Silly, silly poll on religion
Writing about web page http://wid.ap.org/polls/050606religion.html
Most of this is stating the complete bleeding obvious. Of course the US is more religious than Canada and the UK and stuff. But some of the claims being made by the poll are pretty silly. And if you look carefully, you will find that the poll was in fact badly done.
The specifically dubious claim is that:
Nearly all U.S. respondents said faith is important to them, and only 2 per cent said they do not believe in God.
Now, let's dig up the actual results:
Now, they've all focused on that first single entry:
- I don't believe in God.
But check out some of the other entries:
- I don't know whether there is a God, and I don't believe there is a way to find out.
- I don't believe in a personal God, but I believe there is a higher power of some sort.
- Not sure.
By the definition of belief, all of the above in fact qualify as not believing in God. If you don't know whether X exists, obviously you don't believe in its existence. You just don't believe in it's non-existence either. And an impersonal God is indistinguishible from a natural law – many scientists, such as Einstein, believed for example in the universality of a natural order, and they don't believe in God. And if you are not sure what you believe in, how can you make the positive statement that you believe in God?
Here's the thing. Implicit in the question was the definition of 'not believing in God' as 'believing in the absence of God'. Now, this is an incredibly strong and irrational statement to make, and the vast majority of self-declared atheists would not agree with it. No scientist worth his/her salt would dare make such a statement.
That's why it is hugely misleading for the above ranters to treat this latest poll as proof of the end of secularism in the US, or whatever. Rest assured, fellow comrades, there is still some sanity in the old US of A.