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Top five reasons that people abandon religion
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Boss Cat
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PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 10:01 am    Post subject:  Reply with quote

Well, give me this conclusive evidence then!  Evidence is conclusive to your mind, but might this not be a case of confirmation bias?

The thing is, you say you think we would be aware of the evidence you have seen.  Well, unless you tell us what you have seen how would I know?  Citations please!

I have been presented with some evidence that might be what you are referring to, but the quality of this research that I have seen is derisory.  I am also aware of research that is much less clear cut or contradicts your assertions.

I am no expert here, it might be that you have some more recent research to hand than the trash I have been presented with.  But even if you are right then it begs other questions, other research and leads us into other areas.  

As for your last bit: you can interpret what you like as what you like, but if you expect to be taken seriously then you need to make a stronger argument than Ooh I don't like that that's trying to avoid the point.  

You are right on one thing, elitist does not equal wrong; in fact I am unashamedly elitist in some ways and I think elitist can, in some areas in some ways be a very positive thing, particularly if it linked with some old fashioned things like responsibility and duty.  But in the context I used it, referring to your dismissive attitude towards most of the world's population I think it's linked to some very nasty things.

And if you want to dismiss talk of liberal metropolitan elites then engage with the ideas.  Don't just call it diversion; it isn't, it means something.  And something very important looking at recent election results.
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Shaker
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PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 12:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Boss Cat wrote:
Well, give me this conclusive evidence then!  Evidence is conclusive to your mind, but might this not be a case of confirmation bias?

The thing is, you say you think we would be aware of the evidence you have seen.  Well, unless you tell us what you have seen how would I know?  Citations please!

I have been presented with some evidence that might be what you are referring to, but the quality of this research that I have seen is derisory.  I am also aware of research that is much less clear cut or contradicts your assertions.

I am no expert here, it might be that you have some more recent research to hand than the trash I have been presented with.  But even if you are right then it begs other questions, other research and leads us into other areas.


I'm thinking particularly of the work of the sociologist Prof. Phil Zuckerman of Claremont College in California. I know his work predominantly through his book Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment, which obviously I can't simply show you, so I'll go looking for links on the Web to his findings with which I can furnish you. With regard to the point at hand (i.e. that better social conditions, better education, better opportunities for all, women especially, broadly equals lower rates of religious belief) he had this to say which you can regard as a capsule summary of his work as a whole:

Quote:
People who believe in irrational things will rarely change their minds by listening to rational arguments. And yet atheists expel so much sweat constructing philosophical, scientific, or logical arguments against the existence of God. Think this will change people’s minds? Perhaps. But only rarely. What really lowers levels of religiosity, the world over, is living in a society where life is decent and secure. When people have enough to eat, shelter, healthcare, elder-care, child-care, employment, peacefulness, democracy — that’s when religion really starts to lose its grip.

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Boss Cat
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PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 7:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh right and you assumed everyone reading your post would have read that book, did you? It's hardly the one everyone's reading on the tube, is it?  

The thing is, this is a book, and a book with a point to make, and quite a strong one.  Now I assume he draws on research but having read that quotation (admittedly out of context, but it's one you chose as encapsulating his postion) I would have some questions about the quality of that research, the methodology of the research and the breadth of the research. And did he compare like with like, and longer term trends?

There is some truly dire stuff around which he could have drawn on. I'm not saying he did, I don't know.  This isn't an academic book, by the looks of it, and it probably doesn't pretend to be.   But it doesn't seem as though it's a considered review of a range of research either.
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Boss Cat
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PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 7:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've googled this guy; now he obviously has some academic credentials but he does seem to have an agenda, doesn't he?   And his choice of countries seems interesting.  He is concentrating on Sweden and Denmark. But for every Sweden there is an Albania (a non religious state if ever you want one, more so than Scandinavia).  For every - I dunno, Pakistan - there is a Malta.  And most of us are somewhere in between.

And does he look within societies, or at wider issues affecting the morale of a country?  It's quite crude research, isn't it?

Now he and you might be right, or partially right at least.  This is quite a new area for study and research.  But I think to assume that a) everyone knows this and b) all research says the same and c) straightforward comparisons equals good research is a bit naive.
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Shaker
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PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2013 8:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Boss Cat wrote:
I've googled this guy; now he obviously has some academic credentials but he does seem to have an agenda, doesn't he?

I didn't expect the 'shoot the messenger' ploy! I would like to think that as a Professor of Sociology his agenda is in finding out the truth of whatever area of research he's studying.

Quote:
And his choice of countries seems interesting.  He is concentrating on Sweden and Denmark. But for every Sweden there is an Albania (a non religious state if ever you want one, more so than Scandinavia).

But Zuckerman draws a sharp distinction between the state atheism of Albania and what he has termed the organic atheism of the Scandinavian nations and the Netherlands, etc. This latter is, if you like, natural atheism - where religious non-belief simply grows of its own accord and isn't officially imposed (usually as part of Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist tyranny as in Albania and North Korea).

