Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Fun With Statistics

At least I think they're statistics. Unless I'm misreading things - which happens more often than I would like - some of the statements in this WSJ article don't appear to refer to any particular study or resource. But there are some of those wonderful Gee Whiz! sorts of stats which you can't resist quoting.

The first thing they do refer to is Newsweek which reports on something called "American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS)" which tells us that

". . .the proportion of Americans who claim to have no religion has increased to 15% today from 8.2% in 1990. The Christian right has lost yet another battle, this time in the heartland state of Iowa, with its Supreme Court voting unanimously to legalize gay marriage. The proportion of Americans who think that religion "can answer all or most of today's problems" is now at a historic low of 48%."

O.K., fair enough. One would like to see the questions and the sample surveyed and that sort of thing but the results aren't particularly surprising. But later on there's this wonderful illustration of American ratiocination:

A fifth of the "atheists" in a recent Pew Survey said that they believed in God, a semantic confusion rich in meaning.

The mind reels.

And then this, which includes the statement "China will soon be the world's biggest Christian country. . . .":

Looked at from a celestial perspective, the American model of religion, far from retreating, is going global. Pastorpreneurs are taking their message around the world. In Latin America, Pentecostalism has disrupted the Catholic Church's monopoly. Already five of the world's 10 biggest churches are in South Korea: Yoido Full Gospel Church, which has 800,000 members, is a rival in terms of organization for anything Messrs. Warren and Hybels can offer. China is the latest great convert. There are probably close to 100 million Christians in China, most of them following a very individualistic American-style faith. Already more people attend church each Sunday than are members of the Communist Party. China will soon be the world's biggest Christian country and also possibly its biggest Muslim one.

No, I don't have any idea what a "celestial perspective" might mean in this context. But it is certainly an interesting collection of truly remarkable statements. Have fun asking people if they know which country is soon to be the world's largest muslim country.

(And the point of the article? It seems to be that the world is getting more religious. That would be interesting if it were converting to the true Church founded by Christ and not to assorted sects which make it up as they go along. Still, the statistics, if such they are, are fun to quote.)


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