Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Neither Rush Nor Frum

Patterico, a well-known conservative blogger, explains why neither Rush Limbaugh nor David Frum speak for him. It's a calm, cogent analysis and one with which I largely agree.



Eight Republicans voted to pass the pork-laden $410 billion spending bill yesterday and seven of them had millions of dollars of earmarks in the bill themselves. This is really quite beyond loathesome. It's precisely the sort of unprincipled behavior that cost the GOP congressional control in 2004, and it's the sort of behavior which will prevent them from recovering the voter's trust in 2010.

The voters won't punish Democrats for this sort of recklessness because when Democrats vote to waste taxpayers' money they're just doing what Democrats do, and no one expects or demands of them that they behave responsibly. Republicans, on the other hand, are supposed to have a higher ethical standard and be more fiscally mature.

Kudos to the three Democrat senators who did vote against it - Russ Feingold, Evan Bayh, and Claire McCaskill bucked their party leadership and their president and voted nay. The bill passed nevertheless, on the strength of the support of the eight Republicans.


Creeping Secularization

The American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) results for 2008 have been released and the summary contains some interesting data. Those who suspect that our nation is growing increasingly secular will have their (pick one) hopes or fears confirmed. The survey collected answers from 54,461 respondents. Here's an overview:

The American population self-identifies as predominantly Christian but Americans are slowly becoming less Christian. 86% of American adults identified as Christians in 1990 and 76% in 2008.

The historic Mainline churches and denominations have experienced the steepest declines while the non-denominational Christian identity has been trending upward particularly since 2001.

The challenge to Christianity in the U.S. does not come from other religions but rather from a rejection of all forms of organized religion.

34% of American adults considered themselves "Born Again or Evangelical Christians" in 2008.

The U. S. population continues to show signs of becoming less religious, with one out of every five Americans failing to indicate a religious identity in 2008.

The "Nones" (no stated religious preference, atheist, or agnostic) continue to grow, though at a much slower pace than in the 1990s, from 8.2% in 1990, to 14.1% in 2001, to 15.0% in 2008.

Asian Americans are substantially more likely to indicate no religious identity than other racial or ethnic groups.

One sign of the lack of attachment of Americans to religion is that 27% do not expect a religious funeral at their death.

Based on their stated beliefs rather than their religious identification in 2008, 70% of Americans believe in a personal God, roughly 12% of Americans are atheist (no God) or agnostic (unknowable or unsure), and another 12% are deistic (a higher power but no personal God).

America's religious geography has been transformed since 1990. Religious switching along with Hispanic immigration has significantly changed the religious profile of some states and regions. Between 1990 and 2008, the Catholic population proportion of the New England states fell from 50% to 36% and in New York it fell from 44% to 37%, while it rose in California from 29% to 37% and in Texas from 23% to 32%.

Overall the 1990-2008 ARIS time series shows that changes in religious self-identification in the first decade of the 21st century have been moderate in comparison to the 1990s, which was a period of significant shifts in the religious composition of the United States.

This chart shows that when asked about the existence of God less than 70 percent of Americans now believe in the traditional theological concept of a personal God. This question was not asked in 1990 and 2001 so it's hard to draw conclusions from it. Nevertheless, if it is the case that fewer people believe in the existence of a personal God today than did twenty years ago, I wonder if this isn't due to a failure on the part of many churches to teach their young that Christianity is a more rational and coherent worldview than any of the alternatives. In many churches young people rarely get much instruction, especially from knowledgeable teachers, after they move beyond their elementary years. Thus, when challenges arise many of these kids are as vulnerable as 17th century Native-Americans exposed to European diseases against which they had no immunity. Their "beliefs" just get wiped out.