About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

How Americans see themselves: faith doesn't square with reality...

A whopping 60% of Americans think of themselves as “committed Christians,” the majority as either “born again” or evangelical, according to a recent survey by the Barna Group of Ventura, CA (a Christian organization). No big surprise there. But other results from the same survey are in fact rather unexpected and, in my view, more reassuring.

Let me start with the contrast with self-described atheists: interestingly, only 29% of born agains and 20% of evangelicals consider themselves social activists, while a whopping 42% of atheists do. Nothing like being a real (as opposed to self-deluded) threatened minority to get your ass into gear! Of course, atheists declared themselves to be less clear about their purpose in life, and less at peace with themselves, than committed Christians, but I think this is good: purpose is a matter of search, not a given from a higher authority, and if one is too easily at piece with himself one is probably falling for one or another of the many simplistic delusions made available by a variety of ideological systems currently on the market (mostly, but not exclusively, religious).

What I thought was most illuminating – and positive – about the survey was the difference between committed Christians and others in their life styles and non-explicitly religious views. Or I should rather say the lack of difference! It is a no brainer that born agains would think of themselves as separate from even other religious people when it comes to religious matters (e.g., 98% of them feel “accepted by God,” in contrast to 79% in the general religious population – atheists don't count here...). But it is a bit surprising that born agains do not differ significantly from others on 20 of 26 other dimensions examined by the survey, including questions pertinent to self-perception, worldview, attitudes, and life style. Perhaps even more surprisingly, only 58% of born agains are “very convinced” of being right about things in life. While this is more than the non-born agains (47%), perhaps it leaves enough room for some much-needed change at the ballot boxes during the next two elections...


  1. I've noted many times that if the claims of Christianity were true, Christians should be a whole lot better than everyone else, in every way! After all, they are the ones that are supposed to have the 'fruit of the Spirit.' Kindness, pacience, self-control and all that are supposed to be the gifts of the Holy Spirit to believers. So why do Christians on the whole show no more of these qualities than the general population?


  2. According to adherents.org (or .net) there are more than a billion secular/humanist/ atheist/agnostics worldwide.

  3. Christians are supposed to be all those things.. but we're human and NOT perfect. Christian does not equal perfection. The difference is that we're all forgiven of our sins, so we know that.

  4. Sam,

    you "know" that? How can you possibly know? Knowledge is based on evidence, not faith.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.