Monday, March 09, 2009

Making Progress









% of Americans who said they have no religion:

1990- 8.2%
2001- 14.2%
2008- 15%

% Americans who call themselves Christians:

1990- 86%
2001- 77%
2008- 76%

Kind of plateaus in recent years, but huge shift from 1990.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Aaron,

This is a red herring.

More and more Americans have become "dechurched," which is to say, they lack a current affiliation to a religious institution. This is entirely different from the same Americans becoming atheists in ever greater numbers.

If the question were baldly asked, "Are you an atheist?" then we would get to the heart of the matter, and the answer would be a resounding, echoing, deafening: NO!

Yours.

Aaron said...

Where the hell is Pat?

upinVermont said...

Here I am.

I've been burning the pixels over at my other blog. Lately, I've managed almost 400 hits a day. All my poetry is on-line, etc...

Sorry I haven't been around.

Here are some more facts:

Of all the regions in the United States, New England has made the most progress in freeing itself from the grip of religion. Of all the states, Vermont is home to the most self-declared Atheists.

I tell you, Aaron, when the righteous retake the world, they will demonstrate God's love by killing us in Vermont, first.

upinVermont said...

Here's another thought, Aaron.

Think about closing this blog and transferring it to WordPress. I'd do it with you. If you really want to get some traffic, that's the place to go. The other cool thing about WordPress is that you can post images of almost any size, which means you can post your transcriptions. And you can post sound files.

Aaron said...

I will look into when I have a chance. For now, I am just glad that you are still alive. I didn't see any ghostly apparitions around trying to tap my shoulder, so I figured you must be still with us.

Congratulations for your blog's success.

Anonymous said...

Pat,

Where is your blog?

What does WordPress give you that generates more traffic than Blogger?

fkd up in Vermont: You're right. No one knows what (if anything) happens when we die. It's important to be hopeful, but to recognize that our lives matter. The endpoint of our human lives is biological death. It's what we do from here on out that matters.

How can we live our lives meaningfully, with passion, as the heroes of our own stories?

Another thing that we can't prove is that there isn't someone out there protecting us--a deity. However, it seems to me that we're essentially on our own, within whatever groups and communities we're part of.

If the existentialist position is essentially right, I think that love and gratitude and appreciation of others and civility and encouragement and setting goals about which one is passionate and working together with others to try to achieve them all count. They all matter--greatly. And saying, "I care about you"--and meaning it--matters all the more.

If this life is all that there is, let's at least have the decency to get to know each other well enough to find something to love in each other. If we get lucky, we'll find reciprocity, and adventure, maybe even mutually amplified joy in living.

We're alive. Our society battles death every day through medicine and basic research in biology, not to mention through numerous other endeavors. We truly are heroes for ever going to work in a cubicle somewhere all day, because the alternative can too often be to not get out of bed, do nothing at all, get old, and lament that life meant nothing.

I want life to mean something, and that demands of us that we find within ourselves the courage and the passion to create, wherever our natural talents point us.

Life is an adventure. To live meaningfully, we need to find a way to be the heroes of our lives.

Do you agree?

Steve

upinVermont said...

Pat,

Where is your blog?

http://poemshape.wordpress.com/

//What does WordPress give you that generates more traffic than Blogger? //

A built in BlogStat. It allows you to see *why* people are searching for your blog. That way you can tailor your labels and search term. You *can* do the same thing with blogger.com if you use third party software. What I don't like about that is that you make you blog somebody else's business. Also, WordPress seems much better at getting ones search terms out there.

Also, it has *much* better comment moderation and feedback options.

Lastly, it's just way more flexible in terms of what and how you can post.

I'd love to take our best posts, transfer them to WordPress, and start over. I think Aaron could get a lot more recognition for his top notch posts on his chiropractic experiences. He could also actually post his tablature on the blog.

Anonymous said...

Pat,

I agree. You should do it. We should also expunge the political posts, which add no value.

Steve
m

upinVermont said...

//You should do it. We should also expunge the political posts, which add no value.//

We?

I'll admit that your pursuit of Aaron via the comment section have all but made you a de facto blogger.

Politics are my version of baseball. I don't watch sports. I'm not into watching men or watching men play games - but I follow politics as if it *were* baseball.

Right now, the Republicans are up to their usual spin and sloganeering. I'd love to run a couple of posts on the subject. The fact that they can't make a single honest argument should tell people something. All they do is run around like chicken-littles crying socialism! socialism! socialism! They contribute nothing to the debate but the same talking points they themselves have ignored for the last thirty years.

I'm just waiting to here from Aaron. If he wants to switch to WordPress, I'm all for it. Just yesterday, someone requested his tabulator for the Bach Chaconne.

Aaron said...

I have no problem switching to wordpress. In fact, when I got ilife 09 recently I planned to use the website building feature to totally redo this blog, but I could not easily figure out how to publish it on blogger. Not sure if I can use those features on wordpress. I am just tired of the amazingly limited format and inefficient layout of this website. I will make sure that all 3 readers get the new address.

I don't really have time at the moment to mess with it. I have several other projects I am neglecting.

upinVermont said...

//ilife 09 recently I planned to use the website building feature to totally redo this blog, but I could not easily figure out how to publish it on blogger//

That's the one thing that is less flexible at WordPress.Com. One is very limited in the degree to which one can mess with the appearance of the blog. That said, they offer a variety of themes and some are more customizable than others.

For me, it's not a downside. I'd rather spend my time working on content than design. The upside is that there are a number of lovely built in features that blogger simply doesn't provide without all kinds of third party software - software that requires a lot of fiddle and faddle.

Anonymous said...

Pat,

I'm not a blogger, but a writer. My comments really are only comments. I will have my own "blog" in the future, but at the moment, I'm busy with other projects (as Aaron so mysteriously put it).

