Correlation of Religiosity & Wealth: Pew Study

This Pew report is getting a lot of people’s attention. It includes some surprising data. The most important is that people are not staying in the religion that they were brought up in. Also, there is an alarming drop in the number of Catholics. As usual, the Baha’i Faith’s miniscule numbers didn’t even place it on the radar.

This is the most widely seen excerpt from the study (click to see full view):

Pew Study: Religions in America

But for me, the most interesting piece of data was elsewhere. Take a look at this chart comparing the “religiosity” of people to their economic standing:

The survey finds a strong relationship between a country’s religiosity and its economic status. In poorer nations, religion remains central to the lives of individuals, while secular perspectives are more common in richer nations.

pew-survey-wealth-religiosity

Of course, this isn’t really shocking nor news. Most of us have an innate sense that this is true from our own experiences. Have you heard the expression “There are no atheists in a foxhole”?

I know from the efforts of the Baha’i Faith that Western Europe has been impregnable for the past 4 decades. The same with North America. The only place the Baha’i Faith has made any headway has been in poorer countries like India where the vast percentage of Baha’is in the world reside. Even that is contested due to the fluid nature of religious affiliation on that continent.

Needless to say, there are exceptions to the general data. There are many extremely wealthy people who are also extremely religious. And Mark Twain did say there are lies, damned lies and statistics ;-)

But that’s not the point. My only contention is that the sample size of 35,000 is too small (for a global study). But if the data is correct, then there is definitely a relationship between money and religious belief. That can be interpreted two ways:

For those who are of an atheist inclination, it is confirmation that religion is merely a sophisticated vestigial instinct born of ignorance. Once human life is elevated through the use of science it is apt to disappear.

For those who are of a theist inclination, it is confirmation that materialism is a great barrier to spirituality. Once physical needs such as health, well-being, shelter, etc. are fulfilled, humanity revels in decadence and drifts away from the non-physical needs which religion addresses.

Which one are you?

Is there a third way to interpret the data (assuming the study methodology is sound)?

Read the full report here: The Pews Global Attitudes Project (pdf format).

The report covers much more ground than people’s views of religion so it is worth a read. If you don’t have the time, here is a concise version.

There is a lot of fascinating stuff in there so look around. For example, here is a visual map of the United States showing the various faiths and traditions.

  • http://www.letters-of-the-living.blogspot.com Amanda

    Great post, B.

    You say: “For those who are of an atheist inclination, it is confirmation that religion is merely a sophisticated vestigial instinct born of ignorance.”

    I’d say “merely a manipulation of human instinct born of oppression,” more than ignorance. People living in poorer areas are victims of many interconnected oppressive systems, all of which use religious-style dogma to keep people down. It’s what greases the wheel.

  • http://www.letters-of-the-living.blogspot.com Amanda

    Great post, B.

    You say: “For those who are of an atheist inclination, it is confirmation that religion is merely a sophisticated vestigial instinct born of ignorance.”

    I’d say “merely a manipulation of human instinct born of oppression,” more than ignorance. People living in poorer areas are victims of many interconnected oppressive systems, all of which use religious-style dogma to keep people down. It’s what greases the wheel.

  • David

    Baquia,

    There are actually several other ways to interpret the data.

    First, though, a couple other things:
    The two tables you post are actually from different surveys, both by Pew. The first, which came out this week, is the US Religious Landscape Survey. The national wealth by religiosity table comes from the Global Attitudes Survey which was released four or five months ago. The 35,000 number is the US survey, not the global one. That’s actually a really large sample size. The global survey was only slightly larger, with 45,000 over 47 countries, or about 1,000 per country. By way of comparison, national American presidential polls are typically around 1,000 and the US is significantly larger than most of the countries surveyed. And, a minor point, but the landscape study did *not* find a drop in the number of Catholics. Lots of people were switching out of Catholicism but they were being replaced by South and Central American immigrants so the *total* number of Catholics has been consistent.

    So with any kind of correlational study the obvious alternative explanation is always that the relationship runs the opposite direction. So it may be (and there is some evidence of this) that wealth does not make people less religious, but being less religious makes people wealthier (b/c, perhaps, of reorientation in values or priorities or having more to work since you’re spending less time at church).

    Alternatively the question of confounding variables is always an issue. So, for example, might it be the case that education is really the important variable and that having more education makes one *both* less religious and wealthier?

