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Thursday, April 8, 2010

THE GOLDEN EVOLUTION (Part 22): WHAT DO PEOPLE BELIEVE (Part C)?

The following continues the serialization of Chapter 5 on Religion from SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for Humanity:

In 2002, the Pew Research Center polled 38,000 people in 46 countries:


o Percent of people who find religion very important in their life:


§ Senegal.....................97%

§ Indonesia...................95%

§ Nigeria.......................92%

§ India............................92%

§ Pakistan.....................91%

§ South Africa...............87%

§ Brazil..........................77%

§ Turkey.........................65%

§ United States............59%

§ Mexico.........................57%

§ Argentina....................39%

§ Uzbekistan..................35%

§ Great Britain................33%

§ Canada........................30%

§ Italy...............................27%

§ South Korea................25%

§ Germany......................21%

§ Russia..........................14%

§ Japan...........................12%

§ France..........................11%


What is it about the French? Maybe their culture is more evolved. About Americans, while many more believe in a supreme being, they seem contented in not having to be bothered by church memberships, as the figure here is 59%, not the 90+% that supposedly believe in Him. Symptomatic of the situation is the fact that there are 3% fewer Roman Catholic clerics in the world compared to 1978, but 20% less in Europe.


Worldwide, the older you are, the more you believe. The type of religion makes a difference. The U.S. figure of 59% in the final list is somewhat understandable, as belief in God does not mean that religion, per se, is important. Similarly, the 65% “importance” rate for Turkey comes from a country just about 100% Muslim. Thus, there already seems to be a sliding from Koran strictures even in an Islamic country. In the U.S., one believes what is ingrained from youth, and, while Santa Claus can be set aside as a parental and commercial ploy, there is something sacred about religion that defies common sense.


The Council for Secular Humanism reported from Free Inquiry Magazine: Percentage saying “I know God exists and I have no doubts about it”:


o Philippines 86.2%

o United States 62.8%

o Israel 43.0%

o West Germany 27.3%

o Russia 12.4%

o East Germany 9.2%


But to the question about belief in life after death:


o United States 55.0%

o Philippines 35.2%

o West Germany 24.4%

o Israel 21.9%

o Russia 16.8%

o East Germany 6.1%


As an exception, in Israel, the drop from belief in God to belief in an afterlife is a factor of two, from 43.0% to 21.9%, whereas those other countries did not change much. Books and books can be churned out just analyzing these surveys, and they have been. Noticeably lacking were data from the Middle East. The 90’s percentage for Muslim and Hindu countries hints that Saudi Arabia and Iraq might rest close to 100%. But the U.S. in the 60-90% range for all these religious beliefs, with France and Japan closer to 10-40%, begs for explanation. Why is something so fundamental so varied?


I have given many speeches in China, and, early on, for my personal surveys, asked a show of hands on who believed in an afterlife. Typically, the response was close to 1%. Little did I know that to express a religious opinion in public was prohibited. Every one who raised his hand could have come into jeopardy. Yikes! So I stopped asking. It is said, though, that the present regime is not so fussy, and this question can now again be asked, and that the response will be much higher and more accurately reflect actual beliefs.


For entirely different reasons, do not ask this question in the Middle East and at certain gatherings in parts of the United States. In fact, my wife has warned me about such dinnertime conversation with family and friends.


So, finally, what about the world at large? According to reported polls, the belief in God figure is:


o 96% (Calculation God, Robert Sawyer, 2000)

o 92% (The Cambridge Companion to Atheism, Phil Zuckerman and Michael Martin, 2004)


So the USA is right up there with the rest of the world in God belief. Okay, then, something went wrong with Dawkins’ contention that belief drops with education.


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The Dow Jones Industrials went up 30 to 10,927, while world markets mostly dropped. Gold increased $2/toz to $1150 and crude oil remained just below $86/barrel. Those financial talking heads now seem to believe that the Dow Jones will rise to 13,000 by the end of the year. The higher the market, the fewer the number of added Republicans in Congress in the coming Fall elections.


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Earthquakes keep coming, without causing much in way of fatalities or damage, for Sumatra (Indonesia) was struck with a 7.8 temblor yesterday, and Baja had a 7.2 Easter quake, killing three.

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