November 25, 2008

Correlating politics to belief in God.



From the new blog Secular Right ... which John Derbyshire was promoting at The Corner:
I have got together with a handful of other conservative unbelievers and we have started a blog, Secular Right...

I'm blogging on the site as "Bradlaugh," in honor of my home town.
A welcome addition to the Blogroll. Note that they are unbelievers, not just people who favor the separation of religion and state.

"Conservative unbelievers" is a weird phrase, unintentionally suggesting a lack of belief in conservatism. Why not say conservative atheists?

IN THE COMMENTS: Some people hate that graph, and some see the face of Jesus in it. Graph that! DHP normalizes it:


Did you recognize that it needed normalizing?

Balfegor addressed the use of the word "unbeliever":
I think it's intended to be an ironic appropriation of a term used by believers to describe people who do not believe. See, e.g. this apparently unironical use of the term "unbeliever." (it's the first hit that comes up on Google). I'm actually a little surprised that the word is still current in its original non-ironic useage -- I thought it had fallen out of general use decades ago, along with "infidel," "heathen," and "pagan."

Anyhow, it's a jab -- or a stab, if you like -- but it's a jab back.
He adds this quote from Albrecht Durer:
O God please smite the unbelievers with your holy wrath. Make them as toads in the garden eating dirty flies. Let them pluck out their own eyes and cook them in a holy broth.
Sorry, Albrecht! We're going vegetarian this Thanksgiving. And we prefer renewable local foods.

AND: "I appreciate the 'annalanche' from putting up my normalized data, but it is dbp, not dhp. Just think, dustless black pepper." LOL. I'm glad someone remembers dustless black pepper. That epitomized an afternoon of office ennui.

49 comments:

Pastafarian said...

As a conservative atheist and former math major, I've got to say: This graphic is really horribly designed. Did they use Excel? What is it supposed to show, exactly?

Balfegor said...

It's awfully confusing, yes. What it's depicting though is the proportion of each category of belief falls at the various points along the political spectrum. I.e. if you follow the pale blue line, you see that few people who "know God exists" are extremely liberal, and few extremely conservative, but most fall in the middle, politically.

Which is true of all the groups. Because most people fall in the middle politically anyway.

New York said...

The title on that graphic is weird. People who believe in G-d don't talk about their "confidence level". Belief in G-d is a fundamental part of a basic outlook - like belief that life has a purpose or belief that life has no purpose.

Simon said...

"'Conservative unbelievers' is a weird phrase, unintentionally suggesting a lack of belief in conservatism. Why not say conservative atheists?"

Isn't the former a more inclusive term, encompassing not only conservative atheists but conservative agnostics? (Setting aside the argument that atheists aren't really "unbelievers" at all - they believe hard, just not in God.)

br549 said...

I don't believe in poorly made graphs.

Ann Althouse said...

Well, New York, those people are just the light blue line.

It takes a while to get used to that graph, and you have to realize that it's proportions, not numbers, so presumably a lot more people are represented by the light blue line than some of the other lines. Then, the only notable thing is the confirmation of what we already thought we knew (had some "confidence level" about).

Bissage said...

If you stare at that graph long enough you can see the acronym “INRI.”

chuck b. said...

I don't get the numbers, and the explanation at the link doesn't make sense either? What is a "proportion"? Is that like a percentage?

dbp said...

They should have normalized the graph by ideology and it would have been much more clear.

Also, I like conservative unbeliever. To me, atheist means that you "know" there is no God. Unbeliever means you just don't think there is one.

TosaGuy said...

The lines pattern each other quite well throughout the graph and on both sides of the spectrum. The most notable (and interesting) exception being the big spike in "Don't Believe" on the liberal side.

So does being a liberal make one prone not to believe or does not believing make one prone to be liberal?

tim maguire said...

I like that the graph looks kinda like a church steeple.

Sigivald said...

Yes, Edward Tufte would have a fit if he saw that graph.

And I'm sure it's "unbelievers" rather than "atheists" because they want to include those who merely don't believe (ie, including the unsure and rationally ignorant) rather than those who Are Sure God Doesn't Exist.

It also has the advantage of avoiding the association with The Annoying Evangelical Atheist stereotype.

(God knows I, as an atheist, wish never to be confused with the Annoying Evangelical Atheist.)

Methadras said...

Using the word unbeliever is essentially a direct stab at those that do believe. Conservative Atheist is more appropriate, but hey, they can call themselves whatever they want.

AlphaLiberal said...

Ummm....

a) "Secular" is not the same thing as "atheist".

b) Of all things that cannot be quantified, wouldn't spirituality top the list? That chart is wildly unrealistic.

AlphaLiberal said...

It's also funny that the charts make the moderates "holier than thou," left and right.

Simon said...

dbp said...
"To me, atheist means that you 'know' there is no God. Unbeliever means you just don't think there is one."

Or that you just don't know, which is the position I take to be held by most agnostics. I don't think that there is or isn't; I don't know, and that's a real problem for me. Atheists have this incredibly strong faith that mystifies me - I don't know how anyone can look around at the universe and conclude with total certainty that there is no God. That strikes me as the Everest of arrogance, and a position of extraordinary - unwarranted, even - faith.

garage mahal said...

