Creationist Wisdom #599: The Theocrat

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Northwest Florida Daily News of Fort Walton Beach, Florida. It’s titled The majority rules. The newspaper has a comments feature.

Because the writer isn’t a politician, preacher, or other public figure, we won’t embarrass or promote him by using his full name. His first name is James. Excerpts from his letter will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

Your July 25 article, “School Board asked to stop prayer at meetings,” warrants a rebuttal.

We can’t find that article, but here’s one in the same paper from a couple of days later: School Board makes no decisions on prayer before meetings. The school board can’t figure out what to do. Ah, but James has the answer. He says:

If anyone feels violated by public prayer, they have the option of excusing themselves. Although it’s taking a beating lately, America is a democracy and a Christian nation where the majority rules.

Yeah — if you don’t like it, then get out! By the way, James never specifically says he’s a creationist, but we think it’s a safe bet. Let’s read on:

The latest research shows that about 78 percent of adults (247 million) identify themselves as Christian. In comparison, the next largest religions in America are Judaism and Islam. Therefore, including the remaining followers of Buddhism, Taoism, etc., atheism in America represents only about 2 percent of the population.

We don’t know where James gets his statistics. This recent article at the website of Pew Research — America’s Changing Religious Landscape — compares poll results from 2007 and 2014. It says the percentage of Christians (all denominations) in the US has dropped from 78% to around 70%. The number affiliated with non-Christian religions has jumped from 4.7% to 5.9%. Those describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” has jumped from 16.1% to 22.8%.

The number of atheists in the US is at least ten times greater than James’ estimate, but that’s not important. James is still in the majority — and the majority rules! He continues:

Atheists deny the existence of God simply because they believe that to do otherwise is an intellect defect. I pray that someday before they die, atheists’ self-centered egos will diminish to the point they can accept the reality: Mortal man will never have the ability to comprehend the powers of God (i.e., the universe, the miracle of birth and all the others).

James hopes you will accept that reality — before it’s too late! Here’s more:

Until atheists can accept that fact, they will be stuck with their attempts to explain it all away with, “No, God does not exist, it just happened.”

Yes, that’s a pathetic explanation. James’ explanation is so much better! Moving along:

Creditable research clearly shows that at least half of all scientists and other scholars do believe in God.

We don’t know about those “other scholars,” but Pew Research has this article from 2009: Scientists and Belief, which says:

A survey of scientists who are members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press in May and June 2009, finds that members of this group are, on the whole, much less religious than the general public. Indeed, the survey shows that scientists are roughly half as likely as the general public to believe in God or a higher power. According to the poll, just over half of scientists (51%) believe in some form of deity or higher power; specifically, 33% of scientists say they believe in God, while 18% believe in a universal spirit or higher power.

James wasn’t too far off. Then he says:

In fact, there is research that indicates the smarter the scientists become, the more likely they are to believe.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! We don’t know where that comes from. Anyway, this is James’ thundering, theocratic conclusion:

Finally, at what point do we, the 78 percent, tell the 2 percent they can go to hell if they choose to do so, but the rest of us Christians will continue worshiping our God?

Some of the statistics James relies on appear to be inaccurate, but that’s not the important thing — it’s his attitude. Rather revealing, isn’t it?

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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29 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #599: The Theocrat

  1. The number of atheists in the US is at least ten times greater than James’ estimate, but that’s not important.

    What??!! It’s important to me—because if you are correct, I somehow slept through a remarkable transformation in American demographics since the last poll numbers I investigated!

    James claimed a 2% figure for atheists and you stated that “the number of atheists in the US is at least ten times greater than James’ estimate”. Wow! I’ve have never ever seen any study indicating 20% of Americans (at least!) are atheists. I nap sometimes but not for that long!

    I’m familiar with the poll’s “nothing in particular” category and it in no way indicates another type of “atheist” category. There’s been a great deal of discussion and debate about that “nothing in particular” self-description and scholars have found that many of that description simply eschew traditional labels (e.g. “Unitarian”, “Presbyterian”.) Yet, when questioned further, a great many indicated deistic and even theistic beliefs.

