Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Christian States of America

If belief creates reality, it's no wonder we're living in a Bizarro World.

The First Amendment Center just released its 2007 survey results of Americans' opinions on the U.S. Constitution and the First Amendment.

Sixty-five percent (nearly two-thirds) of the respondents said they believed the nation's founders intended the United States to be a Christian nation, and 55% believe that the Constitution establishes a Christian nation.

When asked to name the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, 64% knew that freedom of speech was one of them. Only 19% knew that freedom of religion was a right enumerated in the First Amendment. Sixteen percent knew about freedom of the press, and 16% knew about the right to associate and assemble. Only three percent mentioned the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.

A full 29% either refused to answer the above questions or flat out admitted they just didn't know!

After having the First Amendment read to them, 25% agreed when asked if the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees.

Let that sink in for a moment.

One in four Americans believes that we have too much freedom!

Thirty-four percent think the press has too much freedom. Thirty-seven percent do not think the press should be allowed to criticize the U.S. military's strategy and performance.

Twenty-eight percent believe that the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of religion "was never meant to apply to religious groups that the majority of the people consider extreme or on the fringe."

More from the survey:
  • Public schools should be allowed to put on Nativity reenactments with Christian music: 43% agreed.
  • Musicians should be allowed to sing songs with lyrics that others might find offensive: 42% disagreed.
  • People should be allowed to say things in public that might be offensive to religious groups: 39% disagreed.
  • People should be allowed to say things in public that might be offensive to racial groups: 56% disagreed.
  • Teachers and other school officials should be allowed to lead prayers in public school: 58% agreed.
  • A public school teacher should be allowed to use the Bible as a factual text in a history or social studies class: 50% agreed.
The demographics of the respondents: 67% with at least some college; 79% white; 62% having a household income over $40,000 a year; 30% Democrat, 28% Republican, and 26% claiming to be Independent. 49% were men, 51% women. Only 1/3 of the respondents had children under the age of 18.

Seventy-three percent said they were Christians (50% Protestant, 23% Catholic).

Twenty-six percent of all respondents said they were "fundamentalist/evangelical Christians." If I remember high school algebra, that means that .26 / .73 = nearly 36% of the Christians interviewed considered themselves fundamentalists and/or evangelicals.

To me, the most telling of all the statistics is the section asking where the respondents primarily get their news. Sixty-one percent of the respondents said they got most of their news from passive sources, that is, television (52%) and radio (9%).

Twenty-one percent get their news from what I would call, for lack of a better term, active sources (newspapers, 20%; magazines, 1%.) By active, I mean, in comparison to TV and radio, where you don't usually actually think about the news, at least not while you're receiving it. With magazines and newspapers, at least you choose the pace at which you try to absorb a news story, and you have the choice of whether to actually read a story or not. With rapid-fire TV and radio, you're usually just bombarded, and before you can decide if you actually want to know about a story, yet another story is being presented. Often, you're not only given the story, but told, directly or indirectly, what you should think about it.

Fifteen percent said they got their news from the Internet, and four percent said "other," whatever that means. Again, for lack of a better term, I would call news you get from the Internet "interactive." You choose what to read. You can take your time thinking about what you've read, and leisurely form an opinion. In many cases, whether on news organization sites or on personal blogs, you can interact with others by posting your own opinions, conclusions, disagreements or rebuttals.

It's my hypothesis, which of course cannot be proved or disproved without access to the individual survey forms, that the readers (of magazines, newspapers and Internet) in this survey held more liberal or libertarian views, and knew more about, and held in a higher regard (or even higher reverence), the First Amendment, while those who got their news spoon-fed to them by television and radio talking heads and pundits held the more "conservative," anti-freedom viewpoints, and knew less about, and valued less, the freedoms enumerated in the First Amendment.

Agree? Disagree? Come on... be interactive!

You can find the actual survey questions and answer tables in a PDF file provided by the First Amendment Center. You can also find the Center's original press release on their site.

News stories about the 2007 survey can be found here, and here, and here.

| | | | | |


  1. WOW you never cease to surprise me. I think you give people a lot to think about here. I probably can't say much here though because I'm Canadian and if I open my mouth and give my opinion I'm bound to be shot down and burned so I'll refrain.

