Southern Religion

Does ARIS data show an atheist revival?

Pastordan at the Street Prophets blog says “I sincerely doubt” the absolute number of atheists counted by the latest American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) is soaring.

We will find out when it is released on March 8. Meanwhile, although free-thinker-inclined Epiphenon uses some data that leaked out to make a different case, pastordan says:

What seems more likely is that “weak” Christians – those who are not affiliated very tightly if at all – feel more comfortable identifying as such. That’s the number that’s doubled since ’91.


It is interesting that the rate of growth in self-disaffiliations, skeptcisim or whatever mixture of sentiments it is, has slowed. Yet the percent who self-identify as atheists or agnostics has grown dramatically.

All of which typically has no simple, synoptic demographic meaning. The data, like the human behavior it attempts to measure, is always complex and messy. But since ’91 it hasn’t indicated a revival, of any kind.

More like a slow falling away and acceptance of the attendant labels.

March 2, 2009 Posted by | Religion, Science | , , , | Comments Off on Does ARIS data show an atheist revival?

Anonymous blogging’s confrontations with power are fraught with risk

Anonymous blogs are one answer the relatively powerless have when speaking what they believe is truth, to power.

Power is typically governmental. So it was when the help of the Electronic Frontier Foundation was required to help an anonymous New Jersey blogger, “datruthsquad,” face down the township of Manalapan when it sought to unmask him in 2007.


Sometimes power is corporate. The corporation may be, as we see in the confrontation between First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Fla. and FBC Jax Watchdog, a church. In every case, some risk attends attempting to say to power things it would prefer not to hear.

As gwfrink3 documents, not all serious, careful bloggers who come under direct fire from the powerful emerge from it in good condition. That’s why it is important for anonymous bloggers to attend to the technical details of their anonymity.

With or without the cloak of anonymity, some fear of retribution, not always legal retribution or even retribution for a real offense, is legitimate. Kathy Sierra and others were simply fallen upon by evil doers [login required].

The nature of the modern blogging landscape suggests that FBC Jax Watchdog is exercising due caution, as explained by Wade Burleson in a blog which relates an interview with Watchdog:

The Watchdog has not gone public with his name, receiving a great deal of criticism for blogging anonymously, but explained to me he remained anonymous out of fear of retribution from powerful civic leaders who are members of the church and could intentional[ly] seek to ruin his name and business. He told me his compelling story, details of which are startling, because he said he trusted me.

Matters may not go that far, but thinking ahead and guarding against any number of possible unfortunate possibilities is simply due caution.

Before taking a single step down that path, read the legal guide[s]. Read and apply the technical guide. Make sure it’s worth the risk.

March 2, 2009 Posted by | Churches, WWW | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

SSPX is not rushing to the reconciliation offered by Pope Benedict XVI

Debate over church statistics and assignment of theological blame, is not unique to the Southern Baptist Convention, as we may see from the Vatican statistical yearbook delivered to the Pope last week. It says, reports BBC, “that the number of priests has increased by several hundred each year since 2000, after two decades of decline.” And the “percentage of Catholics worldwide remains stable, at about 17.3% of the global population.”

Turnaround accomplished, it seems.

Today Bishop Bernard Fellay of the rightist Society of Saint Pius X employed undocumented statistics to explain why SSPX, which he heads, is not ready to meet the Feb. 4 Vatican requirement that “a full recognition of the Second Vatican Council and the Magisterium of Popes John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II and Benedict XVI himself is an indispensable condition for any future recognition of the Society of Saint Pius X.”

In an interview with a Swiss newspaper he said:

The aftermath of the [Second Vatican] Council has been to empty seminaries, nunneries and churches. Thousands of priests have left their orders and millions of faithful have stopped being practicing Catholics and have joined sects. If these are the fruits of the Council, they’re strange indeed.

You may recall that Pope Benedict XVI lifted the excommunications of Bishop Fellay and three other bishops, who were ordained against papal orders in 1988, as a step toward dialogue and reconciliation. One of the four is Holocaust-denying Bishop Richard Williamson, whose disingenuous apology and failure to recant was well-rejected by the Vatican last week.

Williamson wants more time to consider whether the Holocaust occurred and Fellay says that if the Vatican requirement is met, it will be the after “doctrinal discussions” with his society. As if the Holocaust were really in doubt and rollback of Vatican II were actually on the block.

We wonder if there is a decidedly unhopeful SSPX pattern here?

March 2, 2009 Posted by | anti-Semitism, Catholic, Pope Benedict XVI, Shoa | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Firestorm on the way to a more responsible ‘conscience’ rule

Friday’s Obama administration move toward rescinding Bush’s hastily implemented, two-month-old health workers’ “conscience” rule released a burst of outrage from social conservatives. To wit, the Washington Post reported:

“This is going to be a political hit for the administration,” said Joel Hunter, senior pastor of the Northland Church in Longwood, Fla., whom Obama recently named to his Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. “This will be one of those things that kind of says, ‘I knew it. They talk about common ground, but really what they want is their own way.’ “

Yet the rule has already had untoward consequences for patients:

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology has reported cases such as that of a Virginia mother of two who became pregnant because she was denied emergency contraception. In Texas, the group said, a rape victim had her prescription for emergency contraception rejected by a pharmacist.

Seven states — Illinois, and . California, Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island — as well as Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Assn., have filed suits challenging the Bush rule. They argue that the rule is unconstitutional and seek a permanent injunction barring its enforcement.

Friday’s action begins a 30-day comment period which prefaces a rule change of the sort proposed. That comment period was not properly observed in the rush to implement the flawed, disruptive Bush administration rule.

Clarification of the vague, overly broad rule which resulted from the outgoing Bush administration rush to implement is in any case a requirement of responsible government. Not an abandoment of “common ground.”

March 2, 2009 Posted by | Cultural, Law, Religion | Comments Off on Firestorm on the way to a more responsible ‘conscience’ rule