    Also, the important variable might actually be a mediating one – so, less religious countries might, say, be less oppressive towards women and allow them into the workplace at higher rates, which in turn increases the workforce and produces greater national wealth.

    More importantly, though, the data from the Pew survey tells us about the relationship between wealth and religiosity at the *national*, not the *individual* level. This is a very important distinction because your post is all about the individual and this table doesn’t tell us anything about that. To know that we would need to know distributions *within* countries. So, for instance, Sweden as a whole might be non-religious and wealthy, but that doesn’t tell us whether wealthy Swedes are less religious than poor Swedes. I really don’t know about that particular case, but in America at least the relationship doesn’t work that way and the correlation between *individual* wealth and religiosity is unclear and debated but there is some evidence that, at least in certain regions, the relationship goes the other direction. In the South, for example, some studies find a positive correlation with wealth and religiosity. The bottom-line is that its a complicated relationship, but important here is that you can’t infer trends about individuals based on trends about nations.

    Best,
    David

  • David

    Baquia,

    There are actually several other ways to interpret the data.

    First, though, a couple other things:
    The two tables you post are actually from different surveys, both by Pew. The first, which came out this week, is the US Religious Landscape Survey. The national wealth by religiosity table comes from the Global Attitudes Survey which was released four or five months ago. The 35,000 number is the US survey, not the global one. That’s actually a really large sample size. The global survey was only slightly larger, with 45,000 over 47 countries, or about 1,000 per country. By way of comparison, national American presidential polls are typically around 1,000 and the US is significantly larger than most of the countries surveyed. And, a minor point, but the landscape study did *not* find a drop in the number of Catholics. Lots of people were switching out of Catholicism but they were being replaced by South and Central American immigrants so the *total* number of Catholics has been consistent.

    So with any kind of correlational study the obvious alternative explanation is always that the relationship runs the opposite direction. So it may be (and there is some evidence of this) that wealth does not make people less religious, but being less religious makes people wealthier (b/c, perhaps, of reorientation in values or priorities or having more to work since you’re spending less time at church).

    Alternatively the question of confounding variables is always an issue. So, for example, might it be the case that education is really the important variable and that having more education makes one *both* less religious and wealthier?

    Also, the important variable might actually be a mediating one – so, less religious countries might, say, be less oppressive towards women and allow them into the workplace at higher rates, which in turn increases the workforce and produces greater national wealth.

    More importantly, though, the data from the Pew survey tells us about the relationship between wealth and religiosity at the *national*, not the *individual* level. This is a very important distinction because your post is all about the individual and this table doesn’t tell us anything about that. To know that we would need to know distributions *within* countries. So, for instance, Sweden as a whole might be non-religious and wealthy, but that doesn’t tell us whether wealthy Swedes are less religious than poor Swedes. I really don’t know about that particular case, but in America at least the relationship doesn’t work that way and the correlation between *individual* wealth and religiosity is unclear and debated but there is some evidence that, at least in certain regions, the relationship goes the other direction. In the South, for example, some studies find a positive correlation with wealth and religiosity. The bottom-line is that its a complicated relationship, but important here is that you can’t infer trends about individuals based on trends about nations.

    Best,
    David

  • http://ncag.org.nz/blog Steve Marshall

    Great post, Baquia, and great comments, David.

    David, you say the US survey uses a really large sample, and compare it with a much smaller national American presidential poll. That’s true enough, but I’m guessing each sample was the size it needed to be to provide the information required, at the level of accuracy that was wanted.

    For a presidential poll with a sample size of one thousand, it should be possible to get a margin of error of a few percentage points for the popular candidates and a margin of error in the single figures for the unpopular candidates – unless a candidate is so unpopular that, say, fewer than one in one thousand of the sample chose her. If, on average, only one person in a sample of 1,000 is going to pick the most unpopular candidate, then the margin of error becomes infinite(?) I imagine presidential candidates throw in the towel long before they get that unpopular and, even if they don’t, who cares whether they got picked by 0.3% of the people polled or 0.0%.

    But in a survey of religious belief, you do want to know stuff about trends in the more obscure religions – those religions that one-in-one-hundred to one-in-one-thousand self-identify with. So a sample 35 times the size of a presidential poll is called for. Even with that sample size, it appears the Baha’is disappeared up their margin of error.

  • http://ncag.org.nz/blog Steve Marshall

    Great post, Baquia, and great comments, David.