    If over 20% of Americans are atheists, I have a great many colleagues at universities across the country that somehow didn’t get the bulletin—and they failed to wake me up to hear the news.

  2. Professor Tertius says: “James claimed a 2% figure for atheists and you stated that “the number of atheists in the US is at least ten times greater than James’ estimate”. Wow! I’ve have never ever seen any study indicating 20% of Americans (at least!) are atheists.”

    I didn’t say 20%. James’ figure of 2%, as I read his letter, includes others. Using his words: “Therefore, including the remaining followers of Buddhism, Taoism, etc., atheism in America represents only about 2 percent of the population.”

    So James thinks the number of actual atheists (whatever that means) is less than 2%. The Pew Research article says that those describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” has jumped from 16.1% to 22.8%.

    I don’t know the number of actual atheists, but it appears to be 10 times greater than James’ estimate.

  3. Poor, poor James. Appealing to the fact that a percentage of scientists believe in a deity. Sadly for him, a far higher percentage of scientists accept evolution. So, now what, James?

  4. Many years ago (probably late 1970’s?) I had an interesting conversation with the late George Gallup about some of his religion-related polls. I began to wonder just how much he understood the terminology associated with evangelical Christianity and self-description labels in general concerning religious affiliations and beliefs. Because of the Jimmy Carter presidential race and the famous Playboy interview, terms like “born-again” and even “evangelical” were suddenly coming into prominence in the media. For years I had found some of the wording of Gallup Poll questions rather ambiguous and sometimes even overlapping multi-choice answer options, so I was curious to know just how well he understood some of the terms and descriptors from his survey questions. I didn’t want to appear like I was testing him or “grilling” him but in the course of conversation I would ask him to clarify what he meant by various labels and my suspicions were confirmed. But I was especially surprised that they didn’t put more effort into “pre-screening” (with appropriate outside sources, not just their own staff) their questions and the answer options which surveyors would give their subjects. I have many of the same concerns today. The general public will always come up with bizarre answers, for example:

    “Would you call yourself a theist?”
    “No.”
    “So you don’t believe in God at all?”
    “Sure I do! Why would you insult me like that?”

    Even so, I’m amazed that pollsters are so often casual and even reckless about the wording of polls and their various methodologies. I used to get calls from TV game shows rigorously double-checking their questions and their unambiguous answers so that they had no legal exposure from difficult judgment calls.

    For example, I think it was “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” where Regis Philbin would ask, “Is that your final answer?” One of the questions I eliminated was something about “the ark in the Bible” which had two potential answers: Noah’s ark and the Ark of the Covenant. If my company was paid to conduct polls/surveys which even help our nation’s leaders make policy decisions, one would think that at least as much care would go into the questions as on a TV game show.

    Afterthought: Survey questions bring to mind my favorite Steve Allen “man on the street” interviews which probably inspired Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” segment. Steve Allen would introduce himself to a random man on the street and ask:

    “Perhaps you heard on this morning’s news report that the Democratic candidate for Mayor of our city has admitted to being a former thespian. Does that revelation have any effect on whether or not you will vote for him in the coming election?”

    “Gosh….people shouldn’t be talkin’ ’bout their personal stuff like that. But if ya ask me, what somebody does in their own private life is nobody else’s business and that’s all I’m gonna say about it!”

    That one reminds me of the time I got kicked off an AOL discussion forum for “Violation of Our Community Standards” for using the word “eschatological” because “We prohibit obscene and vulgar words related to sex and bodily functions.”

    I suppose they were worried about there being sex and bodily functions in the future. But I guess all of this goes to show the foibles of human behavior and the imprecisions of public polling!

  5. michaelfugate

    Can’t you just see James as a child. “But Mom everyone is doing it!”

  6. Off topic for this thread, but another cat to set amongst the creationist pigeons: Comet yields ‘rich array’ of organics

  7. Hmm. S.C., I must admit that I remain just as baffled by your explanation even after rereading the quoted material. (But I’m fine with that. I have much experience with my own befuddlement.)

