10 December, 2008


Kevin Drum over at Mother Jones has discovered an interesting little graph:

Adapted from Secular Right, here's a graph showing frequency of prayer plotted against strength of partisanship. The data is from the General Social Survey. Apparently, strong political partisans also tend to pray a lot. Weak partisans and independents, not so much. The effect is roughly the same if you confine the analysis to whites only.

He draws no conclusions. I draw no conclusions. I toddled over to Secular Right to see just where the fuck this information came from, and it turns out there's a nifty little site where you can draw on General Social Survey data to create your own charts and graphs. Secular Right even has a little tutorial on how to use it. I'm not intrigued enough to spend the rest of my evening trying to figure out how sound the data is - I'm wanting to crawl into bed with the cat and start in on A Brief History of Time, which is going to be brain exercise enough.

One thing I won't be doing is praying, even though, according to the graph, being a fairly strong Dem at this point means I'm in a distinct minority.

Back when I was still a nominal believer, I used to pray I'd somehow understand A Brief History of Time. Praying did jack diddly shit for me. Let's see if several years' worth of reading science has led to a better result. I somehow suspect that shall prove to be the case.

And if some wag starts smirking over how my prayer was finally "answered," I shall give them a right sharp ding round the earhole.


Chaos Lee said...

Turns out the cutesy term I coined for myself already exists. Apatheist. (see this little bit on reference.com http://www.reference.com/search?q=Apatheism)

Neither atheism nor agnosticism fit my particular perspective, which is that the existence of god(s) and faith should have no bearing on life and function. This however, is right on.

"The eighteenth century French philosopher Denis Diderot, when accused of being an atheist, replied that he simply did not care whether God existed or not. In response to Voltaire, he wrote,

It is very important not to mistake hemlock for parsley; but not at all so to believe or not in God."

Cujo359 said...

I think to consider oneself a "strong" member of a party probably requires more inclination to faith than I have. Until recently, I'd have characterized myself as either "leans Democratic" or "independent". Unfortunately, the country has drifted to the right in the meantime, so the only honest answer is "Democratic".

Right now, I'd vote Republican if I thought they'd respect the Constitution. I'm more interested in political parties as a means to an end, rather than making them powerful being the end in itself. People who are prone to believing things don't agree. I think that's why there are more non-believers in the middle of that bar chart.

Blake Stacey said...

I was much impressed by James Madison's Federalist No. 10, whose arguments about the destructive character of factionalism have been cited as evidence that the Founding Fathers would have been royally pissed about partisan politics. Here, at least, Madison and I are on the same wavelength.

If you want the soundbite: "Democrat" is how I vote, not who I am. :-)

Apatheism is a kind of atheism, for the most broadly defined meaning of atheism, as the apatheist does not have in their head a belief that a god exists. On this Venn diagram, within the big circle of "atheism" defined in this fashion are smaller circles for "agnosticism" (lacks a definite belief that gods do not exist), "apatheism" (doesn't give a damn), "igtheism" (believes the question is ill-posed) and so forth. Clearing up this definitional confusion requires so much clarification — "this is what I mean when I say atheist" — that by the time the terms are all defined, most everybody has stopped listening. As to which set of definitions is best, well, I think that question has yet to be resolved; the answer is likely to be contextual and perhaps contingent on personal preferences. In such a situation, I can only call for the tolerance of diversity.

After A Brief History of Time, I'd recommend Richard Feynman's The Character of Physical Law and QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter.

And, of course, feel free to pester your friendly neighbourhood physicist guy with questions. Or me, if the friendly guy is busy.