Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

UConn's Maya Moore in action

The perks of being a UConn BB fan...

Monday, December 28, 2009

The most difficult part of being a Christian academic

Christmas is a funny time of year for me because in December I am going full speed with work, finishing finals and for some reason I invariably a research deadline that I'm racing against, and then suddenly, I stop everything to spend whole days with my family.

This points to what I think is the most difficult aspect of being a Christian academic.

It's not the goofy, sometimes mean-spirited, almost always trivial politics in a university. They are annoying, but with time I'm learning to ignore them.

It's not the antagonism toward Christian that permeates interactions regarding religion. Yes, it exists, but we have so many freedoms in this country that it doesn't cause too many problems (though it can be pretty frustrating).

No, for me the most difficult part of academics is the flip side of what I enjoy the most--research. When I am focused on research, I charge off into the land of ideas and data and manuscripts, and, frankly, I usually don't want to be bothered by people-at least most people, some friends and family are always welcome. I keep my door shut, I try to minimize conversations with others, and I'm happy not to be disturbed by others. All too often, I carry this attitude home after work, so that I when I'm with my family, part of me wants to sneak off and read and write.

Here's why I frame this as a problem for me as a Christian--Christianity, as I understand it--is other-focused. That we interact with others, and how we do so, is of vital, even eternal, importance, and so my putting other things before that just doesn't work. In fact, the Bible and church history are full of stories of people doing thing even more important that sociological research and still giving their full attention to others.

With Christmas, I take a week off from my job, and I have more energy and interest for others, and this contrasts with the regular semester.

I'm unsure of how to develop more of an other-focus for the regular semester, but it, perhaps more than squeezing out one more publication, is important for me.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dilbert and Christmas

This comic strip gets at some of my attitude toward the holidays...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Finally, a political protest that we can all support

Sociologists often fashion themselves as on the cutting edge of protest (though many of us are tenured state employees). Since there are so many possible causes to join, and you know, signs can get expensive, I think that I'll whip up a sign like this one and keep it around for whatever occasion.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Golden Lamp Church

Earlier this month, a large Christian Church was assaulted and shut down by local police...

"Hundreds of police and hired thugs descended on the mega-church, smashing doors and windows, seizing Bibles and sending dozens of worshippers to hospitals with serious injuries, members and activists say.

Today, the church's co-pastors are in jail. The gates to the church complex in the northern province of Shanxi are locked and a police armored personnel vehicle sits outside."

On Monday I posted about Time Magazine's criticism of Rick Warren for not addressing the human rights situation in Uganda quickly enough. I can only assume that they will likewise criticize prominent atheist figures for not criticizing China's officially atheist government for its actions. Why, I'll bet that Time Magazine will prominently denounce it themselves.

... just kidding

Monday, December 21, 2009

Time Magazine's take on Rick Warren

Last week, well-known Evangelical pastor Rick Warren denounced the new anti-gay law put into place in Uganda. He told pastors in Uganda pastors that the bill was "unjust, extreme and un-Christian toward homosexuals."

Now, if you were to write an article about this for a major media outlet, say Time magazine, how would you frame it? Perhaps applaud him for taking a strong moral stance? Chuckle, chuckle... there's no story in that. Instead, the Time Magazine article focused on criticizing Warren for not having done so soon enough. The article claims, without attribution, "that Warren was castigated for not denouncing the proposed law" when it was first put into place.

Now, I realize that Warren plays a prominent role in American Evangelicalism, but criticize him for not immediately commenting on other countries' domestic policy seems a bit far-fetched. Has he become the State Department? If he in fact started becoming heavily involved in other countries' law-making process, then there would probably be a story about him being too involved.

Remind me not to become a famous Evangelical pastor--too much bad press.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Technology run amok

I don't know if I'm ready for how much technology has entered in our life.

Last week it snowed, and my oldest son, Gus, woke up at 6 am and wanted to know if there was a snow day. He checked Facebook on his iPod Touch, and saw my status, posted 30 minutes earlier, that there was a snow day. So, he rolled over and went back to sleep.

Maybe someday we can parent without actually ever talking to our kids?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Non-overlapping magisteria

Last Thursday I posted some thoughts about science and religion, and several people contacted me saying that there were good ideas there. When this happens, it often means that someone else has already said it and said it better. Nick, in a comment, pointed me to the idea of Non-overlapping magisteria, and rather than try to explain it myself, I'll just give an extract from Wikipedia:

"Non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) is the view advocated by Stephen Jay Gould that "science and religion do not glower at each other...[but] interdigitate in patterns of complex fingering, and at every fractal scale of self-similarity."[1] He suggests, with examples, that "NOMA enjoys strong and fully explicit support, even from the primary cultural stereotypes of hard-line traditionalism" and that it is "a sound position of general consensus, established by long struggle among people of goodwill in both magisteria.

Gould's separate magisteria

In his book Rocks of Ages (1999), Gould put forward what he described as "a blessedly simple and entirely conventional resolution to ... the supposed conflict between science and religion."[1] He defines the term magisterium as "a domain where one form of teaching holds the appropriate tools for meaningful discourse and resolution"[1] and the NOMA principle is "the magisterium of science covers the empirical realm: what the Universe is made of (fact) and why does it work in this way (theory). The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry (consider, for example, the magisterium of art and the meaning of beauty)."[1]

In a speech before the American Institute of Biological Sciences Gould also stressed the political reasons for adopting NOMA as well, stating "the reason why we support that position is that it happens to be right, logically. But we should also be aware that it is very practical as well if we want to prevail." Gould argued that if indeed the polling data was correct—and that 80 to 90% of Americans believe in a supreme being, and such a belief is misunderstood to be at odds with evolution—then "we have to keep stressing that religion is a different matter, and science is not in any sense opposed to it," otherwise "we're not going to get very far.""

Thanks Nick!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fenton river in fall

Here's a picture of the river down the road from us, with fall foliage.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The limitations of science in regards to religion

For whatever reason, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the relationship of religion and science. As you would expect of a social scientist, I’m a big fan of the scientific method. In conducting my own research and in evaluating others, I seek rigorous adherence to scientific principles. Even in my day-to-day life, I seek scientific knowledge available regarding those things important to me. For example, if I take a medicine, I want one tested with double-blind experiments, not one based on testimonies or gut-feelings or someone’s faith.

