Reason Freely

Robert Putnam on Religion in America

Posted in Uncategorized by reasonfreely on December 23, 2010

Listen to this interview

Robert Putnam co-wrote a new book on religion in America called American Grace.  In the interview linked above, he talks a lot about the Nones.

Good news all over the place.  For instance, over 80% of Americans believe that there is truth in most religions, per a survey question that also gave the option to respond that their religion was the only one that’s right.

Is this some form of Pascal’s Wager (what if I dis the wrong religion) or is it something deeper — growing reason?  The belief that what you were told is right and what others were told is wrong is a deep acceptance of an argument from authority.  The belief that everyone is basically right about most things, despite the fact that most religious dogma disagrees, is thinking for yourself.

Thoughts?  Feel free to listen to the interview and comment on Kojo’s site instead.  Just link me to your comment so I can read your insights 🙂

 

(And…  Yes, I know it’s been a while since my last post.)

 

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Atheists know what they’re talking about

Posted in news by reasonfreely on September 29, 2010

…but “nones” don’t.  This is according to a new Pew study on religious knowledge.

The exercise of reason requires unbiased, factual information; so it’s no surprise that atheists are the most knowledgable.  Those who care to reject religion in favor of rational secular ethics have typically studied it before they made that decision.  So, as the LA Times points out,

American atheists and agnostics tend to be people who grew up in a religious tradition and consciously gave it up, often after a great deal of reflection and study, said Alan Cooperman, associate director for research at the Pew Forum.

“These are people who thought a lot about religion,” he said. “They’re not indifferent. They care about it.”

What interests me is that the “nones” have some of the lowest religious knowledge, lower than white mainline protestants, even.  Given what the LA times said about atheists, this implies that the “nones” are people who don’t think a lot about religion and don’t care about it.  And that’s OK, too; while it’s always better to think hard about your ethics, if you’re going to make a decision without engaging in a lot of reason and analysis, it’s better to disbelieve passively than to believe passively.

Other sources:  Times, NPR

Follow-Up: 20-something “nones” getting married by friends

Posted in discussion seed, news by reasonfreely on June 29, 2010

Remember the article about college students being more nonreligious this year?  Well other 20-somethings are eschewing the clergy in their own way.  Just like the college kids are getting more secular, weddings are starting to eschew traditional authority:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126426016

Here at Reason Freely, we love breaking from tradition and traditional authority.  That’s what it’s all about here.  So I love hearing stories like this.  I’m not cheering the demise of the ministry’s role in marriages so much as cheering the increasing freedom within which people are choosing their officiants.

I think religious officiants and settings do a great job of adding a sense of ancient austerity to a ceremony, but I like the idea of choosing a personal friend or family member to officiate, as well.  Instead of choosing from a list of approved religious passages, the friend can personalize the ceremony a lot better, based on shared experiences and intimate knowledge of the couple.

Let’s discuss factors that contribute to these numbers.  Here are my first-blush thoughts:

– There are more nonbelievers.  Recall from a previous post, 21.9% of college freshmen are “nones.”  And ARIS says 16.1% of the US are nones.  1/7 is 14.3%, so some of the nones are still getting married with pastoral officiants:  In some cases, nones are marrying people of faith, and acquiescing to a religious marriage out of respect (myself, for instance).

– Probably more licensed officiants are “nones” now.  Thank you Universal Life Church.

– Keep in mind, just because a friend is officiating doesn’t mean the couple or the officiant aren’t deeply religious.  However, it means that the couple and the friend are willing to break from traditional religious authority and custom.  That, alone, demonstrates free thought.  As I’ve said over and over again, I’m not against religion; I’m for free thought.

– There are more mixed marriages, with denomination meaning less and less and tolerant denominations (methodism, unitarianisn) growing in popularity (no source right now, sorry).  If you’re going to argue whether his or her pastor should officiate, and if you’re already marrying a heathen anyway (depending on the tolerance level of your denomination); why not do away with argument and let your best friend officiate?

– Community no longer means the people you go to church with.  Modern technology keeps you in touch with friends in ways you couldn’t before.  Now your friends are your community, even if they’re spread over a 500-mile+ diaspora.

– Weddings are getting expensive and heinously over-planned as expressions of self-identity and personal/family pecuniary might.  If your wedding becomes more of a personal expression than a religious sacrament, it makes sense to personalize the officiant, too.  Especially if you’re not as socially bound to your preacher.

Did anyone out there consider a friend for an officiant?  Anyone have a friend officiate?  If so, please comment with your reasons and thoughts.  I’d love to hear them!

News: Secular Coalition of America meets Obama Staff

Posted in news by reasonfreely on March 1, 2010

Quick news notes on Freethinkers in the White House last week:

The Secular Coalition of America — a mix of humanists (including a secular Jewish organization) and atheists (including the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers) — met with senior White House staff to discuss three topics:  Child medical neglect, military proselytizing, and faith-based initiatives.

Story at USA Today

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Review: The Wine Trials 2010

Posted in review by reasonfreely on February 10, 2010

Take hundreds of wines that are commonly available nationwide, varying in price from $3-150.  Randomly pick a few at a time, staying within a major flavor category (e.g. heavy new world red).  Put them in brown bags and number them.  Have groups of people taste rank sets of wine, blind.  Repeat until thousands of people have tasted hundreds of wines.  Look at the results, creating a ordinal-ranked ladder.   That should give you an objective measure of wine quality.

Robin Goldstein and Alexis Herschkowitsch did just that in The Wine Trials 2010, and to ice the cake, they gave us a list of the blind tasters’ top 150 wines for $15 and under.  Their shocking finding was that those “under $15” wines were the category winners.

The recommendations list is appropriately humble, and what I’ve tasted from their list (only 4 of the wines) everything has been good.  As a list to guide your everyday wine purchases, it’s worth the cover price.

But as a piece of skeptical inquiry that exposes wine rating, wine pricing and wine judging as biased and unreliable, well, it’s pretty… acerbic.

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