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Skepticism, credulity, and religion
Windycon09
gmcdavid
A note in one of jeff_duntemann's Odd Lots led me to Look Who's Irrational Now, reporting on a study by Baylor University and the Gallup organization.
....traditional Christian religion greatly decreases belief in everything from the efficacy of palm readers to the usefulness of astrology. [The study] also shows that the irreligious and the members of more liberal Protestant denominations, far from being resistant to superstition, tend to be much more likely to believe in the paranormal and in pseudoscience than evangelical Christians.

The Gallup Organization, under contract to Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion, asked American adults a series of questions to gauge credulity. Do dreams foretell the future? Did ancient advanced civilizations such as Atlantis exist? Can places be haunted? Is it possible to communicate with the dead? Will creatures like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster someday be discovered by science?

The answers were added up to create an index of belief in occult and the paranormal. While 31% of people who never worship expressed strong belief in these things, only 8% of people who attend a house of worship more than once a week did.

Even among Christians, there were disparities. While 36% of those belonging to the United Church of Christ, Sen. Barack Obama's former denomination, expressed strong beliefs in the paranormal, only 14% of those belonging to the Assemblies of God, Sarah Palin's former denomination, did. In fact, the more traditional and evangelical the respondent, the less likely he was to believe in, for instance, the possibility of communicating with people who are dead.
Also
Surprisingly, while increased church attendance and membership in a conservative denomination has a powerful negative effect on paranormal beliefs, higher education doesn't. Two years ago two professors published another study in Skeptical Inquirer showing that, while less than one-quarter of college freshmen surveyed expressed a general belief in such superstitions as ghosts, psychic healing, haunted houses, demonic possession, clairvoyance and witches, the figure jumped to 31% of college seniors and 34% of graduate students.

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Thanks! that's really interesting, especially since I've been listening to some skeptical and "free thinkers" podcasts in recent months as I've mentioned in my blog. I wonder how it might vary among others sects say Catholics or various non-Christians?

I'm also curious as to how the questions were presented. It says "31% of people who never worship expressed strong belief in these things" But I wonder how many people there are who said they "never worship" but are not atheists? I consider myself a Deist, but do not worship.

And I have a problem with the claim that
the New Atheist campaign, by discouraging religion, won't create a new group of intelligent, skeptical, enlightened beings. Far from it: It might actually encourage new levels of mass superstition.
-I would suspect that it's not the "New Atheist campaign", but rather a dissatisfaction with traditional religion that encourages some people seek for other un-, sub-, or supernatural experiences to fill the void they feel.

There is more information at the Baylor U. site, and apparently there is a book coming out.

Okay the Baylor article makes it more clear that they were making some distinctions between Atheists and non-religious/"un-churched." And I can see where

But the bit saying "There's an old saying that a man who no longer believes in God is ready to believe in just about anything, and it turns out our data suggests it's true. I want to rewrite it to say "a man who no longer believes in a specific religion..."

Thanks again, I may have to check out the book. I also passed the link on to the hosts of the Dogma Free America podcast to see if they'll cover it. If I recall, they've claimed Atheists make of somewhere between 9% and 15% depending on the poll

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