Zuckerman is quite clear about the direction of causality here:

Quote:
... countries marked by high rates of organic atheism are among the most societally healthy on earth, while societies characterized by nonexistent rates of organic atheism are among the most unhealthy. Of course, none of the above correlations demonstrate that high levels of organic atheism cause societal health or that low levels of organic atheism cause societal ills. Rather, societal health seems to cause widespread atheism, and societal insecurity seems to cause widespread belief in God

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Boss Cat
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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2013 12:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Shaker, there are two issues here.  The is the original issue in which you said it was lazy of me not to evidence my opinion.  I pointed out that neither did you, what on earth are you talking about? which you acknowledged but excused on the grounds that you assumed we would all be familiar with the evidence.

Now that is just moonshine, and you know it.  I am familiar with some very poor evidence (and  my own inner jury is very much out on Zuckerman) for reasons I will make clear later).  But why would you expect us all to be familiar with Zuckerman specifically?  Now you are familiar with him because you are very interested in polemics against religion.  You look them up.

Sometimes, when I am bored, I google that type of thing, and the research is not nearly as clear cut as Zuckerman suggests (more later).    But that's largely irrelevant: the fact is that if you demand of me that I provide evidence and suggest that I am being lazy if I don't then decency would expect that you lead by example.  It's your thread.  If it were a 'provide the evidence' thread you would have a point.

But the whole five reasons things aren't evidenced and to do you justice you never intended them to be - you state that in your OP. That's fair enough, they are presented as opinion, a discussion point.  But if you expect evidence from anyone who disagrees with you then it looks very much if you are presenting opinion as fact, or even worse from your point of view, confusing opinion with fact.

As an aside, you might dismiss phrases like liberal metropolitan elites but this has always been a problem for the left from the beginning, and is recognised within the left. Left wing thought has in academia among the upper middle classes and never recognised the aspirations or interests of ordinary people; so Virginia Woolf, for example, might trumpet free love (and she and her friends could afford it) but thought her servants nuisances and moaned about their ineptitude.   Of course, the problem of the right is that is associated with being a bit of a Philistine.  Although there is a strong tradition of thought on the right there has been a more pragmatic than idealistic core (in itself a philosophical position, perhaps;I thought that was evident in the latest proposals in the CJS discussed this morning, but I was only half listening, getting my son to school).

As for Zuckerman; look he might be a professor of Sociology (that is the most atheistic discipline, I think, or so it said in New Society a couple of weeks ago) but the book you cite is not academic.  It is a polemic and tells us little about his research but a lot about his interpretation of his research.  He has an agenda; in fact his job and his reputation rest on him pushing that agenda.  Not to say he isn't honest, but it is good to be aware of where people are coming from, especially when looking at research findings.

So let's look at what he says.  Now I gree with him, that economic prosperity is linked with less religious activity, overt activity at least.  But this does not always go hand in hand with increasingly liberal and tolerant attitudes.  I am not a classicist but I thought one of the five factors identified by Gibbon for the decline of the Roman Empire was decline in religion (and I don't think that was linked with a particularly liberal regime, despite a degree of licence among the upper classes).  We might also link this with city dwelling, as opposed to rural living, in which by its nature the place of worship will play less part in social and everyday life.  Are we convinced that material wealth is always going to bring with it more liberal attitudes?  Security does, of course; liberal attitudes are a bit of a luxury (and I would say a duty if you are secure enough but then I'm old fashioned like that).  Really?  Do you know how many richer countries rely on a lot of people working very hard for not very much?  In the past?  Even now?

The countries you mention, Sweden and Denmark and the Netherlands and Britain come to that.  They have something else in common, don't they?  And there is evidence linking that thing with more happiness among the population, and more willingness to have women in positions of authority.  And that thing has its basis in the Scriptures (a Jewish invention I believe!) and very strong links with religion.  Can you guess what that is?

And what about the USA?  Or how about the Aboriginies, who lived generally peaceful and productive lives for millenia on the most hostile land on the planet with a very strong animist faith underpinning their lives.  OK they were torn apart by the post Enlightened Europeans but let's face it post Enlightenment Europeans have done a pretty good job of tearing themselves apart too.

And if Zuckerman is right - if these things do follow each other like night follows day.  What then?  Is that going to lead to no religion, or a different type of religion?  What does history teach us?  What about what happens within societies?  Within societies religious people seem to be happier, to live longer, to be more successful in evolutionary terms (is evolution on the side of spirituality or not?  Is it a new kid on the block or something that's dying out?).  Or does it just prove that when the going is easy people get a bit arrogant and it's in the tougher times that they realise the importance of what they've lost.  

Oh I don't, know, I haven't read the book.  But thanks for the evidence.  On what I've seen it doesn't work for me, but perhaps it might for others.  Perhaps your OP is right. It just doesn't work for me.  For the reasons I've given.
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cyberman
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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2013 12:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Boss Cat wrote:

The countries you mention, Sweden and Denmark and the Netherlands and Britain come to that.  They have something else in common, don't they?  And there is evidence linking that thing with more happiness among the population, and more willingness to have women in positions of authority.  And that thing has its basis in the Scriptures (a Jewish invention I believe!) and very strong links with religion.  Can you guess what that is?.


Ooh! Ooh! *thrusts hand into the air* I know! I know!
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Boss Cat
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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2013 3:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You clever little iron man you!

Bit simplistic, though eh?

I have my own theory that places with crap weather are better at inventing things and creating a good standard of living.  People blessed with better weather have more fun things to do with their time.

Not that I've done any research!

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