Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Interactive Map Of Religious Belief in Europe


Continuing on with my love of Pew Research's surveys on religious trends, they recently put out an interactive map that shows you the religiosity of 34 European countries according to 4 factors: (1) importance of religion; (2) religious service attendance; (3) frequency of prayer; and (4) belief in god.

Here are some highlights from the survey:

  • Romania is the most religious European country in their overall combined index, Estonia the lowest.
  • Armenia has the highest level of belief in god with "with absolute certainty" with 78%, and Germany is the lowest with 10%.
  • Greece has the highest percentage of people who say religion is very important in their lives, with 55%, and Estonia is the lowest with a mere 6%.
  • Moldova has the highest percentage of people who say they pray daily, at 48%, and the UK has the lowest at just 6%.
  • Poland has the highest percentage of people who say they attend religious services at least monthly, at 61%, and Finland has the lowest at 10%. 

It seems that the most religious countries in Europe are roughly on par with where the US is. But the US will be catching up with the rest of Western Europe in a generation or so, if the numbers continue at the rate they are now.

Unfortunately, embedding the tool doesn't seem to be working, so click this link here to check it out. Screenshot below for reference.


Thursday, December 20, 2018

A Few Recent Studies On Secularization From Pew


Pew is a treasure trove of cultural and demographic data for nerds like me. I can spend hours on the site pouring over all their new studies.

Here are some recent graphs that caught my attention on religion and the rise of the "nones" in the US and Western Europe. From Why America’s ‘nones’ don’t identify with a religion:

People who identify as “nothing in particular” give a variety of responses when asked about their most important reason for not affiliating with a religion – and no single reason predominates. A quarter say the most important reason is that they question a lot of religious teachings, 21% say they dislike the positions churches take on social and political issues, and 28% say none of the reasons offered are very important.



As expected, questioning religious teachings is a major reason why people leave religion:

Six-in-ten religiously unaffiliated Americans – adults who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – say the questioning of religious teachings is a very important reason for their lack of affiliation. The second-most-common reason is opposition to the positions taken by churches on social and political issues, cited by 49% of respondents (the survey asked about each of the six options separately). Smaller, but still substantial, shares say they dislike religious organizations (41%), don’t believe in God (37%), consider religion irrelevant to them (36%) or dislike religious leaders (34%).


In another survey of Western Europe, it shows how most unaffiliated adults were raised Christian, disconfirming the misconceived idea that if two Christians have a kid, that kid will be a Christian its entire adult life. Assuming kids will all keep the same religion of their parents is what lead Pew a few years back to over estimate the rise of the percentage and absolute numbers of the world's religious population by 2050. From the recent study, you have an 86% chance of having been raised Christian if you're not currently religious in Spain. And the median number of the unaffiliated raised Christian in Western Europe is 60%.



Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Satanic Temple's Protest for First Amendment Rights


I recently came across this video from Vice about The Satanic Temple's push to get a plurality of religious representation at the Arkansas state capitol grounds. The back story is that they have a monument to the 10 Commandments on government property, violating the separation of church and state, and if not removed it should at least be accompanied by monuments to other religions, like Satanism. Seems fair enough, but of course this is not going over well in the deep Christian south.

It is amusing to see just how real residents of the state take the statue of Baphomet — a catoonish representation of the "Adversary." They literally believe a statue will bring upon Satan's wrath. It goes to show you how far we still need to progress on the secularization of the US.



Quote Of The Day: Max Tegmark On Time As The Fourth Dimension


Some people, I think, for reasons not fully known to me, will just never understand the concept of 4 dimensional spacetime. I've been engaged in a year long debate with a contributor to the Strange Notions site on my blog over Special Relativity's entailment of a 4 dimensional spacetime block, and despite dozens of images and a book's worth of explaining, he just doesn't get it.

I've come to the conclusion that to the lay person who has not bothered to learn Special Relativity, it is very hard if not impossible to explain this without the help of a realtime conversation and the ability to illustrate arguments. What really bugs me is when people make claims about Special Relativity or spacetime, or any of its implications, who have clearly not bothered to learn or understand the basics of the theory. But such is the case. Willful ignorance comes natural to us, so I can't say I'm surprised when I experience it.

I stumbled across a paper by Argentinian physicist Gustavo Romero, who's written several papers on the 4 dimensional block view. In his paper he quotes MIT physicist Max Tegmark on time as the fourth dimension and its illusory nature. It's interesting to hear the dominant view among physicists, which so profusely contradicts our everyday experience of reality in the manifest image.