Nonetheless, science does have its limitations, and it’s worth keeping these in mind when we think about it and religion.

Science works best with empirical matters. If you can alter something and measure it, then you probably have a good topic for science. Religion, obviously, involves much of what isn’t measurable or even directly observable. This doesn’t mean that religious beliefs are less valuable or real, rather it’s difficult to use science to evaluate them.

Also, science tends to have some difficulty when applied to individual people. With groups or populations of people, it can identify trends and tendencies. With a given person, however, it’s hard using even the best measures and methods to know what they’ll do in the future or why they’ve done things in the past. Things get even more complicated with social relationships. Even the most committed scientist will probably not turn solely to science to pick a romantic partner, for example, and there’s no reason to assume that scientists have more successful relationships than others. This matters in discussions of Christianity in that it is premised on a relationship between God and His creation. If Christianity is true, then its essential nature might be better understood through poetry, literature, and analogy rather than a strict scientific method.

Finally, it’s worth noting that throughout history, and even today, there are many people groups who do not fully embrace a scientific approach to life. As such, if there is a God seeking to reveal Himself to humans, doing it through science would be relatively ineffective, and there’s no reason to assume that somehow science gets us closer (or further away) to truth about God. A rational God might be foolish to use science as a primary means of disclosing truth.

Yes, there is overlap between science and aspects of religion, but these aspects tend to be somewhat peripheral to Christianity.

Perhaps an approach of science-and-science-only misses the mark as much as one of no science.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Irv Piliavin's obituary

(From the LA Times)

Irving Morris Piliavin

Piliavin, Irving Morris
April 9, 1928 - November 19, 2009
Irving Morris Piliavin, 81, passed away on the morning of November 19, surrounded by members of his family, at his home in Oxnard, California. He was born to Russian Jewish immigrant parents in Los Angeles. Although not religious, he identified intensely with his Jewish heritage. From his youth, he was involved in athletic activities, first softball and baseball, then football, and later tennis. He was taking tennis lessons until a few weeks before he died, determined that in this as well as all else, he WOULD improve, and by all reports he did.
After graduating from Manual Arts High School, he attended UC Berkeley (Cal), receiving a BS in math and physics and a Masters of Social Work. After working in the field for a few years, he earned his Doctorate in Social Work Columbia University in 1961. He rose from Assistant to Associate Professor at Cal, where he received their highest honor for teaching, the Distinguished Teaching Award, in 1963.
In 1970, after two years at Penn, he moved to the University of Wisconsin, where he was Professor of Social Welfare and Sociology until his retirement in 1996. He was known as a generous mentor and a champion of the critical role of research in guiding social work practice long before it became fashionable. Among his academic research, he was well known for a ride-along study he did of the police, conducting subway studies of altruism, being the first to conduct a longitudinal study of homeless people, and for publishing various articles on control theories and rational choice analysis of crime. He continued to do research and write until very near the end of his life.
After his family, his academic work, and sports, his fourth passion was "games of chance." He took pride in the fact that he learned to count cards in blackjack so well that he was banned from all the casinos in London the year that he and his family lived in Wales. He was an accomplished poker player at all levels, from the "friendly" games he played in Berkeley, Wisconsin and Oxnard to satellite tournaments feeding the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. He went to the racetrack from his teens, when he climbed the fence at Santa Anita to get in, until 2009. He always refused to bet the favorite except when "wheeling" it with other longer shots. For that reason, the majority of the horses he bet came in second.
He is survived by his first wife, Florence, his second wife, Jane, four children, Mark, Neal, Allyn, and Libby, seven grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
A scholarship fund has been created in his honor at the University of Wisconsin Foundation. Please contact Ann Dingman for donation information at ann.dingman@ or 608-265-9954

Friday, December 04, 2009

Religion and UConn Basketball

One of the joys of working at UConn is following the Women's Basketball team and their coach, Geno Auriemma. Besides being a tremendous coach, he's also a first class smart alec.

In last night's game, which UConn won, guard Carolyn Doty was driving to the basket, got knocked down, and she hit her head really, really hard.

Here's Geno's explanation of why it happened, framed in theological terms:

“I guess she landed on her head, on the side of her head or something, she got hit. I don’t know. They said she landed right on her head. And to me, that’s just God’s way of telling her ‘What the hell you driving in there and five people standing in the lane?’ Maya just threw you the ball in the middle of the floor. Maya’s running the wing on the right side and you’re in the middle of the floor. Maya just threw it to you. All right, that’s two of our players. Where’s the other three? Well, one was running this lane, the other was running that lane, and another one was trailing on this side. So, instead of catching the ball and going, ‘Oh, I just got it from here. Let me fire over here and we get a layup or a jump shot.’ No. ‘I think I’ll go back this way and drive it through three people.’ And I think as God read the play, He said ‘I’ll knock you on your ass.”

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Socialization gone too far?

As a parent, I spend time thinking about how to socialize my boys--teaching and training them. As part of that, I try to instill my own values in them, but, I think that I may have gone too far with Floyd, my third grader.

The other day, we were talking about his friends in class, and with one friend, Floyd declared that he like this friend, but he complained that his friend "just doesn't understand sarcasm." Yep, the apple didn't fall too far from the tree there.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Scientists' belief in God

Often critics of Christianity (and other religions) frame the issue as one of science vs. religion. However, it appears that about half of scientists belief in God. From an article in today's LA Times by a researcher at the Pew Foundation.

"According to a survey of members of the American Assn. for the Advancement of Science, conducted by the Pew Research Center in May and June this year, a majority of scientists (51%) say they believe in God or a higher power, while 41% say they do not.

Furthermore, scientists today are no less likely to believe in God than they were almost 100 years ago, when the scientific community was first polled on this issue."

To read the rest of it...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gold leaves reflected in water (pic)

I love photos of cool reflections in the water. This is a beaver dam in fall, with the sun hitting some maples-turning-yellow on the other bank. I think that I should have used a longer exposure, not sure...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Irv Piliavin

My graduate school advisor, Irv Piliavin, passed away on Thursday.