  2. Dare I say this is a break down of the public education system. Even worse, this is the results of the fast food nation, who takes the time to read or study the sacred documents people fought for and lost their lives for.

    For the part that said "After having the First Amendment read to them, 25% agreed when asked if the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees."

    The irony here is that that very freedom is what gives them the ability to say that.

    Long live the king.

  3. Okay, I'm depressed. As the Traveler said, people died to make those ideas a reality.

    This does have something to do with our school system, as well as what we discuss at home.

    And tv, I believe, is a fundamentally anti-democratic medium. I no longer own one.

    And this also makes me think of an article we were discusiing in lodge a couple nights ago.

    It is a New Rebublic article that talks about the way in which fear, especially reminders of our own mortality make us reflexively more conservative--and discusses researchers who have proved this on test subjects over and over. It really is fascinating.

    The context for the article is the elections of 2004, which is old news, but the research info in it is very relevant to this survey as well. We live in a constructed climate of fear, and respond to that in predicatable ways.

    It's long, but worth the read:

  4. The Founders were definitely proponents of what has come to be termed "intelligent design." But explicitly Christian? I'm not so sure. At that point in Western history, the hard sciences were abutted by post-Enlightenment ethical theories and sundry arcanum, including (but not limited to) astrology, alchemy and Gnosticism. Of course, they had some pretty radical new ideas of their own, thank... God? The Great Architect?

    It was a fine recipe, if you ask me. But then again, I'm not an evangelical.

    Excellent post, btw.

  5. Are we becoming a nation ruled by apathetic indifference? Satiated by the latest reality TV show and newest convenience food?

    "in an abundant society where people have laptops, cell phones, iPods, and minds like empty rooms...." Harper Lee

    The most alarming aspect of this article is that these same people who, as we read, shaking our heads and clicking our tongues, these very same people vote on issues that affect our lives.


  6. in summary, Conservatives are lazy and ignorant.

  7. Hannah said...

    in summary, Conservatives are lazy and ignorant.
    How so?


  8. It's sickening isn't it? Go to my blog and watch the YouTube video of Craig Ferguson from last night's monologue. This is a true American, yet, he's not even a citizen yet!

    It also occured to me to wonder how I can be a Freemason when most people would consider me an atheist? I ask myself that from time to time, and then I realize that my pantheist (or natural view) of God is in exact accord with the beliefs of the Founding Deists, many of whom were Freemasons.

    I figure if they could let Benjamin Franklin join, then they can let me join to; even if I have no time or patience of the dogma of any man-made religion.


  9. remember, brother ben did not receive regular masonic funeral rites at his death do to his belonging to the wrong GL!
    Antients vs. Moderns...

  10. Are we becoming a nation ruled by apathetic indifference?


    Who cares?

  11. "After having the First Amendment read to them, 25% agreed when asked if the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees.

    Let that sink in for a moment.

    One in four Americans believes that we have too much freedom!"

    Come on now.
    One in 4 of the 1,003 people who answered a phone poll think we have too much freedom. and they were probably just jealous because everybody else was out having a good time and they were home answering poll questions.


  12. Tom....

    The kittens, remember the kittens!!!


  13. Oh, W.S. is just in his kitchen standing on a chair screaming, "Eeek! A Christian!" again.

    Any poll has a 20% nut job factor. If polled, 20% of gay, left-handed Norwegian Phds would say people should have a protected constitutional right to kill puppies.

    As the old saying goes, research proves research works.

  14. I'm surprised the American public is as smart as the research results portray them. Call me a misanthrope. If you picked random people off the street (like Jay Leno does on his Jaywalking skits), you would be appalled at the stupidity. These are the same people who VOTE. And we wonder why our government representation is so piss-poor.

    What is stunning is that noone bothers to read anymore, be it newspapers, magazine, blogs or books. Instead, they park their fat asses in front of the idiot box to listen to blithering ignorant buffoons like Lou Dobbs, Dan Rather or Bill O'Reilly.

    Disgusting. Guess we should just hope the planet is hit by an asteroid to put humanity out of our own misery.

