The number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public — and a third of adults under 30 — are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.
In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).
Rise of the atheists: U.S. Protestants lose majority status as church attendance falls
The NP article itself fails to mention atheists or atheism very much, only noting that they’re merely a subset of the “religiously unaffiliated.” So where does this headline come from?
The truth is that this survey doesn’t really tell us a whole lot about atheists or atheism specifically. The folks at Pew are, themselves, quite clear on this:
This large and growing group of Americans is less religious than the public at large on many conventional measures, including frequency of attendance at religious services and the degree of importance they attach to religion in their lives.
However, a new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted jointly with the PBS television program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, finds that many of the country’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%). More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every day.
The fact is, the majority of the religiously unaffiliated as identified in polls such as Pew’s and the earlier ARIS survey, are believers. They simply don’t belong to any religious organization and don’t attend services regularly. But they remain religious people.
The Pew data itself shows that those designated as “Atheist” has grown only 0.8% since 2007, and “Agnostic” has grown only 1.2% in that time. These results can hardly justify any of the media headlines (such as the above) declaring that “Atheism” is growing astronomically. It isn’t. Non-believers are assuredly a minority in the US, and they’re likely to remain so, for quite some time to come. Only paranoid religionists would fear they’re going to be outnumbered and have their beliefs outlawed.
For CNN and Fox News, among other news organizations, the twitter frenzy proved to be a source of embarrassment. Both news organizations falsely reported that the bill had been struck down, as did those who repeated the error.
A tweet by CNN Breaking News (@cnnbrk) containing the incorrect report was retweeted over 1,100 times. For example, Huffington Post tweeted “We jumped the gun in following them (Fox and CNN). Apologies for the confusion.” …
CNN originally tweeted that the Supreme Court struck down the individual mandate for health care and displayed the information prominently on their website. Their blunder also unfolded on television, where Wolf Blitzer said the network had received conflicting reports. The network was forced to publicly issue a retraction.
Fox News also displayed incorrect information, as they displayed a television banner reading, “Supreme Court Finds Individual Mandate Unconstitutional.” The network changed it’s message soon after re-reading the court’s decision.
Note that this is eerily similar to something that played out, nearly as famously, some 6 months ago, when former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno was prematurely reported dead. The same impulse, it seems, was at play here … CNN and Fox News were so eager to release a story — any story! — on the highly-watched case, that they didn’t take a few moments to check and see if what they were spewing was factual. They may well have had a story “pre-written” and launched it, without even taking the time to be sure it had any relation to the decision itself.
It’s nice that the Courant reported this error, but I note — with chagrin — that they did so within the framework of a different faulty journalistic trope, that is, “news-that’s-not-really-news.” The article’s lede is:
Twitter activity around today’s Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act peaked at more than 13,000 tweets per minute at 10:17 a.m., significantly more than the 900 TPM that was tracked during the oral arguments in March, reports Rachael Horwitz, a representative from Twitter.com.
The article adds that lots of Google searches were made for the story, too. Listen, reporters, I don’t need to be told that “people use Twitter” or that “people use Google.” Nor do I need to be told that Twitter use and Google searches spike when a big story breaks. Those are both things I already knew, without having to be told. What on earth made you think that’s “news”? It’s not. You guys really need to stop already with that trope. OK?
Update: Media critic Howard Kurtz at the Daily Beast has pointed out that not only did some media outlets get the story factually wrong, initially, but they had also had made what turn out to have been inaccurate predictions of the results of the case (cached). Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20, so perhaps it’s not fair to condemn legal pundits like Jeffrey Toobin for not having gotten it right … but isn’t that a reason for them just to refrain from making predictions at all? The mass media are now jammed full of yammering, talking-head “pundits” who present themselves as prescient and all-knowing, and prattle endlessly about things they cannot necessarily know with as much certainty as they claim. Yet, they continually do it. Even after they’ve been proven wrong about things, on multiple occasions.
I would love for there to be a “pundit-prediction database” in which every prediction made by the talking heads is collected up and then evaluated to see if it came true. Then we might be able to hold these jabbering windbags accountable for their nonsense and gibberish. We already have something like this — informally anyway — for politicians, in the PolitiFact and FactCheck projects. There’s no reason this principle can’t be extended to media figures too.
Then, another more alarming report hit the wires and flashed across all outlets even quicker: “Joe Pa has died.” Unfortunately, that part of the story turns out not to have been true. Paterno’s family had to get the word out that the college football patriarch had not passed on. CNN reports on this debacle of idiotic hypereager journalism (cached):
The race to report started at 8:45 p.m. Saturday.
The Penn State student news website Onward State posted an item saying legendary former football coach Joe Paterno had died.
Within minutes, the misinformation pinged from one major news outlet to another, like a metal ball in a pinball machine.
CNN goes on to explain how this false story pinged around various venues — including the CBS Sports Web site and @breakingnews on Twitter — until Joe Pa’s family took measures to contradict it.