    Moreover, millions of Taoists and Buddhists are indeed atheists so I could see why they were grouped accordingly—even though I would have designed the survey to treat them as a separate optional response.

    I had at least three colleagues through the years who were decidedly atheist but also devoutly observant members of their local synagogue and never missed a Sabbath observance. By most labels and categorizations they were “very religious” yet certainly atheist! I often think of them when I see religious surveys and their answer-choices. Much of the time the “all other beliefs” final choice is not the clear “None of the Above” that the pollster imagined and intended.

    Nevertheless, I’m entertaining myself recalling many other Steve Allen survey questions. Those were the days when some of us still had TV picture tubes which faced the ceiling and one would lift the top lid of the hefty TV console (truly an imposing piece of furniture and deserving delivery by piano movers) so it stopped at the appropriate angle so that the mirror on the underside of that top-surface lid would thereby reflect the black-and-white image [actually deep green-and-white] toward the viewer. The TV’s picture-image was a 9″ inch diameter circle, if I recall correctly, and needed dusted frequently because it electrostatically attracted all of the lint and dead dust mites within a three mile radius.

    Worse yet was missing Steve Allen’s punch line because a bunch of pigeons suddenly decided to take a scenic route that crossed the line-of-sight between my TV and the Empire State Building.

    It seems funnier now than it did then.

  8. Megalonyx says: “Off topic for this thread …”

    You want off-topic? Okay, this is for you: Father, son lose lives to manure pit’s deadly gases.

  9. @Prof. Tertius
    You may be amused to hear that the Oxford English Dictionary says that the word “theist” had the original meaning of “deist”.
    I was amused to hear that that AOL forum banned vulgar words for bodily functions. For example, a vulgar word for eructation?

  10. You may be amused to hear that the Oxford English Dictionary says that the word “theist” had the original meaning of “deist”.

    I used to use that one in explanation of more subtleties of the “Etymology is not lexicography” maxim, usually applied against Ken Ham’s abuse of that common sense linguistics rule. DEUS in Latin and THEOS both mean “god” but their English derived cognates mean, as always, whatever English speakers decide that they mean—and as you explained, they changed over time.

    Similar types of ambiguities (and equivocation fallacies as a result) in the confusions over the meaning of “atheist” and “agnostic”, which has led to terms like “agnostic atheist” and “gnostic atheist” along with hard/soft atheist!

    I also liked to use AWFUL as an example of a complete flip-flop, where a few centuries ago it meant a positive (“full of awe/wonderment”) but now it is a negative (“terribly poor quality”)—and the former positive of AWFUL is now conveyed in AWESOME.

    For example, a vulgar word for eructation?

    My favorite ban in that regard was on the New York subways years ago. (Perhaps they are still there.) They used to have warnings on the walls which were something like: “No Exportating on Platform.”

    People killing time waiting for a train would often comment as they look at the sign, “Yeah, like the people most prone to spitting on the platform know the euphemism.”

    I always wondered if non-native speakers thought it was a ban on shipping freight on the commuter trains.

  11. For example, a vulgar word for eructation?

    TomS, I somehow had never noticed that is an onomatopoeia! [To those who forget that word after high-school: the word SOUNDS like what it describes: “errrUCKKKhhhhhh!”

    “Another fun fact to know and tell!” [Does anybody use that expression any more? Not sure where it came from. I tried to trace its origins once. Never found anything on it. I thought I’d find that it came from some sort of early education cartoon or filmstrip.]

  12. I’ll share relevant FAQs I just received by email concerning this thread:

    What is the percentage of atheists in the U.S. population?

    Somewhere around 2% by actual “I’m an atheist” self-description. Yet when asked whether the subject lacks belief in any sort of God/god/deity/Creator/Great Spirit/Universal-Spirit/etc., it’s more like 7%.

    What is the general trend?