    David, you say the US survey uses a really large sample, and compare it with a much smaller national American presidential poll. That’s true enough, but I’m guessing each sample was the size it needed to be to provide the information required, at the level of accuracy that was wanted.

    For a presidential poll with a sample size of one thousand, it should be possible to get a margin of error of a few percentage points for the popular candidates and a margin of error in the single figures for the unpopular candidates – unless a candidate is so unpopular that, say, fewer than one in one thousand of the sample chose her. If, on average, only one person in a sample of 1,000 is going to pick the most unpopular candidate, then the margin of error becomes infinite(?) I imagine presidential candidates throw in the towel long before they get that unpopular and, even if they don’t, who cares whether they got picked by 0.3% of the people polled or 0.0%.

    But in a survey of religious belief, you do want to know stuff about trends in the more obscure religions – those religions that one-in-one-hundred to one-in-one-thousand self-identify with. So a sample 35 times the size of a presidential poll is called for. Even with that sample size, it appears the Baha’is disappeared up their margin of error.

  • Bird out of Cage

    The interesting bit left out is the education level of the wealthy. In general the poor don’t have the monies to obtain a higher education, whereas those with means do. Why didn’t education level enter the equation of those who are turning away from organized religion?

    I would tend to agree with Mark Twain in the reference to statistics. However I think that what applies most to the subject is thought, regardless of education, and I think Bertrand Russell had some good words on that.

    Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth — more than ruin — more even than death…. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.
    Bertrand Russell British author, mathematician, & philosopher (1872 – 1970) It will be interesting to see what those polls show 10 years from now.

  • Bird out of Cage

    The interesting bit left out is the education level of the wealthy. In general the poor don’t have the monies to obtain a higher education, whereas those with means do. Why didn’t education level enter the equation of those who are turning away from organized religion?

    I would tend to agree with Mark Twain in the reference to statistics. However I think that what applies most to the subject is thought, regardless of education, and I think Bertrand Russell had some good words on that.

    Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth — more than ruin — more even than death…. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.
    Bertrand Russell British author, mathematician, & philosopher (1872 – 1970) It will be interesting to see what those polls show 10 years from now.

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    Bird, you wrote your comment on another post – unrelated – so I moved it here. Appreciate the comment very much, just mind the gap next time ;-)

    I know the ground is shifting as I upgrade and spruce up the place a bit.

    cheerio

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    Bird, you wrote your comment on another post – unrelated – so I moved it here. Appreciate the comment very much, just mind the gap next time ;-)

    I know the ground is shifting as I upgrade and spruce up the place a bit.

    cheerio

  • David

    Steve
    Absolutely right – the desired sample size is driven by how fine-grained your questions are (or the other way around, where you have limited access to a population, so you only pick questions you can assure will be valid). There are formulas for figuring this out. The American religious landscape survey, like you said, was working with a huge number of categories and so needed a really large sample. The global survey was not as fine-grained, so didn’t need as large a sample. With the landscape study, it looks like the magic number for making inferences is .3% of the population, which is roughly 900,000 people. Many of the religions that get named in the survey have far less than that and get listed as “<.3″ (Quakers, Shias, Orthodox Jews, any specific Hindu group, Evangelical Reform).
    David

  • David

    Steve
    Absolutely right – the desired sample size is driven by how fine-grained your questions are (or the other way around, where you have limited access to a population, so you only pick questions you can assure will be valid). There are formulas for figuring this out. The American religious landscape survey, like you said, was working with a huge number of categories and so needed a really large sample. The global survey was not as fine-grained, so didn’t need as large a sample. With the landscape study, it looks like the magic number for making inferences is .3% of the population, which is roughly 900,000 people. Many of the religions that get named in the survey have far less than that and get listed as “<.3″ (Quakers, Shias, Orthodox Jews, any specific Hindu group, Evangelical Reform).
    David

  • Bird out of the Cage

    Thanks for both fixing my post and creating and maintaining this blog.

  • Bird out of the Cage

    Thanks for both fixing my post and creating and maintaining this blog.

  • http://mavaddat.livejournal.com Mavaddat

    Hi Baquia, I’d like to first make a point about statistics.

    You write:

    Needless to say, there are exceptions to the general data. There are many extremely wealthy people who are also extremely religious. And Mark Twain did say there are lies, damned lies and statistics ;-) But that’s not the point. My only contention is that the sample size of 35,000 is too small (for a global study).

    The first problem with this is that the sample size wasn’t 35,000. According to page 11 of the document you provided, the total sample size was 45,239.