As a matter of personal preference, I'm opposed to "herd solutions" like Blogger, et al. I believe in individual excellence. Design matters. Content matters. All of it is vital.

On an unrelated but important note, I urge both of you (and the three readers, among which I cannot count myself--at least regularly) to start watching this:

www.academicearth.org

Yours.

Anonymous said...

Pat,

You once told me that in the aftermath of your NDE-like experience, you were prepared to--and did--believe every spiritual sounding statement that anyone made, and that this went on for a long time. Gradually, though, you became disillusioned and began to think critically. You nevertheless never lost faith in the utter veracity of your experience. Although it was a personal experience, forever beyond your ability to share with anyone else, you appear to be convinced to this day that as far as you are personally concerned, we are immortal, spiritual beings. There is life after death.

If I'm not misrepresenting your beliefs, I'd like to ask you a question. What do you make of individuals like Shelley Yates of www.firethegrid.org? Is there any way that we can distinguish between "true" spiritual experiences (if such an ontological category exists), and those that arise from hallucinations, twilight states of consciousness, and wishful (or magical) thinking?

I was just reading through the prophecies of Dannion Brinkley:

http://www.qsl.net/w5www/brinkley.html

Knowing what we know now, it's hard for anyone to suggest that the prophecies came anywhere near to occurring. There are many vague statements of wars and secret political pacts, but there simply isn't enough specificity here for the prophecies to be testable. One can read into them whatever one likes. Worst of all, one can say that the prophecies didn't occur as given because somehow, collectively, we chose an alternative trajectory through free will. But how could we have chosen anything if we didn't know what the problems or proposed solutions were?

I believe that Dannion Brinkley is sincere, but it's impossible to remove him from his context, to extricate biographical experiences from the contingencies of the historical period in which he lives, and its largely fixed stars, including our Western values, Christian-shaped beliefs about the existence of a soul, and so on. We also have a healthy thirst for entertainment, and he has a talent for delivering it. We want to see an illusion, and the magician is all too eager to please. In fact, both of us may have convinced ourselves that there's no illusion at all. What we're seeing is real.

It could be. He may indeed have "died" and gone to "heaven," and come back to tell us about it (several times). Books followed. They made him money, entertained us, and gave many desperately needed comfort.

Still, we grow old, become ill, and eventually die. For many, it happens prematurely. Children die of leukemia. Grandmothers die with dementia. Where, in this, is there room for a soul to hide?

I know that it bothers you that I seem as if I'm trying to shake you by the shoulders to somehow get you to produce definitive proof to allay my countless and boundless anxieties about illness and death, but I at least hope that you can understand the motive behind my actions: I'm scared.

I'm afraid that Camus could have been right. Two years ago, I was a youthful looking 37 year old who worked for a year at a particular company. Now, I'm a youthful looking 39 year old who has returned to the same company. I've seen in some cases drastic changes in the appearances of others I knew two years ago. Still others, much like me, haven't changed perceptibly. One woman whom I knew died between my two stints with the company.

Thanks to your genes, developmental history, and other fortuitous factors such as your successful marriage and happy children, with numerous novel experiences to be shared with them, you don't suffer from the same anxiety that I do. But that doesn't change the fact that I, and so many others, do suffer--deeply.

We look to you because we want to know the truth about existence. We seek it out. Yes, you say that you don't know; that despite your experience, it's a mystery. Still, your experience hints at the possibility that there is a mystery beyond what the scientists tell us is going on, namely that the mind arises from the brain and dies with it, period.

You haven't sensationalized your experience. You haven't written a book. You haven't even written about it extensively in e-mail. All we know is that something happened to you when you were a boy, and it may have altered the future course of your life permanently for the better. Is it wrong for the rest of us to seek such benefits out, without wanting to be close to death ourselves? (Of course, in your particular case, you weren't near death.)

You say that life is just what it is, but what, precisely, is that? And more importantly, Pat, what is death? That's a question that you cannot answer analogously. Life may be what it is, but death is, by virtue of your experience and beliefs about it, most definitely not what we--most of us--think.

In that case, what is it?

As I've said several times, Wittgenstein observed that whatever the purpose of life may be, we do not appear to be here in order to enjoy ourselves.

What do you make of that?

Steve

upinVermont said...

//Is there any way that we can distinguish between "true" spiritual experiences (if such an ontological category exists), and those that arise from hallucinations//

No. The real lesson is that you shouldn't be seeking spiritual confirmation through the experiences of others. You have to do it yourself. You are alone. Or, if that thought is too painful, pick a religion. That's what everybody else does.

//Of course, in your particular case, you weren't near death.//

I don't know that. I have an irregular heartbeat and I use to black out when I was younger - straight, cold, unconscious. My heart would simply stop for a second or two. This could have happened to me in my sleep. Fortunately, there's a record of my having visited the hospital for just this condition - Wheeling, West Virgina - when I was around 11 or 12.

Fortunately, I haven't had episodes like these for a while - which is a good thing if you're a carpenter standing on the peak of a roof.

//We look to you because we want to know the truth about existence.//

S-T-O-P. How don't know how else to say it? As far as LAD is concerned, nobody will ever prove anything to you.

//Life may be what it is, but death is, by virtue of your experience and beliefs about it, most definitely not what we--most of us--think.//

Probably the vast majority...

upinVermont said...

Post your name, Mike, or don't post.

Not only that; behave like an adult. If you have something to *add*, then add it, otherwise I will delete every single one of your posts.

Aaron said...

Mike, nice to see you have internet access in your bomb shelter. You may have time to post now and then between games of butt darts with Glenn Beck and those other brilliant populists who are proud of never going to college. Quite an honor to be among the proud and the few.

upinVermont said...

And again, Mike. Try again.