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The American Caliban

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Reading Is Ephemeral [Jul. 30th, 2003|12:41 am]
The American Caliban
In American middle-class society, there's a list of things that are valued in the abstract and ignored in practice. Let's call them Institutional Hypocrises. Most of these totems are foisted off on children, including religion, the environment, and good nutrition. Adults avoid their churches, pollute, and eat chee-tos. Children are expected to go to Sunday School, take part in ecological cleanups, and eat "right".

To this list we should probably now add literacy. My library employee friends locally tell me that the library is now a Blockbuster mostly. People check out videos like crazy, and the books gather dust, except for the childrens books which are constantly in demand.

So now that I am a man, I suppose I should put away childish things and stop honoring my God, stop recycling, eat more chocolate pudding and less bran, and watch "Elimidate" instead of re-reading Joyce. I'm such an immature disaster.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: chaptal
2003-07-30 03:37 am (UTC)
And too many are incapable of returning their movies on time then bitch about the fines.

The children's book is either Harry Potter or nothing at all.

Yeah, I'm bitter,
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[User Picture]From: nuns
2003-07-30 03:48 am (UTC)
Do you live on/near one or the other coast? I think you're spot on about the literacy, but my impression is that religion is actually pretty prominent in the middle of the country. I wonder whether the prominent atheism among people I encounter is because I encounter people in places that attract atheists (like Boston -- haha...). Seriously, though, I suspect there are lots more serious church-goers (proportionally of course, since a different population size means a different absolute number is less interesting) in, say, the bible belt than here in MA or in CA either.
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[User Picture]From: scromp
2003-07-30 07:02 am (UTC)
I think you'd be surprised. I would expect Boston to especially tip the scales pro-church, being the bastion of Catholicism in the New World as it is.

A 1998 study suggesting a lot of people have begun lying about going to church, keeping the churchie numbers artificially inflated.

An article discussing the nationwide drop in religion which has a nice clickable flash map laying out religious sects on a state by state basis. Compare MA to KY, for instance. It also makes the following observation: "The six states with the highest percentage of people saying they have no religion are all Western states, with the exception of Vermont at 22%."

I gave up trying to find a state-by-state map of actual attendance rates, but that would be cool to see.

And in my case at least, I deny substitute's charge of hypocrisy. I never bought in to begin with. :)
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[User Picture]From: nuns
2003-07-30 07:44 am (UTC)
> I would expect Boston to especially tip
> the scales pro-church, being the bastion
> of Catholicism in the New World as it is.

I'm pretty sure Quebec might have the better claim to being "the bastion of Catholicism in the New World." ;-)

Either way, Boston is also where American Objectivism is centered, not to mention being next door to Cambridge, which houses MIT and Harvard. Boston itself is home to numerous other colleges and universities (some of them Catholic, but none that make that a prerequisite for admission or graduation). I'd like to see some numbers correlating higher education to religious practice.

Boston is also the home of the Dianetics/Scientology headquarters. Does Scientology count as "religious" in the same way as say Southern Baptism?

Speaking of Southern Baptism, I suspect that Boston Catholics number far fewer (in absolute terms and proportionally) than Southern Baptists, and LOTS of Southern Baptists live non-coastally. Catholics are a US minority.

> A 1998 study suggesting a lot of people have begun
> lying about going to church, keeping the churchie
> numbers artificially inflated.

Which suggests the increasing social and political influence of the religious right-wing -- people are starting to believe Uncle George when he tells them that America is a Christian Nation (TM) and implies that being religious is integral to being patriotic. Who likes him best? Not Boston.

> An article discussing the nationwide drop in
> religion which has a nice clickable flash map
> laying out religious sects on a state by state
> basis. Compare MA to KY, for instance.

This is not a meaningful comparison given the context of my post. What we need to do is consider the percentage of coastal population that are religious to the percentage of non-coastal people that are religious. Massachusetts to Kentucky is not a representative sample.

> It also makes the following observation: "The six
> states with the highest percentage of people saying
> they have no religion are all Western states, with the
> exception of Vermont at 22%."

Um, this supports my theory. Western and Eastern, not Middle.
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[User Picture]From: chaptal
2003-07-30 09:24 am (UTC)
Boston is the home base of Christian Science.
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[User Picture]From: nuns
2003-07-30 10:56 am (UTC)
While this is certainly true, I can't help but think that Christian Science isn't going to sway the percentages very much... ;-)

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[User Picture]From: scromp
2003-07-30 10:33 am (UTC)
First I should state that some of my reply was mixed in support of substitute's allegations about people claiming to be religious, but not actually walking the walk. I wasn't so much trying to "prove you wrong" as raise some doubts about your apparent certainties about us here in "flyover country." I keep seeing so much "coasts vs the middle" talk here that it gets depressing.. It's not nearly as black and white as it's made out to be.

As far as the MA vs KY comparison went, no, it's not statistically relevant in regards to the entire country, that data's going to be hard to come by and I just don't care enough to find out; but I will note that MA has twice as many people as KY, and if 44% of them self-ID as Catholics, it's already almost double the entire population of religious people in KY put together. Does that map to the entire regions? Who knows.

And I wish they'd been more explicit about what a "western" state was. Colorado is both western and middle, in my view, and California only gets one slot.

