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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Myths Not to Live By

There are a lot of myths that pass for facts these days. Some I've addressed in previous posts, but I thought this might be a good time to gather several of them into a single post. So here are a few facts that some people still find surprising:
  1. Catholic priests sexually abuse minors at greater rates than the rest of the male population. No, they don't. I've posted on this several times, highlighting how frequently non-Catholic priests (e.g., school teachers, high school coaches, US swimming coaches) abuse minors (see e.g., "USA Swimming Child-Abuse Scandal,""Not to Beat a Dead Horse, But...""Celibacy and the Pastoral-Abuse of Minors").
  2. American Evangelicals are the most politically active religious group in the US. No. Black Protestants are. This may come as a surprise to some, but a 1998 analysis found that contrary to popular opinion, American evangelical congregations are less politically active than Black congregations. Building upon this study, I tracked where John Kerry, George Bush, John Edwards, and Dick Cheney visited during the 2004 Presidential campaign, and Kerry and Edwards visited and spoke at far more churches than did Bush and Cheney ("Whose Faith-Based Initiative?"). This is not to suggest that Bush and Cheney did not cultivate the evangelical vote. Of course they did. But that doesn't mean that evangelicals are the most politically active group.
  3. The Super Bowl Causes Domestic Violence. It's amazing that this myth still circulates, considering that it's been 20 years since the claim was refuted. For more information see my recent re-post "The Myth of the Super Bowl and Violence Against Women". 
  4. American Evangelicalism is in decline. In spite of the wishful thinking of some mainline Protestants and secularists, American evangelicalism isn't fading away  ("The Myth of Evangelical Decline"). 
  5. Christianity is no longer the largest religion in the world. Actually, it is, and all signs indicate that it will be for a very long time "The Triumph of Christianity").
  6. Terrorists are poorly educated, come from lower-class backgrounds, and attended religious institutions. Wrong. Just the opposite. Not sure why this my continues to circulate; probably because there are so many in the West who believe that education is the answer to everything. Education is great, but it isn't the panacea that many people believe it to be. See ("Terrorist Stereotypes and Misconceptions").
  7. Athletes engage in criminal behavior a higher rates than the general population. No. They just get more press when it happens ("Athletes Are Less Likely to be Arrested than Average Citizens").
  8. Walking drunk is safer than driving drunk. Just the opposite, actually. Drinking and walking is more dangerous than drinking and driving. If you are drunk and you live one mile from home, if you choose to walk rather than drive home, you are eight times more likely to die than if you drove home ("Friends Don't Let Friends Walk Drunk").
  9. Colonial America was very pious. Not a chance. Things got so out of control at Christmas that the Puritans tried to ban the celebration of it ("Unpious Colonial America"). While it's true that some very pious people fled to the US in order to be able to worship freely (or at least differently from how they worshipped in Europe), they were not the only ones who came to America. Some were fleeing from the law (e.g., a few European countries shipped prisoners to America); others came seeking fortune (e.g., Jamestown was founded as an economic outpost not a religious one); others were social misfits who had no ties keeping them from leaving (i.e., they were social isolates). In short, while some colonists were deeply religious, many were not, which is why early American piety was not widespread.
  10. Individuals with a college education attend church at lower rates than do those with a high school education. No, they don't. People with a college education are more likely to attend church (or mosque or synagogue) than people with a high school education ("Education and Church Attendance: The Conventional Wisdom is Wrong")
  11. Catholics feel more guilt than do other people of faith. It's a nice joke, but it isn't true.  ("Catholic Guilt? Think Again").

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