Irv shaped me as a sociologist in many ways. He had a mad-capped approach to the study of crime, poverty, and social psychology, and he was fearlessly creative in studying each topic. He's well known for conducting subway studies of altruism in which he (and his wife Jane) had a confederate fall down in need of assistance, and they recorded how many other passengers helped as a function of whether the confederate acted drunk as well. This helped us to understand the roll of deservingness in altruism.

Irv was also the first researcher to conduct a longitudinal study of homeless people. He designed a survey in which homeless people were interviewed at one point in time and then reinterviewed six months to a year later, allowing the researcher to use wave 1 measures to predict what happened to the homeless respondents by wave 2. This helped us to understand homelessness.

Irv also published various articles on control theories and rational choice analysis of crime, published in the best journals. This helped us to understand criminal behavior.

I did my Masters and Ph.D. with Irv on his homelessness research, and he was such a joy to work with and for. He has a mockingly-abrasive style with students that scared off some, but once you saw past it to the deeply caring man that he was, it was no problem. He held very high standards for his students, something that helped me greatly. I joined the sociology program as perhaps the most clueless student in Wisconsin's history, for I had never even had a sociology class or read a sociology book before enrolling in the Ph.D. program. (Don't ask what I was thinking.) Irv, over the years, moved me to being a real sociologist, for which I am so deeply grateful.

Some stories about Irv (and there are a lot of them):

When I turned in the first draft of my master's thesis, he returned it with a single comment on the front page--"This is neither accurate nor interesting." Though crushing at the time, the comment was right on, and that's been my research mantra since: Is this mostly accurate and interesting.

Another student, a year or two behind me in the program, started working with Irv, and during one research meeting, the new student admitted that he had not finished he work that Irv had given him. Irv just stared at him, then picked up the phone, and dialed the receptionist (actually pretended to dial), and said, "hello [administrator's name], cancel [this student's] funding." I was behind the student, chortling, but the student was panick stricken, until he heard me laughing.

After I finished my Ph.D., Irv and his wife Jane took Cathy and me out to dinner, and at the end of the meal, Irv announced that he would pay for me to to get a tattoo and so we went down the street and looked around a tattoo parlor. Thankfully I didn't, but he was ready.

I got to have breakfast with Irv and Jane last year at a conference, and it delighted my heart to see him again.

I, and many others, will miss him, and we're so much better off for having known him.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What? Another mean-spirited New Atheist?!

Richard Dawkins, apparently not wanting to be left behind by Christopher Hitchens hyperbole, takes his own shots at the Catholic Church:

"Rome is possibly "the greatest force for evil in the world," Dawkins announces, "a disgusting institution" that is "dragging its flowing skirts in the dirt and touting for business like a common pimp."

Ah, the sweet smell of religious bigotry.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Red leaves, curved trees (pic)

I happened to notice some very bright red leaves along the roadside, and so I lined it up with shapes and colors in the background (that are actually 40-50 feet back). I think that it works.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A remarkably mean-spirited comment by a New Atheist

Christopher Hitchens is one of the more prominent "New Atheists," and in a recent interview, here is his view on Mother Teresa:

"The woman was a fanatic and a fundamentalist and a fraud, and millions of people are much worse off because of her life, and it's a shame there is no hell for your bitch to go to."


Two thoughts about this.

1) I don't know Mr. Hitchens at all, but I'd be willing to bet that he himself does little-to-nothing to help the poor. Not because he's an atheist, but because our condemnations of others often reflect our own insecurities.

2) The New Atheists, as a group, face a dilemma. They've already gotten lots of mileage about saying that they don't believe in religion and that God doesn't exist, but that message is getting stale. If they are to be widely featured in the media, they need a new message. This provides incentive to become more and more inflammatory. Maybe denouncing Mother Teresa is becoming the atheists' version of Godwin's law of Nazi analogies?

Thanks Jeff!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Searching Gus' room

Well, I've had my suspicions, and so today, when Gus, my high school junior son, was at school, I searched his room, and sure enough I found it. He still has Halloween candy! Excellent (and I'm sure going to miss him when he goes off to college).

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Michael Hout on the religiously unaffiliated

Michael Hout has written some influential articles about the increase in the religiously unaffiliated in the 1990s. In particular, he's advanced an explanation that this increase resulted from conservative Christians' foray into partisan politics in the 1990s (e.g., Moral Majority, Christian Coalition). Here's an update of his work in this area, as summarized on the blog Immanent Frame.


Rethinking secularism:
Unchurched believers
posted by Michael Hout and Claude S. Fischer

In 2002 we reported that the fraction of American adults with no religious preference doubled from 7 to 14 percent during the 1990s. Data from this decade show that the trend away from organized religion continues, albeit at a slower pace. Our analysis of the entire time series, presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in 2009, led us to the conclusion that the trend probably started earlier than we had thought—probably around 1985, 1986, or 1987—and that our previous estimate of the rate of change was, consequently, too high.

Click here for the rest of the article

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Megachurch... the movie

My friend Scott Thumma is prominently featured in this movie about mega-churches. Though he's a humble research professor at Hartford Seminary by day, by night he's a movie star. Here's the trailer for it.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ferns in fall (pic)

Yep, New England is a pretty easy place to take photographs in the fall.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Further evidence of "no religion" becoming a religion

It is now possible for you to become a "secular celebrant" of life's milestones such as birth or a wedding. Sign up for the training here.

Why should you do it? Well, terrible things happen if these people aren't available. In the words of the announcement:

"As we move through life, we celebrate many occasions filled with joy and love, accomplishment and striving, loss and grief. Unfortunately, the choice of persons to conduct ceremonies for these occasions is usually between religious clergy and impersonal civil officials.

For the 16% of the U.S. population not affiliated with any religion,
this can be a traumatic experience."

I can certainly understand someone not wanting a religious ceremony that doesn't fit with their beliefs, but I had never realized how traumatic it is for people to deal with impersonal civil officials. I can only hope that this training makes its celebrants very personable, so it too doesn't impose further trauma.

Thanks Jeff!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Godwin's law of Nazi analogies

I recently came across a law that we can all believe in: Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies.

