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Pew’s Materialistic Mix Up

Pew has a new survey result with title Americans are far more religious than adults in other wealthy nations. Key was the picture below—or at their site, bigger and better, and, like the old Police Squad! videos, in color!

Bottom axis is per capita GDP adjusted by some formula. So it’s an approximation of an approximation. Whatever. The vertical axis is percent of adults surveyed who pray daily. So it’s also a guess. Also whatever.

The solid black line is, as regular readers ought to know by now, fiction. It didn’t happen. It’s made up. It’s unreal. It’s a chimera. It’s the result of magical scientism. So ignore it.

Still, there is a vague sort of trend, such that countries with higher dollars (whatever they might mean here) have people who pray less. The question is: so?

Readers also know that comparing countries like homogeneous Norway, which has fewer people than Manhattan island on a Tuesday afternoon, with heterogeneous societies like the once United States, is silly in the extreme. It’s done all the time, though. Especially when the comparison is made to show up the grand old USA. As it is here.

If we want to compare similar countries, then a better, but still imperfect, counter is Norway versus Switzerland. (Find them both.) The conclusion then would be more prayer produces higher bucks. On your knees!

Of course, we could compare Norway with Senegal, which is also somewhat homogeneous, but three times the size of Norway. There, it looks like more prayer produces fewer bucks. But there wouldn’t be any other difference beside population size we might consider? Nah. Probably not.

Put your left hand so your left forefinger shoots vertical from the horizontal axis, and such that your hand blocks out everything to the left. Ignore the fiction line. Now what does the plot look like? Right. Not much. All the caveats that went into making the dollar figure, and the uncertainty in the survey about prayer become sharper and more important.

Look at China, bottom of prayerfulness, but not so hot with money, either. What’s going on? I thought the black line said less prayer equaled more money?

And isn’t money the most important thing there is?

Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

Well, you can do the hand trick for various other blocks which make geographic, religious, or cultural sense, and you discover…that there is nothing much to be discovered. If anything, it shows how great the USA is. Lots of prayer, lots of success. Making it simultaneously easier and harder to get into the kingdom of God. Which force wins in the end I don’t know.

There’s another Pew plot. I won’t show it, so you’ll have to go there to see it. “Greater income inequality is tied to greater importance of religion.”

Lord only knows how they calculated, with anything even approaching precision, income “inequality”. The conceit that “inequality” is a bad thing, and that all bad things must be corrected, we can ignore.

No we can’t. It’s dumb. Houses where mom stays home to care for the family’s six kids are better, in general, than those where male and female (and identifying as such) both head off to the office yet put off having families until they can “afford” them.

Forgetting that distinction—or rather, not letting it bother you—we can do the same trick with the hands, blocking off countries which are similar in size, geography, culture. Again, not much can be learned that wasn’t already known.

Still, Pew manages to say:

One idea popular among modern sociologists for a number of decades held that America’s unregulated and open religious “market” — where different faiths compete freely for new members without government interference — has fostered fertile ground for religious growth.

More recently, some sociologists have argued that there is a link between relatively high levels of income inequality in the U.S. and continued high levels of religiosity. These researchers posit that less-well-off people in the U.S. and other countries with high levels of income inequality may be more likely to seek comfort in religious faith because they also are more likely to experience financial and other insecurities.

This is the exact opposite of the eye-of-the-needle metaphor. And dumb—because it’s not what is seen; or, rather, it is seen, but also the well-to-do (in some quarters: not Hollywood, etc.) also are religious.

4 thoughts on “Pew’s Materialistic Mix Up Leave a comment

  1. The conceit that “inequality” is a bad thing, and that all bad things must be corrected, we can ignore.

    Inequality is a fact of all nature. The Universe only works because of inequality. Without inequality nothing flows. Even the cosmic background radiation remnant of the Big Bang still is unequally distributed. It’s all been downhill (elevational inequality, get it?) from the Beginning. Inequality can’t be corrected. Like Progressives and native stupidity, once you think you’ve got one corner nailed down, another will spring up in its place.

  2. “America’s unregulated and open religious “market” — where different faiths compete freely for new members without government interference — has fostered fertile ground for religious growth”

    I’m sure inquisitive readers here are very familiar with the “Burned Over District” of New York, from whence many religious notions were concocted and many of which still thrive widely. Not to mention so many modern “mega churches” supported by a corruption of faith in which God is basically presented as a sort of fairy godmother who will cater to one’s earthly material desires…

    “…some sociologists have argued that … [they] POSIT that less-well-off people in the U.S. and other countries with high levels of income inequality MAY be more likely to seek comfort in religious faith because they also are more likely to experience financial and other insecurities.” [EMPHASIS added]

    Those researchers POSIT’d (hypothesized) and weasel-worded an apparent causal effect (note the use of the word “MAY”); in each of two sentences regarding the hypothesis as a guess–NOT as a solid conclusion. Clearly, more research needed to validate if any of the posited/hypothesized correlations truly has a cause-effect linkage — this is the unmistakable message from the people doing the ‘positing.’ (because, if they were asserting something conclusive the words “posit” and “may” would not apply or be used)

    Consider the response:

    “This is … dumb—because …. also the well-to-do (in some quarters: not Hollywood, etc.) also are religious.”

    A hypothesis backed up by some data (such as it is) is presented and a swift response is made consisting of:
    – name calling (first)
    – invocation of an anecdotal observation of what are almost certainly “outliers”

    That is not how to refute a hypothesis. The scientific way is to collect more data and analyze it and see if the hypothesis holds up, and if not, to formally reject it.

    Our statistician to the stars presented an emotional rebuttal of the familiar sort so routinely associated with the response of belief clashing with facts/reality — emotional response (“dumb”) with “thought-stopping” techniques (“hurry, grab a datapoint anecdotal and of equally uncertain applicability [to the broad population or only outlying fringe exceptions?] on which we can comfortably choose to believe the threat to cherished beliefs is neutralized.” Broad social trends always have some outliers — so picking one such outlier and presenting that as a rebuttal to a broader trend has no place on competent validation/rebuttal (or, to use the word du jour, that’s “dumb”).

    Most have heard of the saying, “there’s no atheists in foxholes.” Meaning under dire deadly circumstances people want a saving deity so bad they actually believe this deity exists and may help.

    People in financial distress and facing insecurities are similarly in a threatening “foxhole” of sorts (not life threatening but often lifestyle threatening), and as such it seems hardly surprising they might be more prone to reach out to a deity for help. Many no doubt have noticed how the Catholic Church mass services have a segment in which the congregation is actively encouraged to invite prayers [appeals to deity] for help for loved ones in all manner of distress (usually for the ill and infirm, but there’s no limits, apparently — I’ve seen an ill pet fish called out for such prayerful intervention). It seems somewhat hypocritical to so cavalierly dismiss out of hand a hypothesis (that financial distress invokes religiosity) when the Roman Catholic Church has formally encouraged such behavior AND ritualized precisely that sort of behavior as part of its mass service. One can hypothesize about the motivations about that — but one cannot objectively observe such services and fail to note that those making such personally significant prayerful appeals to deity also, as a general rule, also seem to be donating more money contributions in the money-collection part of the service that is timed close by (recall indulgences of old).

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