Friday, January 07, 2011

Atheists are religious? Who'd have thunk?

A flawed poll indeed, from Gallup.

How can atheists be very religious, moderately religious or nonreligious? But, that's what Gallup claims. Gallup says:
Americans' degree of religiousness, as defined in this analysis, is based on responses to two questions asking about the importance of religion and church attendance, yielding the "very religious," "moderately religious," and "nonreligious" groups. (See page 2 for details of this classification procedure.)

Gallup does say that the effect is probably based on contact with others in a group.

Beyond that, this poll has other "issues."

The main one is, what is "wellbeing"? In the story about the poll, that's not really explained. Even if it is, that's a subjective issue. For some, it might be more a good partner relationship. For others, it might be a Maslow-type actualization. For others, it might be a $100,000-a-year job.

But, beyond that, what's with the nearly 3 percent of atheists/agnostics supposedly strongly religious?

In this case, it's bad linguistics. I guarantee.

After I wrote a newspaper column, years ago, about my non-metaphysical stances, I was asked to speak at a philosopher's club in Dallas. And, a philosophy professor at a community college told me he prayed regularly. (I had the good grace not to ask him directly, "To whom?")

Another, also illustrative anecdote. I started making a connection with a woman on several years ago who said she was an atheist. But, as she learned from me what that really meant, well, she "ran like hell." As vest I could figure from hindsight, to her, "atheist" meant something like "spiritual but not religious."

And, that's the problem with polls of his nature by somebody like Gallup — terms aren't clearly identified and nailed down.

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