Monday, March 16, 2009

"A Come to Jesus Moment" in the Form of a Depart from Jesus Moment

Nate Silver has produced this telling chart measuring levels of trust in institutions, and briefly considers the decline in trust of religious institutions:

Confidence in organized religion also fell significantly [between 2000 and 2008], although most of the decline came between 2000 and 2002, when the rating dropped from 29 percent to 19 percent. I'm not sure whether that was the result of the Catholic priest scandals, some odd kind of ricochet from 9/11, or something else, but the scores have yet to really recover.
Insofar as this decline was a response to the 9/11 attacks and the Catholic Church's "scandals," I would call it an appropriate inventory-taking of the perils of submission to ancient dogmas, a response I find neither "odd" nor "ricochet"-like.

Dismiss me as one of those cranky atheists if you like, but I would expect even the dimmest among us to recoil upon learning that the Church has used its prestige and authority to perpetuate the rape of children; and to recoil again on the news that the suicidally-violent devotion to Islam has arrived and altered the national skyline. Of course these are not the only examples one could cite, but they are of a magnitude to shift the presumption away from trust and toward distrust.

This is a good thing? As a cranky atheist, I am happy enough to see religion have to earn its keep. I'm not ready to say it's an unqualified good that people appear to be losing confidence in everything save for the military. If that broad trend continues, it does not go to places I want to be.


Aimée said...

What do you think is up with military number?

Dale said...

Aimee, I think it speaks to the fact that the military and its actual day-to-day work is walled off from mainstream USA. The news media won't touch it, and politicians play along by genuflecting before it (or saying nothing).

The military is this distant entity for which we are asked to remain forever and vaguely fond. We are told their work is difficult, and we nod along. No doubt their work is difficult, but we don't ask for and don't get a full picture.

This could end badly in a host of ways.