And fundies don't bother you a bit Simon?

dbp said...

Here is a rush job normalization of their chart.

Balfegor said...

Using the word unbeliever is essentially a direct stab at those that do believe.

I think it's intended to be an ironic appropriation of a term used by believers to describe people who do not believe. See, e.g. this apparently unironical use of the term "unbeliever." (it's the first hit that comes up on Google). I'm actually a little surprised that the word is still current in its original non-ironic useage -- I thought it had fallen out of general use decades ago, along with "infidel," "heathen," and "pagan."

Anyhow, it's a jab -- or a stab, if you like -- but it's a jab back.

Balfegor said...

Here's a fantastic "unbelievers" quote. It's translated, obviously, but it sounds like a cartoon.

Andrew said...

this graph has to be a joke

traditionalguy said...

Bad news for the Liberal community. Now Annie Get Your Gun Coulter can write her caustic, but funny, factual shots against liberals in our current culture war battles. This trial lawyer trained attack machine can write a mean appeal brief too. But who could stand to live around that sharp a tongue all the time?

Geoff Matthews said...

I think that a stacked bar graph would have been a better choice here. Line graphs should never be used with categorical/nominal or ordinal data. The space in between the values mean nothing.

I'm surprised that Derbyshire lent his name to a graph like this. I cannot believe that he was responsible for it.

Original Mike said...

And I'm sure it's "unbelievers" rather than "atheists" because they want to include those who merely don't believe (ie, including the unsure and rationally ignorant) rather than those who Are Sure God Doesn't Exist.

As an "unbeliever", I am unwilling to cede the term atheist to those who "Are Sure God Doesn't Exist".

And, as others have already said, that graph is worthless.

Simon said...

Garage - some of them do, yes. Some atheists don't bother me. It's not a categorical rule, but it does seem to hold in the mine run of cases.

dbp said...

The chart is by "David Hume" and John D. as Bradlaugh is the first to criticize it.

Original Mike said...

Some atheists don't bother me.

Gee, thanks, Simon.

LarsPorsena said...

"If you stare at that graph long enough you can see the acronym “INRI.”"

So far, post of the week.
Point, Bissage.

Ann Althouse said...

DHP, I love the normalized graph, but is there any way to make it sharper looking. It's all fuzzy and small.

Ann Althouse said...

(No wisecracks, please.)

blake said...

No wisecracks?

[stuffs squirrel back in pants]

Yeah, I'm with Geoff. A line graph looks like something's moving in some direction. A bar graph would work better.

Interesting that the normalized graph looks almost like the opposite of the normalized-one.

Revenant said...

Or that you just don't know, which is the position I take to be held by most agnostics.

The word "agnostic" has been abused to the point where that's what most people think it means, yes. But technically it refers to the belief that it is impossible to know if gods exist. But the word is commonly used to refer to people who aren't sure if gods do or do not exist.

Definitionally speaking, everyone who doesn't hold a positive belief in the existence of one or more gods is an atheist, as atheism encompasses everything from a positive belief in the nonexistence of gods to a simple LACK of belief in the existence of gods. Agnostics are a subset of the latter sort of atheist.

But most people think you don't count as an atheist unless you're convinced there are no gods, so that's how I usually use the term.

Setting aside the argument that atheists aren't really "unbelievers" at all - they believe hard, just not in God.

I (and most positive atheists) "believe hard" in the sense that you "believe hard" that the world existed ten seconds ago and you weren't just now created from scratch with false memories of the past. It is the normal human belief that, barring evidence to the contrary, things really are as they seem. :)

dbp said...

I appreciate the "annalanche" from putting up my normalized data, but it is dbp, not dhp. Just think, dustless black pepper.

Original Mike said...

Personally, I see perfect symmetry between the positions "I KNOW that God does NOT exist" and "I KNOW that God DOES exist". Both seem silly. YMMV.

dbp said...

I fixed the chart by making the lines heavier.

Oligonicella said...

I don't believe in unicorns either, because no one has shown me sufficient evidence that they exist. I alone control the level of evidence that I consider sufficient.

This in no way means that I "believe" there are no gods, only that I am completely unconvinced of their existence, either real or theoretical. That's a nuance that many religious people have trouble understanding.

I am a-theist, without religion. It does not mean what most religious people think it does, opposition to those who believe. I really don't care what they believe as long as they extend me the same consideration.

Revenant said...

Mike,

Personally, I see perfect symmetry between the positions "I KNOW that God does NOT exist" and "I KNOW that God DOES exist". Both seem silly. YMMV.

The reason there isn't perfect symmetry is that most people who KNOW that God DOES exist *also* KNOW that no other gods exist. Christians, for example, believe (a) that their God exists and (b) that no other gods exist. Since the number of possible gods is infinite, this technically means that Christians and Atheists both believe in the nonexistence of the same number of deities. No Zeus, no Aphrodite, no Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc.

