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.

No Goats Harmed in Making of the Baha’i Faith

Haven’t seen Juno yet, but now I guess I have to

:)

UPDATE:
I watched Juno and found it to be a charming movie. As Mavaddat mentioned in the comments section, Rainn Wilson’s role was tiny but he still gave a fantastic performance.

So far he has played smaller roles in movies and although he has been great in every movie that I’ve seen him in (Sahara was another) he hasn’t been given a career making role like his TV co-star Steve Carell with The 40 Year Old Virgin.

Steve put up a video of Rainn at the recent North East Baha’i Youth (NEBY) conference in Stamford, Connecticut.

Pictures of Abdu’l-Baha

I wish I knew Abdu’l-Baha better.

Since He lived before I did, the only way I can attempt to know the man, the person, the Center of the Covenant, the Master, the Servant of God (that’s what Abdu’l-Baha means in Arabic) is through the writings He left behind… and maybe through His pictures.

Thanks to the internet, we can all look at these rare pictures of Abdu’l-Baha… so that perhaps they whisper some insight about Him.

You can navigate using the little icons at the bottom (just move your mouse over the bottom of the black rectangle. Or you can let the slideshow flip to the next picture (customize the speed at the top left hand side).

Enjoy.

Transparent is as Transparent Does

transparent

I’m not sure if any Baha’is who live in Alaska read this humble little blog. I only ask because if there are any fellow Baha’is from there, they probably already know the news that I’m about to share with you.

The great State of Alaska has recently decided to become so transparent that they have put their whole checkbook on the internet for everyone to see.

All expenses over $1000 are detailed and shared on their Division of Finance website. You can download the spreadsheet in either Excel or Adobe PDF.

Can you imagine that? total transparency from a state government?!? I was floored when I read this! Like many others I don’t hold politicians and by relationship, the bureaucracy of government in high regard. But here they were surprising the heck out of me!

One of my pet peeves is how opaque the Baha’i administration is when it comes to the fund. I’ve already gripped about it here so you can read that instead of me rehashing it all.

As far as I know, there is no precedent for the kind of transparency that Alaska has implemented in any religious organization. In the previous discussion Sonja mentioned that as a member of a local New Zealand Baha’i community they did have transparency. But sadly, I find this the exception, rather than the rule. Even this iota of transparency is limited to the local level. I have heard of no NSA being equally transparent with their member community.

But even if no religious organization is transparent… who cares? I want the Baha’i Faith to blaze trails, to go where others haven’t, to be refreshing, exciting, invigorating, and to inspire individuals.

Money is just that, money. It is not the end all and be all of a community. It is simply a tool. So then the question is, are we using this tool to our best ability? are we bending it to perform fully in service of the Cause? are we using it in a way that encourages fellowship, unity and growth?

I would argue that more transparency would serve those ends rather than less. This is not a new idea really. Many for-profit organizations have this level of transparency. Just search for “open book management”.

To me, personally, when I see that the Baha’i administration doesn’t share information about the fund… it communicates that they don’t trust me. That they don’t want me in the loop. I’m not included. I’m supposed to stand over there and just hand over my money.

On the flip side, asking for transparency can be seen as a sign that we, the Baha’i community are implying that we don’t trust those who are on the institutions and manage the funds of the Faith. All I can say is that, unfortunately, we don’t have a spotless record on that. Mistakes have been made and since we are only fallible human beings struggling to transform into higher beings, we will undoubtedly continue to face such challenges.

Which then begs the question, would it serve such purposes to be more transparent or less? would secrecy and opacity serve the interests of those that stray? making it easier for them to hide and defraud? or would it make it more difficult?

In any case, the advantages of transparency go leaps beyond such concerns. The much larger picture is that transparency and the sharing of information creates unity and inspires individuals to be motivated by loftier ideals.

Anyway, those are my rambling thoughts. What do you think?

World On Fire by Sarah McLachlan

After watching this I couldn’t help but think of all the money that was spent to build the Baha’i Arc project on Mt. Carmel.

Imagine if instead of $250,000,000.00 (that’s $250 Million US) we had instead spent $2.5 Million and then used the rest to “tap into the water” and help people in dire need.

Does the world need marble-clad buildings? or medicine for children? Had Abdu’l-Baha been with us, what do you imagine He would have decided?

Would the prestige of the Baha’i Faith be elevated more by sumptuous buildings and gardens or by deeds of charity that bring health, food, shelter and education to the poor?

Lyrics:

Hearts are worn in these dark ages
You’re not alone in this story’s pages
Night has fallen amongst the living and the dying
And I try to hold it in, yeah I try to hold it in

[Chorus]
The world’s on fire and
It’s more than I can handle
I’ll tap into the water
(I try to pull my ship)
I try to bring more
More than I can handle
(Bring it to the table)
Bring what I am able

I watch the heavens and I find a calling
Something I can do to change this moment
Stay close to me while the sky is falling
Don’t wanna be left alone, don’t wanna be alone

[Chorus]
Hearts break, hearts mend
Love still hurts
Visions clash, planes crash
Still there’s talk of
Saving souls, still the cold
Is closing in on us

We part the veil on our killer sun
Stray from the straight line on this short run
The more we take, the less we become
A fortune of one that means less for some

[Chorus]