    The second problem is that this is actually a large sampling for a global population, not a small one. Although a healthy dose of scepticism is a healthy thing, in a question of statistics, it is generally a bad idea to rely solely on one’s intuitions or popular satire to refute the reliability of data. In this case, however, intuition perhaps leads us into error.

    In fact, for a 45,239 sample size out of a population of 6602224175 (according to the CIA World Factbook)*, assuming a confidence level of 95% (i.e., assuming 1 in 20 false positives), the confidence interval is at worst only 0.46%. That means that if this study was made 20 times, that 19 of those times, the true percentage of the population who are religious would be different from the study’s percentage by only 0.46%. As you can see, that is tiny.

    * Page 85 states that “Sources for urban population percentages are The World Bank Group World Development Indicators Online and Financial Times World Desk Reference.”

  • Anonymous

    Hi Baquia, I’d like to first make a point about statistics.

    You write:

    Needless to say, there are exceptions to the general data. There are many extremely wealthy people who are also extremely religious. And Mark Twain did say there are lies, damned lies and statistics ;-) But that’s not the point. My only contention is that the sample size of 35,000 is too small (for a global study).

    The first problem with this is that the sample size wasn’t 35,000. According to page 11 of the document you provided, the total sample size was 45,239.

    The second problem is that this is actually a large sampling for a global population, not a small one. Although a healthy dose of scepticism is a healthy thing, in a question of statistics, it is generally a bad idea to rely solely on one’s intuitions or popular satire to refute the reliability of data. In this case, however, intuition perhaps leads us into error.

    In fact, for a 45,239 sample size out of a population of 6602224175 (according to the CIA World Factbook)*, assuming a confidence level of 95% (i.e., assuming 1 in 20 false positives), the confidence interval is at worst only 0.46%. That means that if this study was made 20 times, that 19 of those times, the true percentage of the population who are religious would be different from the study’s percentage by only 0.46%. As you can see, that is tiny.

    * Page 85 states that “Sources for urban population percentages are The World Bank Group World Development Indicators Online and Financial Times World Desk Reference.”

  • Pey

    The study only looks at official organized religions. It really isn’t measuring the spirituality of individuals. There are many people I know that “religiously” meditate, attend yoga workshops, etc. and give of their time/money to better themselves spiritually and to help the world. They do all this out of the mainstream churches. So if someone is extremely dedicated to such activities, would it constitute being religious?

  • Pey

    The study only looks at official organized religions. It really isn’t measuring the spirituality of individuals. There are many people I know that “religiously” meditate, attend yoga workshops, etc. and give of their time/money to better themselves spiritually and to help the world. They do all this out of the mainstream churches. So if someone is extremely dedicated to such activities, would it constitute being religious?

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    Mavaddat,
    or should I say student t? :-) I didn’t mean to refute the study, I just meant that one can be religious and filthy rich as well as vice versa.

    Pey,
    unless I’m mistaken, I believe the study covered this possibility. The majority of religious people belong to denominations though.

  • http://www.bahairants.com Baquia

    Mavaddat,
    or should I say student t? :-) I didn’t mean to refute the study, I just meant that one can be religious and filthy rich as well as vice versa.

    Pey,
    unless I’m mistaken, I believe the study covered this possibility. The majority of religious people belong to denominations though.

  • Craig Parke

    Pey,

    Your point is very well taken. I was going to make the same point. Many people today are far beyond every so called existing “organized religion” on Earth in very advanced highly skilled personal spirituality and daily practice of cosmic insight including the so called “organized” Baha’i Faith.

    The Baha’i Faith was once cutting edge in expressing personal spirituality discovered by genuine spiritual seekers advancing in the moving Cosmic horizon of their own hearts, but the astounding blocking forces in the BAO have now insured that the Baha’i Faith will continue to fall farther and farther behind by the hour.

    The power of the World Age Portal opened by the Bab and Baha’u’llah Spiritual Event in the 19th Century has moved on to the more cosmically resonant spirits of other people and other communities than the official straight jacketed BAO.

    The completely unnecessary restrictions on thinkers, writers, and artists by the ever more and more stagnant BAO for the last 86 years to impose top down iron fisted formal review of all thought and expression amid the rank and file has completely ham strung the Faith. Sadly, it is now very clear that this mindset has been completely fatal. It is far too late now to catch up. With the rise of the Internet since 1994 the cat is long out of the bag.

