrict myself from yet again doing the same when it comes to my own generation. Maybe it’s just humanity.