It states that "As a Usenet discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1."


"Godwin's Law applies especially to inappropriate, inordinate, or hyperbolic comparisons of other situations (or one's opponent) with Hitler or Nazis or their actions."

Now, Godwin's law applies to the amount of people talking on-line, but we could think of variations of it, such as the distance between conversationalists on the political spectrum.

We could develop it further, but I don't want to be an analogy Nazi.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The asymmetry of Christian and atheist blogging

I've been reading some of the better known atheist-focused blogs recently, and I've been struck by their presentation and persuasion styles. Many of the blog posts are criticisms of Christians.

Some are rather heavy-handed insults of Christians. For example: Christianity is associated with mental illness. Others are more respectful in tone, bust still highly critical, such as Friendly Atheist (which is one of my favorites). It seems that the better the put-down of Christianity, the better the atheist blogger.

In contrast, most Christian blogs tend to focus on elaborating Christianity and urging Christians to do better. A Christian blog that posted primarily anti-atheist insults would miss the mark because part of Christianity is loving others, which usually doesn't include insulting them.

I suppose there are other reasons for this too, in part because there are far more Christians than Atheists, at least here in the U.S. (where most the bloggers that I read live). Maybe 2/3rds+ Christian and several percent atheist.

Whatever the reason, the result is an asymmetrical dialogue across the blogs. I'm not saying that's good or bad, just noticing it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why it's probably best that I'm not a Mormon

As I understand it, Mormons believe that if things go well for them, they will become Gods with their own people/ planets. Now, that being the case, it's probably best that I'm not a Mormon because I wouldn't make a very good God.

If I were a God, I would wake my people up in the middle of some random night, tell them to go outside and spin around several times and then go back to bed. Then I would laugh as over the years they would make this a ritual embedded with all sorts of meaning.

Basically, it would be a cosmic game of Simon-Says

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mormons in class II

When the Mormon missionaries presented in class, they had an interesting presentational strategy in terms of how to make Mormonism appealing to the listeners. Specifically, they went to lengths to present Mormonism as sort of basic Christianity+. They have the Bible, like other Christians, but they also have the Book of Mormon and modern day prophets. This seemed to accomplish two purposes: It made their religion look more beneficial, and it also made them seem less alien and strange because they too were Christian.

This Christian+ strategy worked best in the presentation, but during the questions some of the greater differences came out. Among other things, it came about that they think that they will become Gods in afterlife with their own planets or peoples to rule--which seems different from conventional Christian belief. Here's a description of that belief (though I can't vouch for its accuracy).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Another application of religion to science

(From one of those funny things people write on tests). thanks K!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mormons in class

Last week I had some Mormon missionaries speak to my class about their faith. We were studying rational choice theories of religion, and so the Mormons are a good fit because they spend a lot of time talking about the benefits of their faith when they tell it to others.

They spoke for 40 minutes (which was actually a little too long) about their beliefs without an ounce of cynicism or embarrassment. It struck me as very different than at the university, where we're conditioned to either not talk about our religious beliefs or if we do, to distance ourselves from our beliefs--either with disclaimers or intellectual analysis. But these Mormons were both emotionally engaged and completely sincere in how they presented themselves.

The only time they go flustered was when a student asked about whether the Mormon church had a history of racism.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Thursday, October 08, 2009

My birthday!

Today is my birthday, so let me know if you need an address or zip code information for sending me gifts. :-)

I think that I'll celebrate it by writing and teaching. Yahoo!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The new Conservative Bible

Here's another unhelpful way to mix politics and religion... work is beginning on new translation of the Bible to reinforce a politically conservative viewpoint.

Here's an example of the changes it makes:

"Socialistic terminology permeates English translations of the Bible, without justification. This improperly encourages the "social justice" movement among Christians. For example, the conservative word "volunteer" is mentioned only once in the ESV, yet the socialistic word "comrade" is used three times, "laborer(s)" is used 13 times, "labored" 15 times, and "fellow" (as in "fellow worker") is used 55 times."

It will also:

"Express Free Market Parables; explaining the numerous economic parables with their full free-market meaning."

"Exclude Later-Inserted Liberal Passages: excluding the later-inserted liberal passages that are not authentic, such as the adulteress story"


Thanks Richard.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Eric Kaufmann's Breeding Ground for God

Eric Kaufmann studies religion, fertility, and politics, and what makes him unique is that he's willing to make predictions about the future. Most sociologists, myself included, won't touch the future--being content to trying to explain what has happened. Kaufmann uses cutting edge demography analysis to compare rates of secularization vs. fertility to figure out the religious composition of Europe in the coming decades. Now, who knows if his predictions are will be correct, but you can read them here in this article.

He writes: "The pivotal question is where the balance lies between religious fertility and religious abandonment in the secular cutting-edge societies of France and Protestant Europe. The population balance in these countries stands at roughly 53 per cent non-religious to 47 per cent religious. My projections, based on demographic differences between the populations and current patterns of religious abandonment, suggest that the secular population will continue to grow at a decelerating rate for three or four more decades, to peak at around 55 per cent. The proportion of secular people will then begin to decline between 2035 and 2045."

Cool stuff...

Saturday, October 03, 2009

John Wright--Hang gliding stud

Here's a really cool video of my brother hang gliding. He flew for 33 miles and up to 13,000 feet high. Remarkable. (I couldn't embed the video, so you have to click on the link).

Thursday, October 01, 2009

The biggest problem for atheists? Perhaps children.

Here's an interesting article about the link between religion and having children. Various sociologists have written that much of the social changes that we associate with religion can be linked to differential rates of child-bearing by religion. Since kids tend to have the same religious beliefs as their parents, the religions in which people have the most kids would stand of a good chance of growing the most.

It turns out that the religiously unaffiliated tend to have relatively low reproduction rates, which might limit the spread of this approach. Put differently, some conservative religions take seriously the command to go forth and multiply.

"The commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” the Krishevsky family follows quite closely. Last Saturday, the great grandmother, Rachel Krishevsky passed away at the age of 99, leaving behind no less than 1,400 children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even great-great-grandchildren."

There is an irony that most discussion about changes in religion in society focus on debating points, but a much more simple process might be a driving force.