    The world wide BAO was not prepared with the developed intellectual and artistic planetary culture in place from decades of wide ranging free wheeling development in every land to step up to the plate when the moment of true cosmic expansion came. The culture was not ready and they consequently completely blew this incredible opportunity. But I also believe that this incredible blunder has to be of the Divine Hand of Almighty God. All Divine Confirmation has been withheld and has moved on to others, as Baha’u’llah clearly sets forth in the Tablet of the Holy Mariner. It appears with the Faith now in helpless free fall all bets are off.

    In the hands-on infallibility of the UHJ as the “Voice of God on Earth” (as an AABM once expressed it to me) it is a pity that they apparently turned the Faith and it’s fortunes over to the wrong gold plated professional British Public Relations Firm that bet the farm on the Ruhi Full System of Courses to implement the Faith everywhere in every society on Earth. There is now no way to recover from this. Again, I feel in this amateurish and astonishing blunder has to be the Hand of God as set forth in the Tablet of the Holy Mariner. Somehow their eyes were blinded by living in that amazingly incestuous administrative bunker mentality bubble in Haifa and not fully understanding what was happening in the world of exploding communication technology. I find this very hard to understand since there are so many good and highly informed and creative software engineers in Israel and a few countries over in India. Maybe somebody should have made a few phone calls back in 1994 to try to grasp what was coming and be fully ready for it with some sort of system of street smarts? It is my observation in life that street smarts with real in-the-moment chops completely out rank any kind of paper infallibility. Deeds not words. Leadership IS both timely fact finding and timely communication. Communication is a two way street. Is there anyone on the current UHJ that ever had to meet a payroll in life?

    Look at the incredible amount of excellent free thinking spiritual books on Amazon that express the power of the World Age brought by the planetary Cosmic vortex far better than anything the Baha’i community has. Many other communities have the real functioning thinkers, writers, and artists to express these Cosmic truths while the Baha’i Faith has only third rate hacks and falling IQ apparatchiks. It was a system of the mismanagement of everything so catastrophic that it’s full implications are really beyond words to express. I figure in sadness that it is somewhere between a 100 to to 300 to 500 year mistake or even longer. No one here shall see it’s remedy in their lifetime.

    Meanwhile, maybe our guys at the top sitting in that expensive real estate in Haifa I helped pay for over 36 years should start on some kind of personal spiritual practice themselves for their own well being and system of Cosmic insight. I like this talk:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7qFi52FX1Q

  • Craig Parke

    Pey,

    Your point is very well taken. I was going to make the same point. Many people today are far beyond every so called existing “organized religion” on Earth in very advanced highly skilled personal spirituality and daily practice of cosmic insight including the so called “organized” Baha’i Faith.

    The Baha’i Faith was once cutting edge in expressing personal spirituality discovered by genuine spiritual seekers advancing in the moving Cosmic horizon of their own hearts, but the astounding blocking forces in the BAO have now insured that the Baha’i Faith will continue to fall farther and farther behind by the hour.

    The power of the World Age Portal opened by the Bab and Baha’u’llah Spiritual Event in the 19th Century has moved on to the more cosmically resonant spirits of other people and other communities than the official straight jacketed BAO.

    The completely unnecessary restrictions on thinkers, writers, and artists by the ever more and more stagnant BAO for the last 86 years to impose top down iron fisted formal review of all thought and expression amid the rank and file has completely ham strung the Faith. Sadly, it is now very clear that this mindset has been completely fatal. It is far too late now to catch up. With the rise of the Internet since 1994 the cat is long out of the bag.

    The world wide BAO was not prepared with the developed intellectual and artistic planetary culture in place from decades of wide ranging free wheeling development in every land to step up to the plate when the moment of true cosmic expansion came. The culture was not ready and they consequently completely blew this incredible opportunity. But I also believe that this incredible blunder has to be of the Divine Hand of Almighty God. All Divine Confirmation has been withheld and has moved on to others, as Baha’u’llah clearly sets forth in the Tablet of the Holy Mariner. It appears with the Faith now in helpless free fall all bets are off.