One of the cardinal rules of journalism — last I knew — is that you don’t report anything until you’ve confirmed it. Yet, it doesn’t appear that Onward State, CBS Sports, or @breakingnews made any effort to do so before writing or relaying this report.
CNN dutifully adds something of an apologia for this obvious breach of the rules of journalism:
The incident highlighted the crucial clash in today’s hyper-competitive news environment: getting it fast versus getting it right.
Even so, I’m not sure at what point, amid this “pressure to report as quickly as possible,” the journalistic duty to “confirm before reporting” was revoked. But who knows … maybe I missed the edict that disposed of it?
At any rate, this just goes to show, you can’t always believe what you read, hear, or see in the mass media. They can — and sometimes do — get things wrong. Monumentally wrong. And they do it more often now than they used to.
The cold hard fact is that the mass media are prone to run things they either do not check out at all, have only minimally reviewed, or don’t even understand in the first place (rendering them incapable of verifying it, even if they wished to). It’s not just “breaking news” items like this one that they get wrong; they’re frequently wrong where science, the metaphysical, or history is concerned.
I just can’t say it enough: Be skeptical, folks!
Update: It’s now being reported that Joe Paterno died this morning (Sunday, January 22, 2012), as it turns out (cached). So it might seem as though I’m accusing the media of having run an erroneous story, which actually was true. But that’s not the case: Paterno was not dead last night, when this story originally flashed around the media. That story was wrong. This one may or may not turn out to be wrong.
For all those who’ve declared the autism-vaccine debate over – a new scientific review begs to differ. It considers a host of peer-reviewed, published theories that show possible connections between vaccines and autism.
The article in the Journal of Immunotoxicology is entitled “Theoretical aspects of autism: Causes–A review.”
CBS News’ Sharyl Attkisson, this article’s author, uses a fallacious appeal to authority in order to grant this study greater weight and credibility:
The author is Helen Ratajczak, surprisingly herself a former senior scientist at a pharmaceutical firm.
Here, Atkisson implies that, since the author worked for a pharma company — thus, one would she’d support the use of vaccines — then if she’s decided otherwise, why, the evidence must be incredibly compelling, no? Unfortunately that’s not how these things work.
Attkisson further implies that no one has been scientifically reviewing the supposed link between vaccines and autism (“Ratajczak did what nobody else apparently has bothered to do …”) but that is absolutely not true. Of course other people have reviewed the matter! Atkisson also mischaracterizes the study as Ratajczak’s own original work, but it’s not … it’s merely her review of other people’s studies. (That, of course, does not in itself invalidate what she says, but it does mean that Atkisson is making the study seem to be something other than it truly is.)
Another way Atkisson tried to grant greater authority to this study, is by implying that the CDC … which has consistently said there is no connection between vaccines and autism … was stunned speechless by it:
We wanted to see if the CDC wished to challenge Ratajczak’s review, since many government officials and scientists have implied that theories linking vaccines to autism have been disproven, and Ratajczak states that research shows otherwise. CDC officials told us that “comprehensive review by CDC…would take quite a bit of time.”
All in all, I must give CBS News and Sharyl Attkisson credit. They certainly crafted a marvelous piece of yellow journalism. They must be so proud!
We saw all the character traits from one figure looming over the Egypt story: the massive shows of emotion, the sketchy command of others’ views, the megalomaniacal refusal to recognize facts on the ground. And, as always, the willingness to say and do anything to command the stage for one more day.
We speak not of Hosni Mubarak, but of that other master of manipulation and misdirection, Glenn Beck. …
In the case of Egypt and its democracy movement, the Fox News performer sees not the energetic amalgam of students, shopkeepers, bureaucrats, intellectuals and professionals who virtually every real journalist in Cairo has described in recent days. Beck’s evening chalkboard talks instead fulminate endlessly about the shadowy forces that will surely bring “the coming insurrection.”
Beckie-boy is worried about something he calls “the Caliphate,” which — somehow — will plunge the entire world into a new Dark Age:
The menace that he envisions far outstrips that described even by other conservative commentators. Beck forecasts a wave of Muslim extremism sweeping from Egypt to the rest of the Mideast. He says this “caliphate,” or at least its revolutionary soul, could well darken Europe, if not our own shores.
But much worse than this nefarious Islamic conspiracy to destroy humanity, Beckie-boy claims the mass media are actually part of the conspiracy, actively working to prevent anyone from knowing about it:
Beck rolled out a battalion of bogeymen who he said willfully refused to recognize his vision. The crazy lefties in the press stood first among the accused. He belittled the New York Times, for one, because it identified “liberals, socialists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood” among the protesters, but did not recognize them as a) a mortal threat and b) part of a worldwide cabal. “Notice they don’t say communist yet,” he intoned darkly of the Times report.
But the media couldn’t cover up the looming catastrophe all by themselves, he suggested. No, that would take the collusion of the people Beck on Thursday called “the Harvard know-it-alls that have no clue.” And then there’s the Fellow Traveler in Chief, whose name Beck doesn’t even need to say. Instead, he merely compares those wild-eyed Tahrir Square maniacs to “community organizers.” We get the message.