Thanks John.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The media, politics, and religion

Here's an interesting article from Rod Dreher, of the Dallas Morning News. He writes about how the mainstream media, e.g., New York Times and Washington Post, selectively covers the role of religion in American politics with the result that:

"It is fair to say that our news media, through heavily biased reporting and analysis, are turning significant numbers of American voters against religious conservatives and are delegitimizing the place believers have made for themselves at the table."

What do you think? Is he on to something?

Thanks Jeff!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mormon missionaries

I bring in guest speakers for my sociology of religion class, and so I started trying to get a hold of some Mormon missionaries. Well, it took me the better part of the week and numerous phone calls before I could get a hold of any. Just like the old saying... you can never find a Mormon missionary when you need one.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Clergy and sexual misconduct

On Monday's post, I asked what would be a natural comparison group for clergy when it comes to sexual misconduct, and, lo and behold, the General Social Survey module that asks about clergy sexual harassment starts off with a question about sexual harassment from workplace bosses and supervisors.

Here are the data about that question and the question about sexual harassment from clergy. They show the percentage of women from different religious traditions who have experienced sexual advances from clergy or their work supervisors.

How would you interpret these data?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Is 3% of sexual misconduct a lot or a little?

A recent study found that about 3% of women who attend a religious service have had sexual advances made by by a religious leader. From an article in the Washington Post:

"One in every 33 women who attend worship services regularly has been the target of sexual advances by a religious leader, a survey released Wednesday says.

The study, by Baylor University researchers, found that the problem is so pervasive that it almost certainly involves a wide range of denominations, religious traditions and leaders.

"It certainly is prevalent, and clearly the problem is more than simply a few charismatic leaders preying on vulnerable followers," said Diana Garland, dean of Baylor's School of Social Work, who co-authored the study.

It found that more than two-thirds of the offenders were married to someone else at the time of the advance."

This raises an interesting question--is 3% a little or a lot? Obviously from a Christian perspective any is too much, but this question raises the issue of how we make comparisons about Christian's morality.

My guiding principle is something that I heard Charles Colson say--that Christianity makes people better, not necessarily good. Applied here, it suggests that Christian faith will make its leaders less likely to cross boundaries of ministry and marriage, but some still will (though, presumably, not as often as they would were they not Christians).

This suggests that we need a contrast group, somebody in a situation similar to church leaders. Maybe we should compare rates of church-leader-propositioning with those of bosses or teachers or other people in authority. That's the kind of information that we'd need to really answer, is this a lot or a little.

Thanks Jay!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The doughut-bacon-cheeseburger

The big fair in New England each year is called the Big E. As with any fair, it has its share of unhealthy foods, but now it's really gone all the way. Yes, the junk-food-meter goes up to "11" with the doughnut-bacon-cheeseburger. Slice a glazed doughnut in half, add cheeseburger and several slices of bacon, and you're good to go.

Since I would like to make it to my 48th birthday, I think that I'll pass, but I might dare Floyd or Gus to eat one... Then I'll put them on a rollercoaster right away (before DCF hauls me off).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Michael Duran on the "Bash the Church" Bandwagon

Here are some interesting posts (here, here, and here) by blogger Michael Duran about what he calls the "Bash the Church" Bandwagon. He starts: "Bashing the Christian Church is en vogue these days," and he gives his ideas as to why this is happening and why it shouldn't.

I'm glad to see people writing about this because church-bashing seems epidemic at times (though maybe I just see it a lot because I'm very aware of it). I suppose, though, that this won't change anytime soon because it's profitable for those who do it. It helps sell books, magazines, conferences, and new visions of Christianity.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How to apologize like a celebrity

Singer Kanye West made a fool of himself at an awards show last weekend. In response, he gave a prototypical celebrity apology--one that works to make its giver look contrite and gain sympathy without taking full responsibility for his/her actions.

West said: he has to "deal with hurt" and he "never takes time off" and that he's "just ashamed that my hurt caused someone else's hurt."

I guess that we really should be feeling bad for Kanye West in all of this. The poor young man is propelled by hurt to act like a raging jackass.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Photo entries for an juried art show (pics)

Our town has a festival this weekend, and as part of it they host a juried art show. I submitted four photos, and they accepted three. I surprisingly nervous about the whole thing, but it should be interesting. Here are three of them. (I've posted them here before--now I've touched them up some).

Our town has a festival this weekend, and as part of it they host a juried art show. I submitted four photos, and they accepted three. I surprisingly nervous about the whole thing, but it should be interesting. Here are two of them. (This one is probably my favorite--I've posted them here before--now I've touched them up some).

Friday, September 11, 2009

Religion in Connecticut

In preparing for a class lecture, I created this graph based on data from the Pew Religious Landscape Study. As you can see, relative to the national population, we have more Catholics and more religiously unaffiliated people. I would have guessed that, but I would have thought we'd have more mainline Protestants--with each town having a prominent Congregational church in it.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

BBC Interactive Map of World Religion History

I really like maps, especially ones that document change over time. So, I have spent a lot of time at the BBC Civilizations website, for they have an interactive map where you select the religion and the year, and then it plays a slide show of that religion's growth over time.

Check it out here:

Warning: It can be addictive.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Breaking emotion rules with the police

A big story last week was the freeing of an 18-year kidnap victim in California. Apparently the kidnapper and the victim's children to UC Berkeley, and a police officer noticed that the girls weren't acting "normally." They were "non-responsive and exuded no energy." Now, obviously, this was out of school because it is the normal response of college students in the classroom. The police officer followed up, and they unraveled this terrible crime.

This reminds me of the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. The police officer who arrested him did so, according to the officer, because Gates was acting badly--not breaking any specific laws. (Whether it was this, racism, or both has been hotly debated).

I suppose my interest in this aspect of these events is why I have studied the social psychology of deviance, but it always amazes me how varied and broad are social norms on how to behave.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Confession (joke)

A joke from the local paper:

Irish guy goes into the confessional box and notices on one wall a fully equipped bar with Guinness on tap. On the other wall is a dazzling array of the finest Cuban cigars. Then the priest comes in.