    In the hands-on infallibility of the UHJ as the “Voice of God on Earth” (as an AABM once expressed it to me) it is a pity that they apparently turned the Faith and it’s fortunes over to the wrong gold plated professional British Public Relations Firm that bet the farm on the Ruhi Full System of Courses to implement the Faith everywhere in every society on Earth. There is now no way to recover from this. Again, I feel in this amateurish and astonishing blunder has to be the Hand of God as set forth in the Tablet of the Holy Mariner. Somehow their eyes were blinded by living in that amazingly incestuous administrative bunker mentality bubble in Haifa and not fully understanding what was happening in the world of exploding communication technology. I find this very hard to understand since there are so many good and highly informed and creative software engineers in Israel and a few countries over in India. Maybe somebody should have made a few phone calls back in 1994 to try to grasp what was coming and be fully ready for it with some sort of system of street smarts? It is my observation in life that street smarts with real in-the-moment chops completely out rank any kind of paper infallibility. Deeds not words. Leadership IS both timely fact finding and timely communication. Communication is a two way street. Is there anyone on the current UHJ that ever had to meet a payroll in life?

    Look at the incredible amount of excellent free thinking spiritual books on Amazon that express the power of the World Age brought by the planetary Cosmic vortex far better than anything the Baha’i community has. Many other communities have the real functioning thinkers, writers, and artists to express these Cosmic truths while the Baha’i Faith has only third rate hacks and falling IQ apparatchiks. It was a system of the mismanagement of everything so catastrophic that it’s full implications are really beyond words to express. I figure in sadness that it is somewhere between a 100 to to 300 to 500 year mistake or even longer. No one here shall see it’s remedy in their lifetime.

    Meanwhile, maybe our guys at the top sitting in that expensive real estate in Haifa I helped pay for over 36 years should start on some kind of personal spiritual practice themselves for their own well being and system of Cosmic insight. I like this talk:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m7qFi52FX1Q

  • Bird out of the Cage

    Bird = trouble maker ;)

  • Bird out of the Cage

    Bird = trouble maker ;)

  • Andrew

    Pema rules … by not ruling! A true sage.

  • Andrew

    Pema rules … by not ruling! A true sage.

  • http://www.letters-of-the-living.blogspot.com Amanda

    [quote comment=""]Pema rules … by not ruling! A true sage.[/quote]

    Andrew! I’ve meant to respond to your previous post about Chodron- I like her. Thanks for all the links.

    Have you read her book When Things Fall Apart?

    Thanks for your thoughtul posts,
    Amanda

  • http://www.letters-of-the-living.blogspot.com Amanda

    [quote comment=""]Pema rules … by not ruling! A true sage.[/quote]

    Andrew! I’ve meant to respond to your previous post about Chodron- I like her. Thanks for all the links.

    Have you read her book When Things Fall Apart?

    Thanks for your thoughtul posts,
    Amanda

  • Andrew

    Amanda! Yes, I’ve read “When Things Fall Apart,” as well as most of her other books … I especially like “The Wisdom of No Escape.” Like many (possibly thousands) of others, I’ve taken meditation sessions and attended talks given by her … one of my friends used to host Pema in her home whenever she “came to town” to give teachings … so I’ve met her many times, but haven’t seen her in person for a few years now. Her teachings are (basically) very similar to the fraudulent Sufi path I was taught ;-) Strip away the Islamic or Buddhist terminology and it’s just basic wisdom … very subversive, mind you! Letting go of all conceptual “truths” can be, well, difficult … the pain is in the process. Comfortable with uncertainty? Ideal for agnostics, recommended for atheists!

  • Andrew

    Amanda! Yes, I’ve read “When Things Fall Apart,” as well as most of her other books … I especially like “The Wisdom of No Escape.” Like many (possibly thousands) of others, I’ve taken meditation sessions and attended talks given by her … one of my friends used to host Pema in her home whenever she “came to town” to give teachings … so I’ve met her many times, but haven’t seen her in person for a few years now. Her teachings are (basically) very similar to the fraudulent Sufi path I was taught ;-) Strip away the Islamic or Buddhist terminology and it’s just basic wisdom … very subversive, mind you! Letting go of all conceptual “truths” can be, well, difficult … the pain is in the process. Comfortable with uncertainty? Ideal for agnostics, recommended for atheists!

  • http://www.letters-of-the-living.blogspot.com Amanda

    Andrew! (That’s fun!):)
    How wonderful to have had the chance to meet her. “Letting go of conceptual “truths” can be, well, difficult…” Yes, sir.

    Maybe not as difficult as holding on to them, though.

  • http://www.letters-of-the-living.blogspot.com Amanda

    Andrew! (That’s fun!):)
    How wonderful to have had the chance to meet her. “Letting go of conceptual “truths” can be, well, difficult…” Yes, sir.