Time is the fourth dimension. The passage of time is an illusion. We have this illusion of a changing, three-dimensional world, even though nothing changes in the four dimensional union of space and time of Einstein’s relativity theory. If life were a movie, physical reality would be the entire DVD: Future and past frames exist just as much as the present one.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

70% Of Americans Support #MedicareForAll


I had no idea that that 70% of Americans supported Medicare For All, but a recent survey from Reuters says just that. I'm sure the number is up dramatically in recent years, given the abundant failures with our existing system, and the newfound momentum on the Left for universal healthcare. Most Democrats in the US are openly supporting a Medicare For All system, and it seems inevitable that we'll eventually get it.

Personally I support a Medicare For All system, even though I'm not firm on how an exact implementation would work, as there are many ways it could be implemented. I'm also openly looking for people who disagree and are willing to debate this with me. Nothing makes you learn a topic better than debating it.

So if anyone opposed to Medicare For All and who supports a free market style system wants to debate in the comments below, feel free.


Monday, November 19, 2018

"God: Eternity, Free Will, and the World" Refuted — Part 4


A few months ago over at the Catholic apologist's site Strange Notions, where I sometimes debate theists (but am now banned from), a post was written by Catholic philosopher Dr. Dennis Bonnette that was almost entirely addressed at some criticisms I've made on the site in the past year.

This is part 4 of that criticism. For parts 1, 2, and 3, click herehere and here.

Objections Answered


In this section of the post, Bonnette tries to answer the objections to god's necessity and free will he's written thus far, but on analysis he's failed to fully articulate and understand the dilemma. He starts writing,

First, some think that God being the Necessary Being is inconsistent with the contingency of his free will choosing to create this world, which did not have to exist at all. Although God is the Necessary Being, this necessity refers primarily to his act of existence, since his essence is identical to his existence – thus, making it impossible for him not to exist.

Of course, all these claims merely attempts to define god into existence. It's the word salad at the heart of Thomism's case for god. Since I've already addressed this problem in past episodes of this series, I will move on to the heart of the matter:

The term, “necessary,” with reference to the divine nature cannot be capriciously defined to suit some contrived anti-theistic argument. Its meaning originates in the context of St. Thomas’ Third Way, which refers solely to a being whose necessity for existence comes from itself and not from another.4 Such a being must be that being whose essence is its very act of existence.

When I criticize the Thomist's claim that god is necessary, I'm simply using the general, uncontrived, definition of something that is logically necessary, meaning, logic necessitates it's outcome or truth. If what the theist means by "necessity" is really just suppositional necessity, then they are making a much weaker claim under the guise of a much stronger claim. I've argued this is deceptive, and is the lie at the heart of Thomism. He continues,

Hence, God’s necessity means primarily the necessity of his existence. As shown by St. Thomas above, that necessity also pertains to God’s willing his own goodness, since it is equivalent to his own being -- but it is not necessary for God to will things other than himself.5

But again, you can't define something into existence. Now I understand Bonnette is not making the case for god here and is instead responding to objections, and so he's starting from certain statements he thinks are already proven elsewhere. I just see monstrous flaws in those statements to the extent that they are in no way proven. If it is not necessary for god to will things other than himself, that means everything god does will that is not necessary must have a contingent explanation. The Thomist's own principle of sufficient reason demands it. Hence the dilemma in part 3.

Thus, when God chooses freely to create this world as opposed to any other, this choice does not make him to somehow become a “contingent” being. He is still the one and only Necessary Being, but he makes a free choice that in no way contradicts his existential necessity.

Nothing about the above is concluded from what came before it. God never "freely" chooses anything. And if we assume god does for the sake of argument, the reason why god chooses to create this world as opposed to any other must be due to contingent reasons. Since god's essence is his will, and his will to create specific lesser goods is contingent, god's essence is contingent. Hence, god is a contingent being that cannot be fully explained in principle by necessity. He continues,

Friday, November 9, 2018

Quote Of The Day: How to Convince Someone When Facts Fail


It's been a while since I've done a "Quote Of The Day" series on this site, probably because I've put blogging on the back end in recent months due to other projects taking precedent. As a result of course I just haven't been churning out posts as frequent as I used to, which used to be at least 2 per week. So I'm going to try to pepper the long periods in between the more detailed longer posts with shorter QOTD or random thoughts style posts, and hopefully that will remedy (at least a bit) the eerie silence.

Since this blog is mostly about making arguments that are designed to help convince people of various different views, I came across this article on Scientific American about how to convince people when facts fail. It has 6 steps to take:

If corrective facts only make matters worse, what can we do to convince people of the error of their beliefs? From my experience, 1 keep emotions out of the exchange, 2 discuss, don't attack (no ad hominem and no ad Hitlerum), 3 listen carefully and try to articulate the other position accurately, 4 show respect, 5 acknowledge that you understand why someone might hold that opinion, and 6 try to show how changing facts does not necessarily mean changing worldviews. These strategies may not always work to change people's minds, but now that the nation has just been put through a political fact-check wringer, they may help reduce unnecessary divisiveness.

I've violated all 6 numerous times. Guilty as charged.

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