    Fraternally yours,
    The Libertarian

  15. Ignorance is incredibly useful to our leadership. Educated people tend to ask questions and that causes trouble. Ignorant people, unless they get a bee under their bonnet about some fringe issue, tend to nod and then fall asleep.

    Freedom is frightening to ignorant people. They know deep down inside that they can't trust themselves, and so they don't trust anyone else (assuming everyone is like them) and want protection. That generally takes the form of the big strong daddy-figure, which in this country relates to the President (rarely to other elected officials, who are often treated with some contempt) and, of course, beyond that to the old notion of God as the ultimate Big Daddy in the sky. Fear of death just aggravates the problem.

    Well, I lost my faith in humanity long ago, though every time I read stories like this, I die a little. Yes, the world would be better without us.

  16. Scrooge:

    The science (or art) of sampling says that those 1,003 people are a representative sample of the whole, with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.2%.

    Add or take away 3.2%, and the results still support my points.

    See this page for more on the math behind sampling.

    — W.S.

  17. It is sad to read that a large part of the American people is ready to be enslaved and ask for it... Someday they will and rights for all will become privileges for the few.

  18. It is worth going and reading the actual data before getting too excited. The survey data is given for ten years and in many cases the data has not changed substantially in the last decade, even pre-9/11. It is interesting what has changed:

    1) More people strongly disagree with the statement the first amendment goes too far now than they did in 1997.
    2) More people know the first amendment guarantees freedom of speech than in 1997.
    3) Rights to privacy and freedom of religion are not believed to be as essential, but look at the figures for right to privacy in 2002, right after 9/11...
    4) More than twice as many people strongly disagree with the statement the media reports unbiased news as agree with the statement

    And that is only from the first third of the original source. The American people are often wiser and more insightful than they are given credit for. Calm down, take a deep breath, the republic will survive...

  19. Kridnix:

    My article was not about trends of the last ten years; it was about Americans' abysmal lack of knowledge about the First Amendment today. When the results are still this bad, it's nothing to cheer that they're not quite as bad on certain points as they were at some time in the past. It's like rejoicing that a classroom of students is getting smarter because it "improved" from an F-minus to an F-plus.

    With all due respect, your argument is weak.

    1) More people strongly disagree with the statement the first amendment goes too far now than they did in 1997.

    The tables only show data for the question of whether the First Amendment goes to far back to 1999, not 1997 as you said. Cherry-picking whether someone "strongly" disagreed or "mildly" disagreed doesn't change the fact that when you add them together, the change in "disagreement" from 1999 to 2007 is less than the 3.2% margin of error of the poll. Hardly a change worth noticing, much less celebrating.

    2) More people know the first amendment guarantees freedom of speech than in 1997.

    And fewer people knew freedom of speech was a First Amendment right in 2006 than they did in 2005. The average over the past ten years is 57.4%. Still not very impressive.

    3) Rights to privacy and freedom of religion are not believed to be as essential, but look at the figures for right to privacy in 2002, right after 9/11.

    And in the five years since 2002, each of those measures has again dropped by five to ten percentage points. In 2002, we were driven by a patriotic fervor unseen since World War II. Everything presented to us via the media was ultra-patriotic, so naturally, people's support for "American values" went up. That these measures have again dropped to pre-9/11 levels indicates that we've again lost interest in these freedoms (many of which have been taken away in the years since, while the press was championing American liberties).

    4) More than twice as many people strongly disagree with the statement the media reports unbiased news as agree with the statement.

    You've mixed apples and oranges with this one. You compared "strongly disagree" with "agree." And, even if you add together both "strongly agree" and "mildly agree," your point that more people agreed than disagreed isn't a point at all, mathematically (of course if I say 1/3 disagreed then it's a given that 2/3 agreed) as well as rationally.

    Your arguments remind me of a Mason denying that American Freemasonry overall is in a state of decline, in both quantity and quality, simply because in his lodge they had more new members this year than last. In Georgia, for example, each year there are about 1,800 fewer Masons than there were the year before, even though my lodge raised more men this year than last. (Statistically, the trend shows that Freemasonry in Georgia will disappear around 2027. More people die or quit than join.)

    Good try, but I don't see anything hopeful in the numbers given by the 2007 First Amendment survey. no matter how we massage them.

