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.