Views on Evolution by Members of Different Religious Groups in the US

In 2008, the Pew Research Forum published the findings of a survey they did examining the percentage of the US population who agree that human evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth by members of various religious groups.

Percentage of the US population who agree that evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth.

Percentage of the US population who agree that evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth.

The results are fascinating.

But first, here’s a fun exercise: find your religious faith tradition on the bottom of the chart, and look at the traditions to the left and right of you. This allows you to put into perspective your view on the scientific fact of human evolution.

The chart is powerful because it allows US citizens to see where they are on the relative scale of beliefs.

You will note that there are three natural statistical clusters:

To the left, there are the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, and ‘unaffiliated’ (which could mean anything from atheist to agnostic to “spiritual” to “aliens did it”).

Then in the center, there are Catholics, Orthodox, Mainline Protestants (right at the 50% mark), Muslims, and Black Protestants.

Finally, at the far right, there are the Evangelicals, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The far right category doesn’t surprise me: these three religious groups have led the way in denying science outright for some time now.

Interestingly, the Muslim category was farther left than I expected, probably due to the fact that the media usually portrays Muslims as more fundamentalist than the national average. (Again, Muslims in the US are less likely to be fundamentalist, and therefore less likely to be seen on TV. Rational folks don’t usually end up on TV; just watch any news program or reality show.)

Other than that, there are few surprises. Historically, the most densely populated Catholic parts of the country are in the northeast, where the average demographic is more liberal/progressive and better educated than the national average. Black Protestants and Evangelicals demographically appear in the south, where things lean more conservative and people are less educated than the national average. (Even FoxBusiness says so.) This sociological reality may partially explain the results.

Again, the chart is powerful because it allows US citizens of particular faith traditions to see where they are (and to whom they are intellectually closest on the issue of evolution) on the relative scale of beliefs.

So where are you?

Advertisements

The Disingenuous Nature of the Christian Right Summed Up on a Texas Billboard

A billboard with a biblical scripture on it has popped up on a Victoria, TX billboard, and the Secret Service has been called in to investigate.

Pray for Obama Billboard w/ Psalm 109:8

A billboard in Victoria, TX asks people to “Pray for Obama”, and then disingenuously cites Psalm 109:8, which reads, “May his days be few; may another take his office.”

The billboard asks people to “Pray for Obama”, and then disingenuously cites “Psalms [plural sic!] 109:8″, which reads:

“May his days be few; may another take his office.”

At first glance, the “speech” is not hateful. In fact, the billboard appears to be anything but – a call for all people to pray for President Obama, complete with an image of hands gently folded in prayer, a portrait of the president, and a Bible verse.

However, it is the verse that is cited (Psalm 109:8) that is causing the stir. The single verse (8) simply calls for the removal of someone (King David in the original context) from “office”.

However, the Secret Service was probably called in because the full text of Psalm 109:8-15 reads:

(8) May his days be few; may another take his office. (9) May his children be orphans, and his wife a widow. (10) May his children wander about and beg; may they be driven out of the ruins they inhabit. (11) May the creditor seize all that he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his toil. (12) May there be no one to do him a kindness, nor anyone to pity his orphaned children. (13) May his posterity be cut off; may his name be blotted out in the second generation. (14) May the iniquity of his father be remembered before the LORD, and do not let the sin of his mother be blotted out. (15) Let them be before the LORD continually, and may his memory be cut off from the earth.

(The Bible is pleasant, huh?)

The fact that the context of Psalm 109 is actually recounting the words of a righteous King David, who is complaining about the lies and threats his enemies are making against him is apparently lost on the individual who placed this ad.

The beginning of the Psalm (109:1-7) reads:

(1) Do not be silent, O God of my praise. (2) For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. (3) They beset me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. (4) In return for my love they accuse me, even while I make prayer for them. (5) So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love. (6) They say, “Appoint a wicked man against him; let an accuser stand on his right. (7) When he is tried, let him be found guilty; let his prayer be counted as sin. (and then Psa. 109:8) May his days be few; may another take his office…

Like most fundamentalist prooftexting and exegesis, the self-indicting context is completely ignored. The fact that the one proclaiming the words “May his days be few; may another take his office” is said to be a wicked man is completely ignored. Likewise, the fact that David is appealing to God about the lies and threats his enemies are making against him is a contextual fact completely overlooked by the one who created this disingenuous billboard.

I say the billboard is “disingenuous” because Christianity does preserve a tradition that Christians should “pray for” those in authority. It is found in 1 Timothy 2:1-3:

(1) I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people, (2) for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (3) This is good, and pleases God our Savior…

However, despite this clear Christian command to pray for (not against) those in power, the Victoria, TX billboard prays for President Obama’s demise:

“May his days be few; may another take his office” (followed by all those pleasant verses calling for the death and demise of his family).

It is not so much that the billboard is “hate speech”, unless you want to argue (as many do) that the Bible is filled with what can be described as hate speech, like the prayer at the end of Psalm 137:9 where the author begs for revenge against his enemies and proclaims:

“Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!

(because celebrating the murder of innocent children always plays well in religious circles.)