    — W.S.

  20. It's the breakdown of society. For it to become a practice to flat out reject thought and progression, disturbs me to no end. This trend of Fundamentalism, is not only scary, but its gaining in popularity.

    People would rather choose ignorance over education.

    Too many freedoms? Jesus. Christ.

  21. Bobo,

    You are right. Ignorance is incredibly useful to our leadership.

    Controling the masses through irgnorance is nothing new. In my freshman Sociology class I learned that the Inst. of Propaganda Analysis was established in 1937 to educate the American public about the nature of propaganda.

    Just in case you are interested or have forgotten, the Seven Techniques of Propaganda are as follows:

    Name Calling
    Glittering Generalities
    Plain Folks
    Card Stacking
    Band Wagon

    These techniques are directed to our emotions rather than our logic and reasoning.

    Please bare with me if you feel I have ventured outside the scope of this discussion, I will try to tie this all together.

    I don't feel the lack of education is the only problem here. there are meany educated politicians, religious leaders, teachers...that use the above mentioned techniques to promote personal agendas.

    Would the loss of First Amendment Rights (FAR) not beifit these agendas?

    Here is the twist, don't these same FAR's guarantee the freedom to promote said agendas?

    Polls and statistics aside, we are always going to have a segment of our population who are not capable of looking at a situation with reason and logic, who are easily controled by emotion and the promise of security provided by someone other than themselves.

    Another segment who just doesn't care. Apathetic indifference.

    And then there are the people who come to sites like this to discuss issues and ideas, to think and be challenged.

    I don't want to sound too much like an idealistic sap, but doesn't the reponsiblity fall to people like us to keep the prinicples outlined in the First Amendment alive?


  22. I'd challenge that this country was "meant to be Christian" but I CERTAINLY would not challenge that it was meant to be a nation founded on God. The Declaration of Independence and other founding documents clearly demonstrate that. (And as Masons, we should embrace that fervently.)

    No, it is the methodical, persistent removal of God from society that is killing us as a nation, not Christians. All you have to do is look at what has happened since prayer was removed from schools. Christians just tend to be the most vocal about it, and therefore are the most persecuted for it.

  23. Christians are persecuted?

    Haven't seen too many of them being thrown to the lions on the nightly news lately.

    — W.S.

  24. 73 percent said they were Christians .... 26 percent of all respondents said they were "fundamentalist/evangelical Christians." ... that means that nearly 36% of the Christians interviewed considered themselves fundamentalists and/or evangelicals.

    Correction: 26% of 73% is about 19% of the whole, not 36%.
    (0.26 x 0.73 = about 0.19)

  25. Quote: "Correction: 26% of 73% is about 19% of the whole, not 36%.
    (0.26 x 0.73 = about 0.19)"

    You may want to think about taking a probability and statistics class instead of stopping at high school algebra Mr. Anonymous. The point that WS is making is clearly that 26/73 = 0.36 or 36% of all Christian respondents, not all respondendts in general.

  26. Vote Ron Paul

    As a collective majority the US people do NOT think. We live in a sound bite mentality.

    List all the stupid quotes I've heard in the past 5 years.

    "Vote {Place Political Party Here} Party because voting for an independent is throwing your vote away."
    - How can your vote be thrown away? If all of us simply voted with assurance, no matter if they won or not, that our conscious as a whole would change. I think we would be surprised on the outcome.

    "If you don’t have anything to hide, you don’t have anything to worry about!"
    - Have we forgot our liberties for safety. How do we know we're safe? Because someone tells us we are. We should know because we know our rights. Read More

    If someone could tell me how we are different from the Roman Empire... because it looks like history is repeating again!

  27. Who really cares. They should have put,"Anyone who is a mason would be beaten with a club and hog tied."

    Then this document would have been complete.

  28. I am in the soupy sins of this world, Jesus' hand has reached for me- and I want Him to lead me to the land of those who care not to sin, but to live in our love of Jesus. For this reason and this reason only I live my life to show Him that I love Him with all my heart, mind and Soul.

    Jesus lead me to your Children- lead me to the family of Salvation. So that I may introduce myself.

    Gerard Haughey


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.