Scientology is a dangerous cult. So's Christian Science. :)

Anyway, I wasn't trying to pick a fight. It was more of a reflexive "Oh not not Boston again. Didn't we just go through this?" Sometimes my friends page just melds together into one big mess in my head. :-)

I honestly think it comes down to at most 10-15% difference that ranges all over the place no matter where you go, and that's true of politics, literacy, religion, employment rates, riceboys and meth production.

If there's anything I hope we can all agree on in the future it's that we need a lot more "blue states" next time around.
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[User Picture]From: nuns
2003-07-30 10:55 am (UTC)
Oh -- I knew you weren't picking a fight. I actually spent a bunch of time trying to make my response less contentious while still pointing out the discrepancy I perceived between what I actually said and what you interpreted me to have said.

That confusing disclaimer out of the way, I've been crunching some numbers and here are the results.

In general, the Central parts of the country are more religious. But the difference is not as large as I had suggested. Depending on what states count as Central and what count as Coastal, it seems to be between in the 1%-2% range. Texas is the swing state.

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[User Picture]From: scromp
2003-07-30 11:07 am (UTC)
Interesting! While I was certainly pushing the notion that it wasn't all that different, I nevertheless would have expected a bigger percentage than that myself.

Thanks for taking the time to do the math.
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[User Picture]From: nuns
2003-07-30 11:38 am (UTC)
    Oh! Glad to do it -- it was actually kinda fun, and anything is better than reading for my PhD exams. So far today I have not read the Lais of Marie de France.

    I think the states that threw me off were Georgia and the Carolinas. While these states are undeniably on the east coast, they nevertheless seem culturally very different from say the New England states.

    I imagine that a comparison of the actual west coast states (CA, OR, WA, and possibly TX), New England, and the TriState (NY, NJ, and PA?) to the hard core midwest and the deep south would yield very different results.

    On the other hand:

    1. The Central region includes 7 states with 10% or fewer atheists, while the Coastal region includes only 2.
    2. Depending where you count WY and CO, the Coastal region includes 4-6 states with 20% or higher atheists, while the Central region includes at most 2.

    Perhaps the extremes of atheism being dominantly located at the coasts while the extremes of religion are located dominantly in the center creates the illusion of a wider-than-actual gap by failing to consider the gigantic number of states with an "average" number of atheists (11%-19%), which are scattered much more evenly (19 states on the coasts and 15 in the center).

    Also, of course, Hawaii and Alaska are not represented in the religion survey -- these would both be coastal, right? I wonder how they would modify the numbers.

    In the end, probably the mental comparison I was doing (which led me to expect a much wider difference) was Urban versus Suburban/Rural areas -- I suspect that I associate big cities with the coasts, which is obviously silly.


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[User Picture]From: substitute
2003-07-30 12:16 pm (UTC)
When did I charge you with hypocrisy? Stop being so Usenet!
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[User Picture]From: scromp
2003-07-30 12:23 pm (UTC)
brownshirt.
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[User Picture]From: substitute
2003-07-30 12:30 pm (UTC)

T SCROMP GODWIN GONG

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[User Picture]From: substitute
2003-07-30 12:19 pm (UTC)
It's not that people say "I don't believe in God" or don't go to church. I'm talking about good old American practical atheism, where you call yourself Christian, say you believe in God, and send the kids to Sunday school while you drink in front of the TV. I didn't mean to get into a demographic thing, which is pretty pointless to my argument anyway since these people lie to demographers too.
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[User Picture]From: thiscantbesoy
2003-07-30 12:13 pm (UTC)
Parents force those things on their kids because parents know better, and because parents only want the best for their kids. We "make" them do what we know is right, but what we lack the discipline to do for ourselves. To talk about God with your kids, to help them keep the world cleaner, and to force-feed them green beans only makes them healthier while we still have some control over their lives.
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[User Picture]From: substitute
2003-07-30 12:17 pm (UTC)
I just don't think it takes very well when Daddy is slumped over football at home and Junior has to go to Sunday School "because it's good for you".
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[User Picture]From: thiscantbesoy
2003-07-30 12:29 pm (UTC)
Not often, but I think it can. My mom was always slumped over her pillow, asleep, and I'd be begging her to get up and take me to Sunday School.
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[User Picture]From: thiscantbesoy
2003-07-30 12:13 pm (UTC)
But life isn't worth living without watching ElimiDate. The end.
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From: 400anvils
2003-07-30 01:08 pm (UTC)

KABONG

CHEE-TOS?! WHO EATS CHEE-TOS? EVERYONE KNOWS THAT DORITOS RULES! AND I AM NOT A HYPOCRITE FOR EATING THEM!!!
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[User Picture]From: lostcosmonaut
2003-07-30 01:54 pm (UTC)

alignment of stars planets other heavenly bodies

ha I just noticed that our journal entries of today have similar themes. I swear even though mine came after yrs it was an accident.--mza.
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[User Picture]From: flipzagging
2003-07-30 03:43 pm (UTC)
It always amuses me that porn is called "adult entertainment". I have no problem with people consuming it (mostly) but truth-in-labelling would require "middle-school entertainment" or "hindbrain entertainment".

Somewhere during my lifetime, people stopped growing up. Nowadays, adulthood just means being freed from all responsibility.
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[User Picture]From: frobisher
2003-07-31 10:37 am (UTC)
For god's sake, man, don't buy into that "growing up" nonsense!
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