The results of the latest Pew poll announces an insight like this …
Is this a credible claim?
Pew are a serious and very credible polling organisation, so is this something we should take seriously?
But wait, what are the details here, what exactly were the questions asked that enabled them to reach this conclusion?
Let’s take a look, because behind the headline is a rather important insight along with a deep concern.
Spoiler Alert: The Pew Poll is deeply flawed.
What did Pew do?
To get this insight they polled 10,588 people about the middle of last Sept.
When conducting surveys you do need to be careful about what you do. To give a silly example, they could “randomly” poll people as they left church and then ended up with a very distorted conclusion that does represent the wider population. Pew are professional and so those in the survey are weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education, religious affiliation and other categories. They are very transparent regarding such details and have even published the methodology for this specific report.
Does that then mean that we can be confident in the results?
Actually no. I’ll explain why.
Side Note: If you can’t easily find such details for a poll then you should be deeply skeptical about it.
What did they find?
They have a nice graph that sums it all up …
OK, here comes the insight into the flaw.
But wait …
If you ask people to define the term “Christian Nation”, then what will they tell you?
There rests the crux of all of this, it is the insight that reveals that the above chart is quite frankly meaningless.
Pew are not wholly daft, they did also ask those that they polled to define the term “Christian Nation”.
Here is what they got …
It is not just bad, instead it is truly meaningless
If you ask questions using deeply vague terms such as “Christian Nation” that are open to interpretation, then the results you get are quite frankly not actually telling you anything at all.
Note from the above that 30% of those that stated that the US should be a Christian Nation had no clue what the term actually means at all. Another 21% of them simply interpreted it as “Guided by beliefs/values”.
The more you mull over this the greater your appreciation will be that this is turtles all the way down.
Take for example the observation that many interpret that term as “Guided by beliefs/values”.
Exactly what beliefs and values?
When it comes to Christianity there is no consensus for either values or beliefs. Instead the term Christianity is a vastly diverse collection of beliefs and values that often conflict and so would be mutually exclusive.
From the viewpoint of every single variation, all the others are wrong and man made while only one is the true one.
If indeed there was universal agreement that the US should be a “Christian Nation” that is “Guided by beliefs/values”, then exactly whose beliefs and values will they pick?
Walk that path and you rapidly find yourself wading into a conflict that is driven by deeply held conflicting beliefs.
European history is literally crammed full of conflicts that arose from such disagreements.
The True Genius of the Founding Fathers
The founders were both children of the enlightenment and also deeply embraced Liberalism. You would think that I don’t need to tell you that, and yet sadly I do because way too many have fallen under the spell of the Christian Nationalistic mythology that the US was founded as a Christian Nation and rests upon Christian values.
Those telling you that are lying to you.
Foundational liberal principles that prevailed included freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, the separation of church and state, the right to due process and equality under the law. These are now under threat by a rising tide of right-wing political/religious fascism.
We are at a crossroads. The choice we now face is one where we either deeply embrace secularism, a place where all beliefs and also non-belief is wholly and completely free. The alternative is that one variation of belief moves in and dominates by imposing itself upon everybody. This is why the corruption of both SCOTUS, the Republican Party, and Evangelicalism is deeply troubling.
When surveys such as the one I’m highlighting now pop up, the political/religious fascists interpret such results as an endorsement by vast swathes of the population for their desire to impose their specific brand of fundamentalism by force upon everybody.
It is for that reason that I’m highlighting the survey, not simply as a deeply flawed Pew poll, but a fundamentally very politically dangerous one, especially just prior to the midterms.
There is a lot of detail within the poll and much of it is quite interesting.