Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Archive for September 2009

Sep/09

30

Who are the cafeteria Catholics?

I was curious as to the effect of Catholicism, especially when it comes to “life” issues. The GSS has a range of questions on capital punishment and abortion. I looked at ABRAPE, which basically asks if you think abortion should be legal in the case of rape, and CAPPUN, which asks if you think that those convicted of murder should be subject to capital punishment. If you accept the seamless garment model then it should be “no” to both.

Below I limited the sample to 1998-2008, and broke it down by ideology and political party. I’ve also shown you in the first table what you would expect if attitudes toward abortion & capital punishment were independent, and the real distribution. There is it seems a small, but significant, seamless garment effect.
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Update: Welcome Hot Air readers! This post reports data from the The General Social Survey, it is *not* a post to debate the presumed merits of the Creationist controversy! I used the EVOLVED variable, which asked:

Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.

TRUE or FALSE. That was all.

Rather self-explanatory. I simply used the EVOLVED variable, which records a question asked in 2006 & 2008. Nothing too surprising, but Creationist Republican politicians have mass support, so it may be that in coming years that that position will become the Republican elite norm as the pro-life position has become. The only caution, and hope, is that historically Creationists are generally beaten back by anti-Creationist elite Republicans and conservatives when they manage to force their ideas into the classroom on the local level.
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On one of my other weblogs I point out how anti-evolutionary sentiment seems particularly contingent on two variables:

1) Literalism about the Bible (a rough measure of “fundamentalism”).

2) Lack of educational socialization (i.e., not going to college and learning Truth).

One of points that cropped up though was that political ideology is highly predictive of anti-evolutionary opinions because of the strong correlation between Biblical literalism & conservatism. This is no great surprise, the modern conservative movement with the emergence of the New Right in the 1970s and the influx of southern evangelical Protestants is strongly inflected with fundamentalist Christianity. In contrast, the modern Left has become progressively more secular during the same period. But when it comes to opinions around Creationism there is an asymmetry: conservative elites are split down the middle, while liberal elites have come to a consensus that the theory of evolution is accepted science. Below I’ve broken it down by party and ideology, and italicized cases where the columns don’t exhibit any overlap on the 95% confidence intervals. I limited the sample in two ways:

1) Those who claimed advanced degrees (something beyond a bachelor’s degree).

2) Those who scored 9 or 10 on the WORDSUM vocab test, which was only 13.2% of the GSS sample.

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Sep/09

29

Rule by Good Men

Since Heather’s post on Karen Armstrong I’ve heard her a lot on the radio hawking her new book, The Case for God. From what I can gather her arguments are mostly relevant to religious people; those of us who are irreligious tend not to be particularly invested in the ideological details of religions so much as its material consequences (I am, to be honest, a bit more curious about ideological issues mostly because the religious people I meet tend to be intelligent). Armstrong’s strenuous objection to the vulgar nature of the fundamentalist ascension in the modern age, and rise of scientism, is fine as it goes, but it is ultimately a matter of academic interest. The populations of developed nations can read the Bible, and so will. Additionally, democratic populism is such that the moral authority of credentialed priestly castes have been sharply limited. If religion qua religion was defined by the goings-on at Princeton Theological Seminary then the world would be a different place indeed. But it isn’t. Religion in the contemporary world is far more often a vehicle for what during the Enlightenment was termed “enthusiasm.”

Sep/09

28

The Pope rebukes the Czech Republic

Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, gave an unapologetic defense of capitalism at the Cato Institute last week.  The recent economic crisis did not result from too much economic liberty, he argued, nor would it be solved by greater government control over businessmen and investors.  He spoke eloquently of the Czech Republic’s determined post-Communist recreation of a market system.  (This Cato essay from 2007 gives a good round-up of Klaus’s thinking; he identifies the three most serious threats to Western freedom at present as complacency that the central planning instinct is a thing of the past; the attack on state sovereignty:

Freedom and democracy — those two precious values — cannot be secured without parliamentary democracy within a clearly defined state territory. Yet that is exactly what the current European political elites and their fellow travelers are attempting to eliminate.

I was surprised, therefore, to read of the Pope’s rebuke of the Czech Republic for its secularism (nearly half of respondents in a recent poll said that they did not believe in God):

Your country, like other nations, is experiencing cultural conditions that often present a radical challenge to faith and therefore also to hope.

