I guess I am lucky we aren't at a cocktail party together, as I have discussed politics already today, and am now moving on to religion. Does a blog fall under the old adage "Three topics to avoid at a cocktail party lest you want to start an argument: sex, politics and religion"?
Two related items.
First, Richard Dawkins, Oxford professor and the incomparable author of The Selfish Gene (which introduced the word 'meme' to my frequently-used-word-lexicon), just released a new book entitled The God Delusion. The book's title pretty much sums up the topic, which takes a frothing atheist's view of the benefits and drawbacks of religion in historic and present society. I try to read a balanced set of books on this subject (having just finished Jimmy Carter's excellent Our Endangered Values yesterday), so am looking forward to this insightful author's treatment of the subject.
Second, Baylor University just published a new study entitled 'American Piety in the 21st Century', which is a multi-year, broad-based study of the religious beliefs of the United States. It touches on a number of issues including the type of God that people feel exists (benevolent, wrathful, etc.) as well as how people categorize themselves as believers (evangelical, born-again, etc.). There are some amusing bits in there, including Americans who claim membership in denominations that are non-Evangelical and subsequently categorize themselves as Evangelical (in quantities greater than the aggregate of all Evangelical faiths, I might add).
I think I may have seen these people vote.
All in all, an insightful read for all of us, and not just the 96 percent of Americans who believe in God.
(Update: 4:15p- Just saw an excerpt from the book, which was so amusing I had to affix this postscript...."To be fair, much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird, as you would expect of a chaotically cobbled-together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and 'improved' by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors and copyists, unknown to us and mostly unknown to each other, spanning nine centuries. This may explain some of the sheer strangeness of the Bible. But unfortunately it is this same weird volume that religious zealots hold up to us as the inerrant source of our morals and rules for living. ")