Category Archives: Faith/Belief

Gallup survey finds religiosity highly correlated to poverty

Gallup survey finds religiosity highly correlated to poverty


We should be careful about drawing rash conclusions from the correlation between religiosity and societal breakdown

In the Guardian Susan Blackmore takes a look at new research by Gregory Paul that compares ‘popular religiosity’ for developed nations against the ‘successful societies scale’ (SSS) which includes such things such as homicides, the proportion of people incarcerated, infant mortality, sexually transmitted diseases, teenage births and abortions, corruption, income inequality, and many others.

She writes that we should be careful about drawing rash conclusions from the correlation between religiosity and societal breakdown

Holocaust Memorial Day – Primo Levi the unbeliever

Primo Levi (1919-1987) was one of the most famous Survivors of the Holocaust. Levi, born in Turin, Italy and trained as a chemist, was arrested during the as a member of the anti-Fascist resistance and deported to Auschwitz in 1944. His experience in the death camp and his subsequent travels through Eastern Europe were the subject of powerful memoirs, fiction and poetry.

Although he came from families who had been observant Jews up to a generation or so before, they were no longer so and Levi was a life-long atheist. His only recollection of ever having any religious feelings was a brief period when he studied for his bar mitzvah, and tried to seek contact with God, “but when he sought that contact, he’d found nothing. Continue reading

Holocaust Memorial Day – The exploitation of religion

Armaments Minster Albert Speer describes how Hitler considered the church as something “that could be useful to him” and “indispensable to political life”. (Speer 1970: p148 ) It appears he did not want the church replaced by any “party religion” and he was opposed to the alternative mysticism (that was popular amongst some Nazis) that might take its place. However the Christianity that Hitler wanted to preserve, was one that leant to adapt to the political goals of National Socialism” (p149).

Instead the Church tried to oppose his plans and the Nazi party and SS instructed his followers to leave the Church. But even then Hitler appeared to want to maintain some ties by ordering Goering and Goebels to remain, as he did himself until his death. Continue reading

Hope for non-believers – many American Christians believe atheists will get into heaven

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life carried out a survey of 3,000 Americans in 2008 about whether people thought beliefs other than their own can lead to ‘eternal life’.

The survey was designed as a follow-up to their 2007 Religious Landscape Survey which reported that 70 per cent Americans who claim a religious affiliation saying that many religions can lead to eternal life. (This earlier survey by the BBC found that 51 per cent of Americans agreed that ‘My God (Beliefs) is the only true God (Beliefs)’ compared with 31 per cent of people in the UK who agreed with the same statement)

The 2008 survey asked those who say many religions can lead to eternal life whether or not they think a series of specific religions (including Judaism, Islam and Hinduism) can lead to eternal life, as well as whether they thought atheists or people who have no religious faith can achieve eternal life.

The survey found that most American Christians are not thinking only of other Christian denominations when they say many religions can lead to eternal life – strong majorities believe that both Christian and non-Christian faiths can.

Although a majority who say that many religions can lead to eternal life believe that people with no religious faith also can achieve eternal salvation (56 per cent), far fewer (42 per cent) say this about atheists.

White evangelical Protestants are least likely to believe various non-Christian religions can lead to eternal life although the numbers are still significant – nearly three-quarters (72%) of evangelicals who say many religions can lead to salvation name at least one non-Christian faith that can do so.

Actions or beliefs?

Respondents expressed a variety of views on how people can achieve eternal life. When asked to describe in their own words what determines whether a person will attain eternal life, nearly 30 per cent said that a person’s actions are most important. 30 per cent said that belief is the key factor in achieving everlasting life. 10 per cent referred to a combination of belief and actions as necessary for eternal life, and almost as many (8 per cent) cite some other factor as most important. In addition, 14 per cent indicated they are unsure of what leads to eternal life, and another 7 per cent volunteer they do not believe in eternal life.

White evangelicals looked mainly to faith as the key to salvation, while white Catholics tend to look to actions.

Unsurprisingly those people who believed there were many ways to salvation were more likely to say actions are more important than beliefs.

The survey doesn’t appear to control for factors like ethnicity, age or religous practice though – it could for example be that White evangelicals are more narrowminded in their outlook because they are more devout rather than any core doctrinal reasons.

What do these results tells us? That there are huge numbers of people open to the idea that other beliefs (including non religious ones) are legitimate and valuable and that co-operation between different belief groups can be built on far more than a grudging pragmatism but on some form of real respect.

Also that the opportunities for co-operation are not equal and some religious groups will be more ammenable than others. But amenable there are and across all traditions offering hope that none of us are as feared, despised or condemned for our beliefs quite as much as louder voices might have us believe.

Religious leaders published by think tank

In December 2008 the Institute for Public policy Research published Faith in the Nation: Religion, identity andthe public realm in Britain today A collection of essays by the Archbishop of Westminster, the Chief Rabbi and other senior faith leaders ‘to express their views on Britishness, multiculturalism and the role of religion in the public realm.

The executive summary describes the document as ‘timely’

A growing sense of antagonism between some religious voices and a chorus of liberal secularists in the media and elsewhere is spilling over into political debate on such topics as faith schools and human embryology, and has arguably had a stunting impact upon our understanding of the place of faith in democratic society…. Continue reading

Obama, religion and civil society

Madeline Bunting discusses Obama’s religious faith in today’s Guardian in particular his understanding of religiously-motivated civic activism:

Obama’s faith cannot be explained away as political opportunism to meet the conventions of American politics. The conversion was well before a political career seemed possible; besides, his faith has dragged him into plenty of controversy during his campaign. Recently, liberal secular allies have been shocked by his decision not to dismantle, but to take over and expand, Bush’s controversial flagship policy of funding faith-based organisations to provide social services. Even worse, he has chosen the evangelical preacher Rick Warren (opposes gay marriage, anti-abortion but passionate on social justice and climate change) to deliver the prayer at the inauguration. The point is that Obama has not wavered in his passionate faith in the progressive potential of religious belief since he first encountered it in south Chicago in community organising. He was in his 20s, and for three years he was trained in a politics based on a set of principles developed by a Jewish criminologist and an ex-Jesuit with borrowings from German Protestant theologians.

Obama described these three years of community organising as the “best education I ever had”. Michelle says of her husband that “he is not first and foremost a politician. He’s a community activist exploring the viability of politics to make change.” Continue reading