No one can gainsay the essential and courageous role of Catholics in helping bring down Communism in Czechoslovakia.  Yet it would seem that this small country has done pretty well in creating social stability and free economic exchange–which depends on trust—without a pervasive religiosity. (more…)

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Sep/09

28

Economic conundrum

We often hear that high labor costs and excessive regulation have hurt the United States’ ability to compete globally in manufacturing.  Yet one of the goals of the recently concluded G-20 summit was to persuade Germany, no less than China, to whack back its export-driven economy in favor of greater consumerism.   So how does Germany, with its mandatory Mitbestimmung (worker participation in management decisions), strong unions, and extensive welfare protections,  keep its export sector competitive.  Perhaps by concentrating on high-end engineered products.  But so could the U.S., presumably.  I find this a puzzle.

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Sep/09

27

Not Quite All There

It’s not exactly news that Carl Jung was a rum ‘un, but even so this piece from the New York Times is a reminder that the irrational will always be with us, perhaps too much of a reminder. Here’s an extract:

For about six years, Jung worked to prevent his conscious mind from blocking out what his unconscious mind wanted to show him. Between appointments with patients, after dinner with his wife and children, whenever there was a spare hour or two, Jung sat in a book-lined office on the second floor of his home and actually induced hallucinations — what he called “active imaginations…Jung recorded it all. First taking notes in a series of small, black journals, he then expounded upon and analyzed his fantasies, writing in a regal, prophetic tone in the big red-leather book. The book detailed an unabashedly psychedelic voyage through his own mind, a vaguely Homeric progression of encounters with strange people taking place in a curious, shifting dreamscape. Writing in German, he filled 205 oversize pages with elaborate calligraphy and with richly hued, staggeringly detailed paintings…The book tells the story of Jung trying to face down his own demons as they emerged from the shadows. The results are humiliating, sometimes unsavory. In it, Jung travels the land of the dead, falls in love with a woman he later realizes is his sister, gets squeezed by a giant serpent and, in one terrifying moment, eats the liver of a little child. (“I swallow with desperate efforts — it is impossible — once again and once again — I almost faint — it is done.”) At one point, even the devil criticizes Jung as hateful.

Yikes. In an earlier age Jung would, doubtless, have been considered some sort of holy man. In a later age he probably will be.

H/t: Reason’s Tim Cavanaugh on splendidly snarky form

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Sep/09

26

Religious change in the parties

Comment below:

As this shift occurred what happened with the proportion of white Catholics in the Democratic Party? Did it similarly fall, hold steady or rise? Is there a story there?

Have you GSS blogged on the differences between Democratic Catholic attitudes to issues versus Democratic Fundamentalist attitudes? What I’m wondering is whether there has been a corresponding rise of Catholic influence as Protestant influence has diminished, in particular cafeteria Catholicism rather than doctrinal Catholicism?

The data are for whites only….
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Sep/09

26

The rise of the Secular Left, II

Chris below has an excellent comment:

Drawing the stacked-bars equally high when the total size of the groups they represent is substantially different creates a very misleading visual perception. I suggest redrawing with the y-axis “% of total population” – the 1990 stack will be significantly shorter, but if my calculations are correct, the Republican slice of it will be about the same.

Below I’ve redone the chart and standardized in reference to 1990 base population numbers. Since “Nones” have gone from 9 to 15%, and the American population has gone from ~250 million in 1990 and ~300 million in 2008, the total numbers give a different impression.
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Sep/09

26

Religion and the humanities

I recently attended an interesting lecture on the decline of the humanities by Georgetown political science professor Patrick Deneen.  Deneen’s overarching point echoed that of Allan Bloom’s in The Closing of the American Mind: The rise of the research university in the 19th century, with its emphasis on science, created an inferiority complex in the humanities.  The humanities felt compelled to ape the sciences in the pursuit of new knowledge, thus casting aside their proper function as conservators of the accumulated wisdom of the past.  Throughout his lecture, Deneen rued the disappearance of “revealed truth” from the curriculum and discourse of the university, which got me to thinking: What exactly is “revealed truth”?  It’s certainly not revealed to me.  If it’s truth, why does it need revelation?

Deneen’s use of the term reminded me of a feature of some conservative public discourse that I find disconcerting: the unself-conscious invocation of Christian doctrine as if it were universally accepted. (more…)

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