Indeed we do! In Beckie-boy’s twisted universe, “community organizers” = “Barack Obama” = “ACORN” = “George Soros” = “fascism” = “communism.” Beckie-boy is pathologically incapable of separating things he dislikes or has subjectively determined to be bad. Everything he hates is equivalent to, and marches in lock-step with, everything else he hates. Conflation is his stock-in-trade.
For the record, Glennie, the reason the New York Times hasn’t mentioned “communism” yet, in conjunction with the Egyptian revolution, is because there is zero evidence that the protestors who finally got Mubarak to quit, are communists, or directed by them! The Times can’t report something for which there is no support.
At the risk of pointing out the obvious, I must observe that the Beckster himself is part and parcel of the very same mass media he claims is orchestrating this horrific scenario; he has a nationally-syndicated radio show, he’s published several books, he’s on Fox News nightly, and formerly had been on CNN Headline News. One must wonder why he’s biting the hand that feeds him. When Beckie-boy talks about the mass media, he is, by definition, also talking about himself and the rest of his furiously sanctimonious Religious Right colleagues at Fox News! Talk about hypocrisy! (By the way, Glenn … hypocrisy is something your own Jesus clearly, explicitly, and unambiguously forbid you to engage in. Christians such as yourself cannot ever be hypocritical. Period. So please, for the sake of your eternal soul, stop kvetching and griping about how horrific the “mass media.” Every time you condemn them, you condemn yourself.)
All Christians ‘targets,’ Iraqi militant group says
All Christians in the Middle East are now “legitimate targets,” al Qaeda in Iraq announced Wednesday, as the group’s deadline for Egypt’s Coptic church to release alleged Muslim female prisoners expired.
Wow. Whodathunkit!? I’d never have guessed in a million years that Christians living in the Middle East might possibly have ever become “targets” for al-Qaeda in Iraq. Would you, Dear Reader, have ever figured that out?
Why, of course Christians in the Middle East are al-Qaeda’s targets! They have been, ever since al-Qaeda came into existence! Who in the occidental world could possibly not already be aware of this? Al-Qaeda’s other targets — that everyone also knows about by now — are Shi’ite Muslims, and Jews, and pretty much any other kind of person of any religion who chooses not to hew the fanatical, insane hyperreligionist line of the murderous Islamofascist thugs known as al-Qaeda.
Allow me to assist the mass media in breaking still more major stories: A fight broke out at a hockey game, some college students got drunk this weekend, and it’s cold in the Arctic.
If you live in the Burlington [Connecticut] area, no doubt you have heard of the Green Lady of Burlington. But, her only claim to fame is she’s boring!
No tales of being scared out of your pants in the middle of the woods.
No disembodied heads popping out of teapots.
No terrifying bedroom appearances in the middle of the night.
She just slowly fades in, smiles at you like Mona Lisa and then slowly fades out in a green haze.
Wow. What cutting-edge journalism. A news story about a ghost story whose main feature is that it’s totally unremarkable! A non-newsworthy version of a non-story. What an incredible waste of time and space in a newspaper and on a Web site!
This report even includes putative “proof” the Green Lady of Burlington (CT) exists:
Below is a YouTube video of a visit to the graveyard by Barry Dillinger, with the only recorded EVP ever made at this site. She sort of moans. Turn your volume up to hear it. …
I don’t know what you heard, but I didn’t hear a damned thing. But even if I had … who’s to say that it couldn’t have been something uttered by a living (not dead) person off-camera? This video — even if it did contain any discernible “moaning” sound — does not constitute “proof” of the Green Lady of Burlington’s existence. Far from it!
It would be nice if the RC refrained from this kind of bullshit reporting. But given they have a history of offering this kind of “news,” I don’t expect they plan to stop any time soon. More’s the pity.
As the Shroud of Turin is put on public display for the first time in 10 years, new data reveals more than just a flat image embedded in the ancient cloth, but an astonishing, three-dimensional, sculpture-like figure. Using the principles of physics, cutting-edge digital technology, and the revolutionary CGI process pioneered in Stealing Lincoln’s Body, HISTORY brings that image to life, unveiling the most accurate representation ever seen of what many believe to be Jesus Christ.
There’s just one tiny little problem with using the Shroud of Turin as an indicator of what Jesus Christ must have looked like, and that is that it doesn’t contain a picture of him! The Shroud has been tested scientifically, multiple times, and each timehas been shown to date only to the Middle Ages — the middle of the 14th century, to be exact. There is overwhelming and abundant evidence that the Shroud is not a 1st century BCE burial cloth with a magical photo of Jesus on it, but rather, of medieval manufacture, very likely a pious fraud. It’s time for Christians who worship the Shroud, to put away their beliefs in this phony artifact and stop using it to prop up their nonsensical metaphysical beliefs.