Rather, for me this billboard exposes the sheer duplicity and disingenuous nature of many conservative Christians, who seek to pick and choose scriptures that serve their preconceived political desires, and who use the Bible to heap hate and wishes of demise upon their perceived political enemies. It looks bad for all people of faith, and only adds to the ever growing body of evidence supporting the claim that the deliberate infusion of religion into politics in this country is approaching the downright toxic levels that we find in Islamic republics around the world. Conservative Christians rightfully denounce the religious oppression of these fundamentalist Islamic regimes, but then call for the very same Christian version of sharia law in America. Go figure!

Of course, this isn’t the first time that conservative Christians have used Psalm 109 to deride their political opponents. Joel Watts has chronicled several instances of the abuse of this particular scripture in politics.

But given that Christians are commanded to pray for their leaders, this billboard is nothing more than disingenuous religious prooftexting.

Then again, what more should we expect from the Christian right these days?

Forget Same-Sex Marriage: Southern Church Prohibits BLACK Wedding

Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson were banned from having their wedding at the First Baptist Church in Crystal Springs, Mississippi because they are black.

Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson were banned from having their wedding at the First Baptist Church in Crystal Springs, Mississippi because they are black.

This is UN-FRIGGING-BELIEVABLE!

Forget about same-sex marriage: some southern Christians still can’t get past BLACK weddings!!

ABC News is reporting that First Baptist Church in Crystal Springs, Mississippi has prohibited the wedding of Charles and Te’Andrea Wilson from taking place in its building because they are African-American:

“There has never been a black wedding at the First Baptist Church in Crystal Springs, Miss., since its founding in 1883. According to Pastor Stan Weatherford, some church members objected so strongly to breaking that precedent, they threatened to oust him from his pastorship.”

David Kenney of WLBT News in Jackson, Miss. reported the rationale of the pastor:

“This had never been done before here, so it was setting a new precedent, and there are those who reacted to that because of that,” said Weatherford.

Seriously? This is what is STILL happening in the American South?? This is still an issue?

For the record, this is what we’re dealing with when we talk about racism and homophobia. And this is why people are so outraged about the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A scandal. Yes, they are different issues, but they are treated the same in the eyes of many fundamentalists. Many of the same “Christians” that are actively campaigning to suppress the civil rights of gay Americans and prohibit same-sex weddings are also still campaigning against allowing African-American weddings. They are different issues, but the hatred and condescension and racist/homophobic fear is all the same.

Think about it: this church REALLY banned a black wedding!!! And yet, for some reason, we are supposed to value their opinion on same-sex weddings???

This is the mentality we’re dealing with in conservative Christianity. Gay weddings are not allowed. Black weddings are not allowed. Only white, straight Christian weddings please.

NBC News reported the frustration of the groom, Charles Wilson:

Charles Wilson said he doesn’t understand the ban. “I blame those members who knew and call themselves Christians and didn’t stand up,” Wilson said.

This is why we must stand up and we must report the absurd behavior of those who seek to use religion to prohibit anything different them themselves.

I’m still waiting for the church to claim that they were prohibited from getting married in the church for some other reason, as racism and homophobia are usually disguised in a something else. It still wouldn’t change the fact that the church has never hosted a black wedding.

Maybe Chick-fil-A can sponsor the next potluck for the First Baptist Church in Crystal Springs, Mississippi…

(HT: Jim West)

using religion for political gain: a response to rick perry

There are few things that piss me off more than those who use religion for political gain. I especially despise those who use faith in one interpretation of a religious belief as a wedge to marginalize a believer of a different interpretation. And, I particularly hate (yes, a strong word, but i HATES it) those who use religion to discriminate against others who do not share their particular religious belief, and to suppress their civil rights.

This is why everything that Rick Perry is bugs me. And now, his most recent political ad is nothing other than a political wedge ad simultaneously targeting Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith (about which he is usually (and rightly) silent, as it should not be a political issue in a secular nation where matters of church and state are to be separate) and Newt Gingrich (whose Baptist turned Catholic faith also receives little discussion from Gingrich). So, Rick Perry is out to capture the Evangelical Christian vote, and in doing so has produced one of the most ridiculous ads in history:

Now, in response to this ad, I must choose one of two routes: I can rail against folks who simply make stuff up. For instance, can kids really not pray in school, or can they not do so in an organized, school-sponsored fashion, as if they were in a private Christian school? And, are students really not allowed to celebrate Christmas, or are they taught to acknowledge that maybe not all kids in a public school profess the same Christian faith their parents have taught them to profess so proudly in class? (UPDATE: For rules about praying in public schools, read Dr. Paul Flesher’s article on the Religion Today blog entitled, “It’s OK to pray in Your School.” – see comments)

In his anti-gay political ad touting his religious faith, Rick Perry sports a jacket quite similar to the one worn by Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain.

In his anti-gay political ad touting his religious faith, Rick Perry sports a jacket quite similar to the one worn by Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain.