"Father, forgive me, for it's been a very long time since I've been to confession, but I must say the confessional box is much more inviting these days."

The priest replies, "Get out, you idiot. You're on my side."

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Financial Peace University

I'm starting to read up on Dave Ramsey's financial plan entitled Financial Peace University? Once I got over the dumb name, I think that I like his ideas. He has a very simple approach to $, which is good because I'm so bad at managing it that I need something uncomplicated. Also, I appreciate his approach that financial mismanagement is more doing the wrong thing rather than not knowing enough.

Has anyone had experience with FPU? Thoughts?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Religion and health around the World

Here's a very interesting article about the relationship between religion and health in 140 countries worldwide using 300,000 observations. The authors finds a strong religious effect in terms of health. He summarizes:

"It is almost universally true that the elderly and women are more religious, and I find evidence in favor of a genuine aging effect, not simply a cohort effect associated with secularization. As in previous studies, it is not clear why women are so much more religious than men. In most countries, religious people report better health; they say they have more energy, that their health is better, and that they experience less pain. Their social lives and personal behaviors are also healthier; they are more likely to be married, to have supportive friends, they are more likely to report being treated with respect, they have greater confidence in the healthcare and medical system and they are less likely to smoke. But these effects do not all hold in all countries, and they tend to be stronger for men than for women."

Lots of studies have found this type of finding in the U.S. and Europe, but this project broadens the findings considerably.

Thanks David!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

An "Expresso" machine for the rest of life

The local fitness center has added the world's coolest fitness machine. It's called an Expresso Bicycle, and it's a stationary bike that powers a video game.

The screen in front of the bicycle places you in a race or tour, with other, fictional riders, and you pedal, shift, and steer to run the course. When you're going uphill onscreen, the pedaling becomes more difficult, and you have to shift accordingly.

I'm interested in this merger between real-life activity (i.e., pedaling) and virtual rewards (having the pixels on the screen show you winning a race), and I wonder if this concept could be applied elsewhere.

Maybe with my job, I could play a game in which I read and run analysis and periodically it shows me publishing a virtual book or article.

Or maybe at home, I show attention to my children and then a game shows my children growing up to be healthy and happy.

Or maybe I could do chores around the house and the get on-line kudos.

Maybe this is a new way of reducing social strain--society gives you goals, and then on-line games give you the means to meet this goals, at least virtually.

If nothing else, that Expresso machine really does give a good work out.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Even Rock Stars Grow Up

I was in the doctor's office this morning, and I was reading Rolling Stone Magazine. They had an article about Gregg Allman, of the Allman Brothers Band, of 1970s fame. In it, he reflected upon his life, and he stated that after six failed marriages, he was starting to wonder if he was the problem.

At first I rolled my eyes, but then I realized that while only on my first (and hopefully last) last marriage, I still have other stupid stuff reoccur in my life. Sometimes, however, I realize that I'm the problem in some way, and that's usually a helpful realization.

So, if even rock stars grow up, there's hope for the rest of us.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

What religious freedom looks like in Egypt

Here's an article about a Muslim man in Egypt who converted to Christianity.

Why did he convert? "In Islam, if you steal your hands are cut off, but in Christianity you can be forgiven," he says. This compassion is what attracted me."

How have people reacted to it? "Gohary's life has been threatened, his dogs have been killed, and it's been suggested that he's insane or possessed by spirits."

Hm-m-m, maybe the passive belittling here in the States isn't so bad...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Portraying Christians negatively in literature

I don't read a lot of fiction because whenever I do I can't help but to wonder if it's all made up. (I do read sci-fi, though, I can believe in space aliens). However, my wife, Cathy, keeps up on fiction. On a fairly regular basis, she observes how negatively Christian characters are portrayed. It seems, judging from what she says, that if an author introduces someone with strong Christian beliefs, it's a good bet that they'll rape, murder, or otherwise harm people.

Recently on a trip to Montreal, I happened across this article in the newspaper that discusses this trend in literature of demonizing Christians. Here's an excerpt:

"I have read seven novels from young men and women in the past two years that have had what I consider modern, representative “religious” characters. In all but one of these books, the characters were agents of the most self-righteous kinds of oppression. In fact, in some texts, the words Catholic or religious have become synonymous with all things that good and ordinary people fight against....

The derision toward anyone who believes is swift and non-negotiable among many writers today, or at least in their writing. It is as if a doctrine has been set in motion in which not to demean religion is sacrilegious."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Superman joke

Okay, I'm back from a two-week vacation, and here's a funny joke that was in the paper yesterday:


Two men are drinking in a bar at the top of the Empire State Building when one turns to the other and says, "You know, last week I discovered that if you jump from the top of this building, by the time you fall to the 10th floor, the winds around the building are so intense that they carry you around the building and back into the window. Watch, I'll prove it."

He gets up from the bar, jumps over the balcony, and when he passes the 10th floor, the high wind whips him around the building and back into the 10th floor window, where he takes the elevator back up to the bar.

"Wow, that really works," the second man says. "I think I'll try it."

He jumps over the balcony, plunges downward, and passes the 10th floor, continues falling and hits the sidewalk with a splat.

Back upstairs, the bartender turns to the other drinker and says, "You know, you can be a real jerk when you're drunk, Superman."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Watch out, the scientist is a Christian!

Here's an op-ed piece in the NY Times about Obama's recent appointment for the Director of the National Institute of Health. It acknowledges that Obama's nominee, Francis Collins, is an outstanding scientist, but... gasp, he's an Evangelical Christian!

As a result, the author writes, "it is important that we understand Dr. Collins and his faith as they relate to scientific inquiry." He goes on to conclude that "one can only hope that these convictions will not affect his judgment at the institutes of health."

I'm guessing that Collins understands science far better than the author, but somehow his faith makes him suspect.

God forbid that God isn't forbidden at NIH....

Thanks David!

Monday, August 10, 2009

More on the myth of Christian violence

An enduring myth about Christianity is all the violence and death that it has supposedly caused.

I posted on these a couple of years ago.

Here's another take from Andy Unedited:

"160 Million

I was with a group of friends recently when another common myth of western civilization was trotted out as if it were gospel. "We all know religion has caused more violence and death than anything else."

"Well, actually, that's not true," I ventured.

Heads turned. Mouths gaped. The planet itself seemed to wobble on its axis. "What facts do you have to support that?" said the historian in the group, eyebrow arched...

To read the rest.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Kid steals car to avoid going to church

A constant issue in Christian families is when to make kids go to church when they just don't feel like it. Well, here's a guideline... if the kids steals the car to get out of church, maybe it's a good idea for them to just skip church that week.

Here's a video of a seven-year-old boy in Utah who stole his Dad's car to avoid going to church. Watch the end of the video when he gets out of the car and runs away.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Church buildings & business

Here's an interesting article and slideshow about modern church architecture. It relates recently built church buildings to corporations--both emphasizing suburban campuses that make young people spend their time and energy there.

The church that I belong to recently considered building, and the plans it came up with were a sprawling campus--didn't realize this is a national trend.

Thanks David.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Two tracks of Anglicanism

From a New York Times article last week: "Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, said profound differences among the world’s 77 million Anglicans over gay clergy and same-sex unions could divide their church into a “two-track model” yielding “two styles of being Anglican.”

It's hard to see how one denomination could sustain two separate models of faith without splitting, but if they do, it could become interesting. Why stop at two? There's plenty of moral issues on which people disagree. Eventually you could go to Anglican Church and be presented with a smorgasbord of options.

Visitor: "Let's see, I would like to sleep with my girlfriend, but not another guy. I don' t like giving to poor, but I'll give to the church. I'd also prefer not to experience any spiritual gifts."

Usher: "Thank you for visiting us. You'll be sitting in row 7 with other people like you."

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Irises (pic)

There's an interesting & sad story behind this picture. A local farmer had his barn burned down by an arsonist--destroying all his farming equipment. He wasn't properly insured so he went out of business. Now the field has gone wild and the irises and other plants have spread, not being kept down by cattle.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Religion and college majors

A study recently came out that looks at the role of religion in university students education choices. I haven't read the article yet, but here are some of the findings as summarized here.

  • The odds of going to college increase for high school students who attend religious services more frequently or who view religion as more important in their lives. The researchers speculate that there may be a "nagging theory" in which fellow churchgoers encourage the students to attend college.
  • Being a humanities or a social science major has a statistically significant negative effect on religiosity -- measured by either religious attendance and how important students consider the importance of religion in their lives. The impact appears to be strongest in the social sciences.
  • Students in education and business show an increase in religiosity over their time at college.
  • Majoring in the biological or physical sciences does not affect religious attendance of students, but majoring in the physical sciences does negatively relate to the way students view the importance of religion in their lives.
  • Religious attendance is positively associated with staying in majors in the social sciences, biological sciences and business majors. For most vocational majors, the researchers found a negative relationship between religious attendance and staying in the same major. The researchers compare this finding to their data about how students who attend services are more likely to enroll in college in the first place: "In both cases, religious attendance encourages a shift toward a higher status path."
I suppose that the take home message for Christian parents is: "Momma don't let your babies grow up to study sociology."

Actually, I wonder about the cause and effect of this. Do students who question their religion gravitate toward the social sciences or does taking classes in the social sciences make students question their religion.

I would assume that GenEd requirements have all students take some social science courses, so the majors just take maybe six to eight more of them.

What do you think?

Thanks Patti!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Marriage patterns by religion

Here's an interesting graphic from the Pew Foundation about Americans' marriage patterns by religion.

What patterns do you see in the data?

Monday, July 27, 2009

What did you do this weekend?

What did you do this weekend? Whatever it was, I'll bet it wasn't as cool as what my brother John did... he went hang gliding in Yosemite Valley!!!! You have to be really, really good at hang gliding to do that, and he is and did.

Here are some pics of his:

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Midwestern wedding entrance

Here's a video of a charming and joyful dancing wedding entrance. When I saw it, I wondered why more people haven't done it. (We didn't because I am a felony-level bad dancer). When I showed the clip to Cathy, without any introduction, she asked after about a minute if it was a Midwest Church. Sure enough, it was shot in Minnesota. I asked her how she knew, and she figured it out by how the people looked and dressed. (She's from the Midwest).


Saturday, July 25, 2009

Barn Window (pic)

Here's the window of an old barn, and it was torn down about a month after I took the picture. :-(

Friday, July 24, 2009

Yes, we worry when the kids are quiet

Yesterday, Cathy told Gus and Floyd that they needed to go outside because there were getting pretty wild inside. Then, after about 5-10 minutes, she realized that she wasn't hearing them play, which could only mean trouble. Yes, they ignored the trampoline, the swingset, the treehouse, and the pool so that they could... take turns locking each other in trunk of the car.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Joel Stein on Christian Improv.

Joel Stein, pop culture journalist, has written a really funny article about an comedy improv group at Rick Warren's Saddleback Valley Church.

Here's the first paragraph:

"There are many things Evangelical Christians are good at, such as bake sales and talking to me on planes. They're less adept at other things, such as comedy and fighting lions. Christians aren't funny because they tend to be literal-minded. Also because they're sad about having had sex with only one person. So when Kevin Roose, author of the excellent new book The Unlikely Disciple, told me that Rick Warren's giant Saddleback Church has its own improv group, for the first time in my life, I felt my calling. I may not be the Woody Allen or Jon Stewart of the secular world, but in the land of the unfunny Christian, the one-joked Jew is king."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Boy and puppy (pic)

A boy in our neighborhood recently got a new puppy, so I asked if I could take his picture with it. This is another use for panoramas.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Summer camp for atheists

Here's an interesting article in this week's Economist. Apparently a series of summer camps for kids from atheist families. The article frames these camps in terms of such kids needing social support, but what interests me is that it's another example of atheism being practiced in the same way that people practice religions.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The problem with linearity (comic)

Some social things are linear, but many things are not... as shown in this comic.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Barn & lillies (pic)

Hm-m-m-m, I seem to be stuck on barns. Another pic that I've posted before but I've redone it.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Theories of church growth

Andy Rowell has done of nice job of summarizing some of the main theories about church growth. He identifies 14 factors, and what strikes me about this list is how wide-ranging the ideas are. Makes me think that we don't really know what's going on. :-/

"I looked at work from seven researcher teams: Stark, Hout/Greeley/Wilde, Woolever/Bruce, Stetzer/Dodson, Olson, Chaves, and Thumma.