    Despite various media headlines and some lobbying/advocacy groups, the major studies and surveys discussed by my secular university colleagues who specialize in that sort of demography ( not Christian education professors et al at Christian university), they claim there is no indication of changes in the percentage of Americans who are atheist and agnostic in the last 25 years or so. (Yes, for some on the Internet, “them’s fightin’ words” because they claim atheists in America are growing exponentially.)

    A lot of people and even some journalists misconstrue the growing numbers of “nones” (which actually refers to “not affiliated with any organized religion or a particular church/fellowship/religious society/etc”) as being atheist and/or agnostic because some assume it means “no religion or religious beliefs”.

    Another source of confusion is “Spiritual but not religious” and “atheist but very religious or religiously-observant”, such as my atheist-Jewish colleagues who never missed synagogue and sabbath observance.

    As to world-wide trends, I’m less aware of the major studies/scholarship but specialists I know have told me there’s negligible percentage changes in atheist population worldwide since 2000. They point out that many journalists and bloggers fail to appreciate the massive impact of population growth: Religious people generally have much larger families than non-religious (including atheists.) Therefore, Muslim population growth in many African and Asian countries is enormous because fertility rates are high, childbearing often begins at a young age, and both religious beliefs and economic factors favor large family sizes. Accordingly, atheism generally lacks large numbers of “in-the-home converts” from child-bearing.

    Disclaimer: I have never specialized in the scholarship of religious studies in terms of trends and demographics. I’m just relaying what specialists have claimed and published for peer review and what former colleagues continue to tell me. I’m reporting, not seeking to prove or disprove anything.

  13. S.C. wrote:
    You want off-topic? Okay, this is for you: Father, son lose lives to manure pit’s deadly gases.

    Perhaps not so off-topic. After all, give them a few days and Ken Ham will rant about (1) deadly gases not existing till Adam sinned, and (2) “Evolutionists don’t have any reason to consider it a tragedy because it is simply the result of bacteria evolving by random chance to produce gases which killed any species which simply happened to get in the way.”, and that (3) “Atheists were rooting for the bacteria’s right to survive and would agree with Peter Singer that humans are a parasite on planet earth that must be eliminated. Atheists want more farmers to die in this manner so that the carbon footprints of humans will be reduced as they die off.”

    Meanwhile, Casey Luskins and the Discoveroids will claim that it was no mere coincidence that the life metabolism products of one species proved fatal to another. Such complexity MUST be the result of Intelligent Design. “After multiple deaths in separate incidents, it is folly to think the series of tragedies was attributable to random chance and evolution.”
    __

  14. Ahh, more memories:

    As to deadly agricultural asphyxiation accidents, in my day it was usually from corn silage fermenting in the silos. I used to tell my dairy crew and neighbors to only let one person enter the low zone and only with a belt tether. Also, a large 6mil clear plastic bag large enough to go over one’s head and torso so that it can be gathered at the waist by a surrounding belt will trap enough of a bubble of good air to allow a minute or two of activity to get in and get out. After all, few dairymen had emergency oxygen bottles with mask and a leftover 40″ by 50″ plastic bag that the rice husk bedding for cattle had come in made it possible for me to remove blockage from a clogged intake without even hyperventilating. As the air got stale, moving the arms a bit would help disperse the CO2 within the air mixture. After that, I always made sure my help new how to use such a bag in a true emergency.

    Wait……finally an announcement…………..
    Finally my hours of flight delay are over!

    ……. I’m about to board…..so readers are spared more of an old geezer’s memories.

  15. It’s adorable when a Christian tells someone to go to hell over a disagreement. Just like JC would do.

  16. Professor Tertius reminisces: “As to deadly agricultural asphyxiation accidents, in my day …”

    The moral of the story is that if your equipment falls into a manure pit, let it go!

  17. Charles Deetz ;)

    Biggest fallacy of our democracy: “majority rules”. NOT! Not when it comes to fair rules for everyone. Everyone can get married, everyone can vote, no one can be or own slaves. These rules went against the majority at one time, but they still became the rule.

  18. “Finally, at what point do we, the 78 percent, tell the 2 percent they can go to hell if they choose to do so, but the rest of us Christians will continue worshiping our God?”

    Hey, James, no one is telling you to stop worshiping your God, or anyone else’s god, for that matter. We are only asking that you not do it at a public meeting of a governmental body, such as a school board meeting. You can’t assume that all in attendance share your beliefs, and besides, it’s not a “majority rules” issue. The US Constitution prohibits Congress from recognizing any religious establishment, and this has been broadened by the courts to mean any governmental body, not just Congress. The Bill of Rights were passed to protect the rights of minorities from encroachment by a tyrannical majority.

    And if the US Constitution isn’t good enough for you, listen to your own Savior, Jesus Christ, who instructs you in Matthew 6:5&6 —
    “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men…
    But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret…”

    Arguably the most ignored passage in the New Testament. Really, you don’t have to prove to all the people at the school board meeting what a good Christian you are — God already knows.

  19. SC, could I ask a favor? Please change “…it not a “majority rules” issue.” to “…it’s not a “majority rules” issue.”

    Thanks. It sounds a bit more literate that way.

    [*Voice from above*] Behold — it is done!

  20. Dave Luckett

    And here’s me thinking that the US Constitution (a) prohibits the establishment of any religion, and (b) protects the right of religious minorities.

    Ah, theocracy! Because it always worked so well, before.

  21. Unfortunately the U.S. Supreme court ruled that brief, nonproselytizing prayers open to all are allowed. Talk about opening a can of worms. A similar solution to the Baphamet statue vs. 10 commandments is all that is necessary and Christians run for the hills, but it has to be done everywhere.
    May I also point out that a Christian nation would not be a democracy (and of course the U.S. is a republic with democratic elements, not a democracy) After all Jesus Christ is the “King of Kings” and the model of Biblical goverment is in fact the kingdom. Democracy’s origins goes back to pagan Greece.

  22. Unfortunately, for way too many Americans Christianity = democracy = patriotism = freedom = liberty = motherhood, hot dogs and apple pie.

    Many, if not most, school board meetings are opened with the Pledge of Allegiance (to the flag, of course). Perhaps it would be more meaningful if we pledged allegiance to the Constitution.

  23. Sorry Charles but the biggest fallacy of our democracy is that it is a democracy, we are a representative republic, because the 4Fathers knew democracy is a horror to be avoided.

  24. Holding The Line In Florida

    Ah yes, one of my finer local citizens. Unfortunately this letter is rather very common among the local denizens who write letters to the newspaper.

  25. michaelfugate

    Many, if not most, school board meetings are opened with the Pledge of Allegiance (to the flag, of course). Perhaps it would be more meaningful if we pledged allegiance to the Constitution.

    How about we pledged allegiance to using our brains.

  26. Isn’t the act of pledging allegiance itself fascist?

  27. michaelfugate

    idolatrous?

  28. @Troy & michaelfugate: Yes, and yes.

  29. In fact, there is research that indicates the smarter the scientists become, the more likely they are to believe.

    In fact, there is no evidence that scientists “become” smarter at all.

    But let’s be generous and assume James meant that the smarter a scientist is, the more likely he or she is to “believe.” I’d like to see that evidence, if it exists. I suspect it comes from the usual suspects.

    Finally, at what point do we, the 78 percent, tell the 2 percent they can go to hell if they choose to do so, but the rest of us Christians will continue worshiping our God?

    It isn’t every day one hears a creationist flat-out tell unbelievers they can go to hell.

    America is a democracy and a Christian nation where the majority rules.

    Well, yes and no. America is a republic, not a pure democracy, or Al Gore would have been sworn in as president in January 2001, since he won the popular vote. The Framers installed in the Constitution a number of checks on democracy, many of which were explicitly designed to limit the power of a majority to oppress the minority and others of which were designed to preserve the power of existing elites within individual states. As for America being a “Christian nation,” while it may be so demographically, it was never meant to be so politically, as no less a figure than George Washington made clear in a letter to the government of Tripoli, then an independent nation.