    Maybe not as difficult as holding on to them, though.

  • Andrew

    [quote comment=""]Andrew! (That’s fun!):)
    How wonderful to have had the chance to meet her. “Letting go of conceptual “truths” can be, well, difficult…” Yes, sir.

    Maybe not as difficult as holding on to them, though.[/quote]

    Maybe … but the ego rewards of holding on to them can be sky high! ;-)

  • Andrew

    [quote comment=""]Andrew! (That’s fun!):)
    How wonderful to have had the chance to meet her. “Letting go of conceptual “truths” can be, well, difficult…” Yes, sir.

    Maybe not as difficult as holding on to them, though.[/quote]

    Maybe … but the ego rewards of holding on to them can be sky high! ;-)

  • http://frankwinters.wordpress.com/ Frank Winters

    Dear Bird,

    Many thanks for the Russell quote, its worth repeating:

    “Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth — more than ruin — more even than death…. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.”

    Bertrand Russell

    Thought leads to questions and question prompt thought. No matter what one’s religious affiliation, thought is necessary, questions are fundamental.

    And thanks Baquia for highlighting the Pew report. I found the questions of religion as a prerequisite for moral behavior the most interesting:

    “Global publics are sharply divided over the relationship between religion and morality. In much of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, there is a strong consensus that belief in God is necessary for morality and good values. Throughout much of Europe, however, majorities think morality is achievable without faith. Meanwhile, opinions are more mixed in the Americas, including in the United States, where 57% say that one must believe in God to have good values and be moral, while 41% disagree.”

    Americans seem to have much in common with Africa, Asia and the Middle east — places where modernity has not emerged to the extent it has in Europe and one would think the US. But perhaps we in the States are not as modern or post-modern as we like to think. We have not separated traditional notions of where ethics and morality come from (man or God?) from our modern pretensions.

    We look to gurus, prophets and books for what should ultimately come from our rational soul.

    My thoughts:

    We make heaven and hell on earth. We make the kingdom of god appear among or within us, or not. Seems to me that the kingdom is here and end time is here — and have always been. The Europeans may be closer to eternity when they live in present time.

    At the heart of the debate over religion is a belief held by some that without a ‘divine physician’ we are necessarily savages. Others believe that people have an inherent moral compass that can be followed by the mind.

    A question that arises is what influence does institutional religion of the traditional sort have on our ability to follow that compass?

    I wonder what others think.

    Peace,
    Frank

  • http://frankwinters.wordpress.com/ Frank Winters

    Dear Bird,

    Many thanks for the Russell quote, its worth repeating:

    “Men fear thought as they fear nothing else on earth — more than ruin — more even than death…. Thought is subversive and revolutionary, destructive and terrible, thought is merciless to privilege, established institutions, and comfortable habit. Thought looks into the pit of hell and is not afraid. Thought is great and swift and free, the light of the world, and the chief glory of man.”

    Bertrand Russell

    Thought leads to questions and question prompt thought. No matter what one’s religious affiliation, thought is necessary, questions are fundamental.

    And thanks Baquia for highlighting the Pew report. I found the questions of religion as a prerequisite for moral behavior the most interesting:

    “Global publics are sharply divided over the relationship between religion and morality. In much of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, there is a strong consensus that belief in God is necessary for morality and good values. Throughout much of Europe, however, majorities think morality is achievable without faith. Meanwhile, opinions are more mixed in the Americas, including in the United States, where 57% say that one must believe in God to have good values and be moral, while 41% disagree.”

    Americans seem to have much in common with Africa, Asia and the Middle east — places where modernity has not emerged to the extent it has in Europe and one would think the US. But perhaps we in the States are not as modern or post-modern as we like to think. We have not separated traditional notions of where ethics and morality come from (man or God?) from our modern pretensions.

    We look to gurus, prophets and books for what should ultimately come from our rational soul.

    My thoughts:

    We make heaven and hell on earth. We make the kingdom of god appear among or within us, or not. Seems to me that the kingdom is here and end time is here — and have always been. The Europeans may be closer to eternity when they live in present time.

    At the heart of the debate over religion is a belief held by some that without a ‘divine physician’ we are necessarily savages. Others believe that people have an inherent moral compass that can be followed by the mind.

    A question that arises is what influence does institutional religion of the traditional sort have on our ability to follow that compass?

    I wonder what others think.

    Peace,
    Frank

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