Here is a summary of the 14 factors which I document fully below: (1) witnessing, (2) strictness, (3) high fertility rates, (4) caring for children and youth, (5) high involvement, (6) welcoming new people, (7) leadership, (8) prayer, (9) being a church of 1000+ attendees or under 50 attendees, (10) being located in rural counties, (11) being in rapidly growing zip codes, (12) being in a tradition that is altering worship practices slightly but not too much, (13) churches that offer “intimacy and choice” and (14) attractive worship style, senior pastor, and church reputation."

Monday, July 06, 2009

Religion in Scandinavia

Here's a very interesting article about religion in Scandinavia. It's based on the book Society without God by Phil Zuckerman. Though irreligious in many ways, the Danes and Swedes that he interviewed "were in no way despairing nihilists but “for the most part, a happy, satisfied lot” who “generally live productive, creative, contented lives.”"

They seem to embrace religion but at a very shallow cultural level. Actually believing in God in a deep, moving manner is almost a faux pas.

Sounds like an interesting book.

Thanks David!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Barn & Forsythia (pic)

This is probably the first picture I took that I still really like.... I took it several years ago and have been back in spring since, but it hasn't looked as good.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Dancing contagion

Here's an amusing example of contagion... a guy starts dancing by himself and soon starts quite the party.

It gives me hope that really, really bad dancers can make a difference in the world.

Thanks Adrienne!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The answer

Here's the answer to yesterday's question. Frankly I thought that the Pope and Hannah Montana would have done better. As many golfers as Catholics and not that many preteen girls who answer surveys?

Who would you rather meet and have your picture taken with?...Barack Obama, the Pope, Hannah Montana, Tiger Woods

42% Barack Obama
21 The Pope
5 Hannah Montana
22 Tiger Woods
8 None (Vol.)
1 Don't know

FOX News/Opinion Dynamics Poll [June, 2009]

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Today's obscure survey question:

Somehow I came across this stirring bit of knowledge.

A FoxNews survey asked the following question:

Who would you rather meet and have your picture taken with?...Barack Obama, the Pope, Hannah Montana, Tiger Woods?

Any guesses as to how people answered? (I.e., the order of the four?) I'll post it tomorrow.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Guns to church?

Well, this would be one way to make sure that sermons don't go on too long...

A story posted on BBC:

"A pastor in the US state of Kentucky has told his flock to bring handguns to church in what he says is an effort to promote safe gun ownership."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Red and yellow leaves (pic)

A picture from fall last year. I think that I've posted it before, but this is processed somewhat differently.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Too much stats...

Okay, I like statistics as much (and probably a lot more) than the next person, but this might be too much. Sometimes, perhaps especially in sports, statistics seem to based on supply rather than demand. In other words, we get them because the writer has them, not because anyone would be interested. Consider this snippet from somewhere on about why last night's game was "historic."

"Jacoby Ellsbury's Tuesday night was a historic occasion. Only twice since divisional play began has a Red Sox player hit two triples in a 4-hit performance."

Forgive me for not being overwhelmed....

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sifting and winnowing

This is a well-known plaque at the University of Wisconsin. It speaks for itself:

Friday, June 19, 2009


Here's an interesting article about blogging, and they very large number of inactive blogs. I post this story just so that this wouldn't be one of them. :-)

"According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.

Judging from conversations with retired bloggers, many of the orphans were cast aside by people who had assumed that once they started blogging, the world would beat a path to their digital door....

Not all fallow blogs die from lack of reader interest. Some bloggers find themselves too busy — what with, say, homework and swim practice, or perhaps even housework and parenting. Others graduate to more immediate formats, like Twitter and Facebook. And a few — gasp — actually decide to reclaim some smidgen of personal privacy."

Thanks David!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

How to create a best-selling book title

Here's a NYT article about the trend in publishing to give book's titles that are spin-offs of previous best sellers. So, Freakonomics has spawned Obamanomics, Womenomics, and various other -nomic titles. Other examples of knock-off titles are based on Prozac Nation and the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Not wanting to be left behind, I think that I'll write a sure-fire best seller. How about this:

The Rise and Fall of American Christianity: The Story of a Freakonation by a Rogue Sociologist.

Any other ideas?

Thanks David!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The usefulness of social construction

Sometimes it's handy being a sociologist. Not as in fixing plumbing or repairing the car handy, but still useful. I have a flash drive (i.e., thumb drive) that I use to take info back and forth between the computers in the house. (One isn't on the web). Well, it kept on disappearing only to be found in family members' purses, backpacks, rooms, and wherever else. So, I needed a way of keeping track of it that would say to others: Don't take.

This is social construction... what could I use to construct that the flash drive isn't something to be taken away. After thinking about it for awhile, I came upon the perfect solution: I've tied it to one of the coffee cups that I sometimes use. There is a norm to leave other peoples' coffee cups alone, and it's not too heavy to carry around.

Haven't lost the flash drive since.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Birdhouse in fall (pic)

I was going through some photos from last October, and I came across this one that I had forgotten about.... Yes, the colors were just about that vivid!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Stereotypes of conservative Christians as all political conservatives

I just finished reading Andrew Greeley and Michael Hout's book The Truth about Conservative Christians. In it, they discuss the diversity of conservative Christians as well as stereotypes about them. (BTW, neither author is one). Below is a informative summary statement about the politics of conservative Christians, and it highlights how powerful (and inaccurate) stereotypes are about religous people:

"The additional vote of Conservative Protestants for Republican candidates, over and above that of Mainline American Protestants, is meager--about seven percentile points. Despite the depiction of Conservative Protestants by the media, by frightened liberals, and by the conservative leadership as if they were a massive and disciplined religio-political voting block, they are not. Indeed, we have argued, this image is a stereotype based on overgeneralization and prejudice. It is also a dangerous image because it marginalizes a major segment of American society because of inadequate information, bad information, and often no information at all. There may be alink between Conservative Christian religious convictions and political behavior but it is modest, even by social science standards." P. 69