Ari Armstrong on Religion in America

 Posted by on 1 November 2006 at 4:23 pm  Uncategorized
Nov 012006

Ari Armstrong recently sent the following on religion in America to FRODO (Front Range Objectivism’s discussion list). I thought it worth reproducing here, as it contains some interesting facts and figures. (I’ve slightly reformatted the plain text e-mail for HTML.) Ari writes:

Leonard Peikoff stated: “In essence, the Democrats stand for socialism, or at least some ambling steps in its direction; the Republicans stand for religion, particularly evangelical Christianity, and are taking ambitious strides to give it political power. Socialism — a fad of the last few centuries — has had its day; it has been almost universally rejected for decades. Leftists are no longer the passionate collectivists of the 30s, but usually avowed anti-ideologists, who bewail the futility of all systems. Religion, by contrast — the destroyer of man since time immemorial — is not fading; on the contrary, it is now the only philosophic movement rapidly and righteously rising to take over the government.”

Peikoff’s claim, and his related exhortation to vote Democratic as a way to oppose the rise of the religious right, has been criticized by some Objectivists.

However, Peikoff is exactly right. The evidence is overwhelming. As but one example, consider a recent article by TIME magazine. Be sure to check out the related links, “How We View God” and “Denomination Nation.”

Here are some findings from a survey from Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR):

  • “The film The Passion of the Christ was viewed by 44.3% of those polled… The Left Behind books, very pious and very popular also, only [ONLY!] reached 19%.”
  • “Between 57% and 68% of respondents — among all four God types — include ‘take care of the sick and needy’ in their criteria for being a ‘good person’…”

    Examine the contents of this link. 31% of the population believes in an “Authoritarian God.” Of those, 23% think “abortion is always wrong.” 91% think “government should allow prayer in school.” 57% think “government should redistribute wealth more evenly.”

    For EVERY SINGLE category of belief, a majority thinks that “government should redistribute wealth more evenly.”

    Here’s the breakdown by belief type:

  • Authoritarian God: 31%
  • Benevolent God: 23%
  • Critical God [who "will exact divine judgement"]: 16%
  • Distant God: 24%

    And atheists? About 5%. (This is mentioned in the magazine but not online, as far as I found.)

    Here’s the document from Baylor [on which the TIME magazine article is based].

    Here are some additional findings:

  • “Barely one in ten Americans (10.8%) is NOT affiliated with a congregation, denomination, or other religious group.”
  • “Fully a third of Americans (33.6%), roughly 100 million people, are Evangelical Protestant by affiliation.”
  • 54% of Evangelical Protestants spend “more than $50 a month on religious products.”
  • Among all four god-types, a majority wants the federal government to “regulate businesses more closely” (page 33). “Only” 47.2% of those who believe in an “Authoritarian God” want the federal government to “fund faith-based organizations.” A strong majority of all four types wants the federal government to “protect the environment better.”
  • From page 34: 21.% of those who believe in an “Authoritarian God” think that “to be a good person it is very important to… convert others to your religious faith.” Between 14.3% and 19.1% believe that a good person needs to “consume or use fewer goods.”

    There is a bit of relatively less-bad news for our region [i.e. Colorado]: “The West has the highest percentages of religiously unaffiliated people (17.6%) and people in other religious traditions (10.3%) of any U.S. region.”

    (Here are some other “fun” tidbits about the paranormal (page 45):

  • 28.2% of the population believes, “It is possible to influence the world through the mind alone (Telekinesis).”
  • 19.9% believe, “It is possible to communicate with the dead…”
  • 37.2% believe, “Places can be haunted…”)

    Or, as Peikoff said: “Religion… is now the only philosophic movement rapidly and righteously rising to take over the government.”

Also of interest, Ari wrote the following letter to the editor regarding the gubernatorial election in Colorado:

Dear Editor,

I have decided to vote for Democrat Bill Ritter for Governor to help preserve the separation of church and state. Republican Bob Beauprez has aggressively injected religion into the politics of abortion and welfare. More disturbingly, his running mate has rejected the separation of church and state.

Ritter also pushes religion into politics, yet to a considerably lesser degree. My vote for Ritter should not be interpreted as an endorsement of any of his policies. Ritter poses a serious threat to our rights to control our income, purchase medical services on an open market, and acquire and use tools for self-defense. Yet Beauprez poses the larger threat of breaking down the separation of church and state, the necessary precondition for freedom of conscience and the choice to adopt and support a particular religion or no religion.

Ari Armstrong

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