I also think it is a bit silly to equate firm belief in gods with firm belief in their nonexistence. Yes, technically speaking both beliefs are irrational inasmuch as neither can be definitely proven. But that's true for all sorts of beliefs. For example, you can't actually prove that George Bush exists. We could all be having a shared hallucination of his existence, or be under the effect of alien mind control rays, or all sorts of other possibilities. But do you really think a person who says "I'm absolutely convinced that George Bush exists" is as silly as a person who says "I'm absolutely convinced that George Bush doesn't exist"? Or if a person said he was convinced his wife was an alien, would that really be as silly as being convinced his wife was human?

Positive atheism is a belief in the nonexistence of something for which no objective evidence exists. That's exactly the sort of positive disbelief ALL humans have regarding all manner of things -- like illusionary Presidents and alien wives. It just seems weird because most people believe in gods.

blake said...

Christians, for example, believe (a) that their God exists and (b) that no other gods exist.

That's relatively recent.

The first Commandment, after all, was thou shalt not have OTHER Gods before me. Several mentioned by name in the OT.

blake said...

I (and most positive atheists) "believe hard" in the sense that you "believe hard" that the world existed ten seconds ago and you weren't just now created from scratch with false memories of the past. It is the normal human belief that, barring evidence to the contrary, things really are as they seem. :)

Things are really as you remember them, you mean.

If I remember debating the folly of the electorate in electing Taft over Bryan a hundred years ago as clearly as I remember breakfast, you'd probably demur. Especially if I said I was debating you.

Reality apparently overlaps democracy.

Original Mike said...

Positive atheism is a belief in the nonexistence of something for which no objective evidence exists.

Positive atheism. I like it. That describes my belief well. Is that your coinage, Rev?

I've been reading physics lately regarding entropy and the direction of time ("Time's Arrow"). Apparently, people actually debate the possibility that the universe popped into existence 10 secs ago. It "solves" a lot of problems. Not that anyone actually believes it.

Donn said...

Positive atheism. I like it. That describes my belief well. Is that your coinage, Rev?

I think the term was coined by philosopher Michael Martin.

Beth said...

There's an Albrecht Durer exhibit at the Mobile Museum of Art right now and I hope to get up there to see it over my Christmas holiday. Mobile has a nice oyster house, too. No vegetarian holiday for me.

When I was six, my family was stationed on a U.S. Army base in Germany. The German piano tutor my parents hired gifted me with a Durer print of Saint Peter, locking the Devil up, to reward my first achievements on the keyboard. What a grim gift for a little child! But I still have it.

Joe said...

Blake, you misunderstand the first commandment. It was given in the context of idolotry in the broadest sense; that is worshiping anything to the point where it takes higher priority than the law of God.

It is made very clear that these other gods aren't real, making the worship of them all the more insidious. With the Zoroastrian influence, the believe in Satan arose and the false gods became deceptions, or manifestations, of Satan.

Nevertheless, it is quite accurate to state that most Christians, Jews and Muslims all hold that there is but one God. (Mormons hold that there is one God who is worshiped, but that the ultimate goal of salvation is to become companions of that God, rather than minions, though all salvation theology still tends to sound rather sycophantic to me. I'm not sure why anyone wants to hang around with a dude with such a big ego for eternity.)

Joe said...

Don't forget all us apatheists; my definition of which is that we believe you can't prove God exists or not and it doesn't matter even if you could.

blake said...

Joe,

I don't get that impression at all from reading the OT. Or the history of the time. Unless you want to start splitting hairs about what constitutes a god. Exodus strikes me as being about proving who The God is. But I haven't read it in the original, so perhaps the many references to "highest" and "foreign" and "other" are not meant to imply that they exist.

I dunno, the whole thing (Pentateuch) makes more sense as an explanation for the Hebrews. Then we don't have to wonder where Cain's wife came from, etc....

True dat about Zoroastrianism, though and today's big deity becoming tomorrows face-of-Satan.

dbp said...

I am right with you there Joe.

Revenant said...

That's relatively recent. The first Commandment, after all, was thou shalt not have OTHER Gods before me. Several mentioned by name in the OT.

There's some pretty interesting evidence that Jews used to believe in the existence of multiple gods, but my understanding is that by the time Christianity split off from Judaism, the belief that other gods existed (and just shouldn't be worshiped) was considered blasphemous and heretical by the Jews. In any case, Christians themselves have never believed in the existence of gods other than the one they worship.

Cedarford said...

Pastafarian said...
As a conservative atheist and former math major, I've got to say: This graphic is really horribly designed. Did they use Excel? What is it supposed to show, exactly?


I found it confusing, too. If all groups were equal in number of people, then the wide divergence of the true believers and the atheists on the graph in their extreme liberal or extreme conservative beliefs would have great consequence for the "areas" under the lines.

Unfortunately, the graph is not "normed" for population size.

Still, it gives you an idea why, to the detriment of both Democrats and Republicans, extreme liberals tend to be hostile to Religion, and we all know the foibles of the Religious Right.

rcocean said...

Can we see a graph of the correlation between Atheism and being autistic - I think the R2 is very high.