Americans | Christmas Story


The Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life has just published the results of its survey of Americans’ beliefs about the Christmas story. Click the link, scroll down to the report, and marvel at the durability of Christian ideology.


Majorities Believe Christmas Story Historically Accurate

American Religious Participation

The Public Religion Research Institute finds that Americans inflate their participation in religious life.

“I Know What You Did Last Sunday”

Internet and Religion

MIT Technology Review has published an article discussing a recent study (“Religious Affiliation, Education and Internet Use“) that finds a correlation between the rise of the internet and the decrease in religious affiliation among Americans.

How the Internet Is Taking Away America’s Religion

Intelligence and Religiosity

candlesMiron Zuckerman, Jordan Silberman, and Judith A. Hall have recently published a provocative study in Personality and Social Psychology Review on the relationship between intelligence and religious commitment.  “The Relation Between Intelligence and Religiosity: A Meta-Analysis and Some Proposed Explanations” argues that people who display high levels of analytic intelligence (which they define as the “ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience”) tend to be resistant to religious commitment (they define religiosity as “the degree of involvement in some or all facets of religion … includ[ing] beliefs in supernatural agents, costly commitment to these agents [e.g., offering of property], using beliefs in those agents to lower existential anxieties such as anxiety over death, and communal rituals that validate and affirm religious beliefs”).  They conclude that “[a]nalytic thinking is controlled, systematic, rule-based, and relatively slow; intuitive thinking, in contrast, is reflexive, heuristic-based, spontaneous, mostly nonconscious, and relatively fast. We propose that more intelligent people tend to think analytically and that analytic thinking leads to lower religiosity” (17).  Not surprisingly, the college experience can often affect an intelligent  person’s religious commitment: “The separation from home and the exposure to a context that encourages questioning may allow intelligence to impact religious beliefs. Using analytic (as opposed to intuitive) thinking, more intelligent college students may be more likely to eschew religion.  If atheism is disapproved of at home, higher intelligence may facilitate resistance to conformity pressure.  These mechanisms might explain why the negative relation between intelligence and religiosity increases in college” (22).

A meta-analysis of 63 studies showed a significant negative association between intelligence and religiosity.  The association was stronger for college students and the general population than for participants younger than college age; it was also stronger for religious beliefs than religious behavior.  For college students and the general population, means of weighted and unweighted correlations between intelligence and the strength of religious beliefs ranged from −.20 to −.25 (mean r = −.24).  Three possible interpretations were discussed.  First, intelligent people are less likely to conform and, thus, are more likely to resist religious dogma.  Second, intelligent people tend to adopt an analytic (as opposed to intuitive) thinking style, which has been shown to undermine religious beliefs.  Third, several functions of religiosity, including compensatory control, self-regulation, self-enhancement, and secure attachment, are also conferred by intelligence. Intelligent people may therefore have less need for religious beliefs and practices.

The Science Delusion



Here’s an excerpt from Curtis White’s The Science Delusion: Asking the Big Questions in a Culture of Easy Answers (Brooklyn, NY: Melville House Books, 2013).

Christopher Hitchens’ Lies Do Atheism No Favors

NORC Religion Survey

This blog has repeatedly drawn attention to recent studies that demonstrate Americans’ disinclination to identify with organized religion. Further evidence of this trend comes from the General Social Survey, a report published by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago.  According to its findings, twenty percent of Americans fall into this category, an increase of twelve percent since 1990. Analysis of the data also reveals that this group tends to be comprised of young, white men who self-identify as liberal and live in the Northeast, the Mountain states, and the West. The researchers noted, however, that these “nones” should not necessarily be equated with atheists, a group whose numbers remain rather static at three percent (a one percent increase since 1991).

Americans and Religion Increasingly Parting Ways

General Social Survey: Religion Report

Robert Ingersoll and American Secularism

Robert IngersollBill Moyers interviews Susan Jacoby about her new book, The Great Agnostic: Robert Ingersoll and American Freethought.  Ingersoll (1833-1899), following in the line of Thomas Paine, was a powerful voice for secularism, agnosticism, and the separation of church and state. To honor his achievements and influence on American intellectual life, Harvard University sponsors The Ingersoll Lectures on Human Immortality.

Jacoby, a celebrated writer and leading voice of American secularism, is also the author of The Age of American Unreason (Pantheon Books, 2008) and Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism (Holt Paperbacks, 2004).

Susan Jacoby on Secularism and Free Thinking