The other route of criticism would chastise Rick Perry for being upset that gays are not openly discriminated against in the military. Apparently, the ever-faithful Rick Perry believes that some Americans, who happen to believe differently than Rick Perry, should be disqualified from offering their lives in service to this nation precisely because they differ in religious belief from Rick Perry. (UPDATE: And is it coincidence that the jacket worn by Perry subconsciously matches the one worn by Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain? HT: Al Schlaf – see comments)

I shake my head.

However, methinks I shall ultimately choose to fault Rick Perry for making things up, like falsely claiming that a president who doesn’t pander to the Evangelical right is somehow engaged in a ‘war on religion.’ Because that is precisely how you use religion as a weapon in a political campaign: you claim that anyone who does not believe precisely the same interpretation of Christianity as you do is engaged in a ‘war on religion.’ In doing so, Mr. Perry makes himself the Christian equivalent of the leader of an Islamic state, who believes the laws of their religion’s holy book should be the law of the land. Rick Perry is a sharia Christian (if such thing can be said to exist).

So, Dear Mr. Perry, this is why your numbers are tanking, and this is why people think you’re not qualified to be President (or speak the English language for that matter). You will never be President because you use your faith as a political wedge against your opponents, as a tool to discriminate against others, and as a weapon against those who don’t agree with you.

So, with a tip of my hat to Emory University Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible, Dr. Jacob Wright, for pointing me to this video, I offer you the perfect response to Rick Perry’s most recent exploitation of religion. This video by Rabbi Jason Miller makes the point, makes you think, and makes you laugh. Enjoy!

michigan republican anti-bullying law provides exception for religious bullying

An anti-bullying law in the Michigan State Senate, SB 137, ironically also called “Matt’s Safe School Law” after 14-year old Matt Eppling who committed suicide in 2002 after being bullied, was passed on partisan lines by Michigan Republican senators without a single Democratic vote. And while most anti-bullying laws are to be applauded, the Michigan Republicans passed an amended bill, which contained an insert reading:

“This section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil and parent or guardian.”

AMAZINGLY, Michigan Republicans excluded anything said from a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” from being considered as bullying. An accused bully who claims that his speech emanated from his or her religious beliefs, is by definition in this law, not a bully. That is to say, this Michigan Republican anti-bullying bill contains language that PROTECTS bullying if it is RELIGIOUS bullying, or speech that is uttered from what the bully claims is a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.”

As Michigan Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D) said regarding the final version of the bill, it is a “blueprint for bullying.” And I agree. As long as a bully, be it a student, a parent, a school employee, or a school volunteer says that their bullying of a student was part of their religious beliefs or moral convictions, then it’s not really bullying.

And it’s easy to see where this is headed and why the language was inserted. With the debate over same-sex marriage and the church’s view of homosexuality continuing to escalate, Michigan Republicans want to make sure those religious fundamentalists within their constituency are protected from bullying laws when they and/or their children give some young gay student their best Westboro Baptist impression.

The new Michigan law is an outline for precisely how to bully and get away with it. Just claim your hateful and hurtful speech is part of your religious beliefs, and it’s suddenly OK.

Once again, potential religious oppression is exempted from laws that are designed to protect children. You can’t bully children unless you do it in the name of the Lord!

Absolutely disgusting!

 


More:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/03/gretchen-whitmer-michigan-senator-bullying-bill_n_1073928.html

http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/11/michigan_republicans_give_anti-bullying_bill_a_mor.php

http://michiganmessenger.com/53702/senate-passes-license-to-bully-legislation

we were NOT founded as a christian nation: thoughts on article 11 of the u.s. treaty with tripoli

The U.S. Treaty of Tripoli

With Libya continuing to be in the news, I was reminded this morning of one of the earliest treaties the United States ever signed with another nation. (See complete list here.) It is the Treaty of Tripoli, signed with Ottoman Tripolitania in Tripoli on November 4, 1796, unanimously ratified by the U.S. Senate on June 7, 1797, and signed into law by President John Adams on June 10, 1797.

While the treaty is a typical diplomatic agreement with a Mediterranean state, Article 11 of the treaty has attracted much attention as a corrective to those like Glenn Beck, who believe that the “Founding Fathers” founded the United States as a “Christian nation.”

Article 11 of our first treaty explains rather precisely what the founding fathers intended, how the Senate interpreted it, and by signing it into law, how the President applied it:

As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

The point of the United States was to deliberately found a new nation that was not founded upon a single religion, but one that tolerates all beliefs, including the choice not to believe in any religion. The entire point was not to have a particular religion (the Church of England at first) dictating law in the country. Our founding documents, while acknowledging and appealing to a higher power deity (akin to simple Deism), took great strides to avoid founding this secular nation on a particular religious foundation. Rather, it was intended to be tolerant of all faiths and beliefs. Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli made this crystal clear.

the double standard

The sign of a modern, intellectual society is not its tolerance for free expressions of speech, but the consistency by which it tolerates various forms of free speech. Likewise, the sign of a sound faith in a credible system of beliefs is the manner in which it responds to criticism. Those that respond violently to questions and criticisms about their religious beliefs betray the uncertainty of their own convictions. However, those who entertain rational discourse and admit the inherent problems within all systems of beliefs demonstrate a confidence that unsettles many who insist upon their certitude.

ht: jim west

%d bloggers like this: