SocraticGadfly: Where are all these Texas atheists?

August 10, 2018

Where are all these Texas atheists?

Near the end of its latest poll on the Beto O'Rourke-Ted Cruz Senate Race, Lyceum reports on the background of respondents, as most in-depth polls do.

There's this, on page 11: NINE percent claim to be atheist or agnostic. That's more than twice as many as who reported as Muslim. Throw out the 13 percent who were either "didn't know" (really?) or "refused," and you're at a little over 10 percent.


That said, counting 22 percent as either unaligned or third party, Lyceum claimed respondents were otherwise split, 39 percent each on Doinks and Rethugs.


But, let's get back to those atheists and agnostics.

I'm quite familiar with people misusing these terms to really mean "spiritual but not religious," or "irreligious vis-a-vis organized religion."

Let's say half our 10 percent falls there.

That's still 5 percent atheist or agnostic.

Let's say that 8 percentage points of the 13 percent refusniks are "nones," as are all 9 percent, in the original number, of alleged atheists or agnostics. Then, one-sixth of Texans are "nones."

That leads me to a piece by Psy Post. Until Friday, it seemed to me to be a pretty good psychology popularization blog and website. John Horgan is among its Twitter followers.

But then it blared: You live longer if you're religious.

Without saying that all we have on that is statistical correlation, not causal correlation, and without, in the western tradition, comparing today's US to today's Europe on that. (Well, it did kind of say that, but after the "blaring.")

Given that the power of intercessory prayer has been disproven by double blinded studies, in fact, we can say that almost certainly, it is NOT a causal correlation.

Add to that the fact that, especially in small towns, "church" and non-church general religious affiliation adds a degree of "community" to life for many people, especially in a place like red-state Texas. Also note that, especially in smaller communities, for those in need, many food banks and other forms of charitable outreach are church-based, or if not so explicit, at least religiously themed.

The only way to do a halfway scientific version of such a survey would be to look at churched vs unchurched people who are both also members of other organizations, like Rotary, Kiwanis, etc. And, you'd have to use more than obits. You'd have to use longitudinal time management research to confirm how often said people actually attended both churches and their social clubs.

And, there's been plenty of empirical research on the reality of a god already.

Speaking of empirical matters, we do also know that, by percentage of respective ethnic groups, more of those atheists are white than black or hispanic, but we also know that young blacks are consciously starting to catch up on leaving church, in part because African-Americans are finding more "secular" leaders willing to speak on "spiritual" issues. Like LeBron. Or Kaepernick. This is even as Congressional Black Caucus leader Jim Clyburn will suck up to Trump as much as those black ministers, to avoid churches paying new taxes.


Update, with some related stats? In 2019, 23 percent of Americans went to church every week. Sounds fairly devoted, right, every week? But 29 percent never went once. Texas, Bible Belt stereotypes aside, is no exception. This site says that it was less than 20 percent, and they're a religious website.

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