Tag Archives: religion

Why Mormons Accept Cruz

The Washington Post Monkey Cage blog has an interesting story up on religious freedom and last night’s caucus vote in Idaho and Utah for Ted Cruz. I think it gets a few things wrong. Effectively it is asking why Mormons voted for Cruz, who isn’t exactly a religious freedom champion when they opposed Trump.

The problem is that this election cycle is a perfect example of having any good choices. Thus any choice you make is bad. A vote for Katich at this stage is really a vote for Trump. There’s no way Kasich can win. Exactly why he’s still in the race is not at all clear. He should have left long ago if he cared about the danger of Trump.

Cruz is a very bad choice too for a slew of reasons. I suspect there’s actually a fair bit of sincere support for Cruz for various reasons in Utah. I think it incorrect, but at this stage I think it doesn’t matter. Trump is a huge threat for both the Republican Party as well as the nation. Most of those supporting Trump are either severely projecting onto him what they want him to be like or just don’t care. That is they think a vote for Trump will shake up politics. (It will, but not likely the way they want) Cruz at this stage, as bad as a candidate as at least many Utahns might think him to be is the best chance of stopping the greater threat of Trump. Beyond that the next best bet is to vote for Clinton. It’s worth noting that Utahns in general are not fans of the Clintons. This was the one state where in the 90’s Bill Clinton actually came in third. But I think many people see Clinton as a lesser threat than Trump.

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Pew on Religion 2014

I was so busy this fall that I never got to comment on the latest Pew data on religion. While I missed the discussion back in November I hope people won’t mind me taking it up now.

The main, if unsurprising, conclusion Pew gave was that the US was becoming less religion. This is largely due to the rise of the Nones who have been increasing in number since the mid 90’s. Among those who are still religious though (about ¾) Pew notes “there has been no discernible drop in most measures of religious commitment. Indeed by some conventional measures, religiously affiliated Americans are, on average, even more devout than they were a few years ago.” 

The interesting drops are those who believe in God dropped from 92% to 89% from 2007 to 2014. Those certain God exists dropped far more sharply from 71% to 63%. A lot of this is again tied to the rise of the Nones. Pew has their population rising from 16% to 23%. Which is quite high.

Now I’ve argued that a lot of this shift of the Nones is largely people with loose commitment to religion who in the past would have said they were baptist and perhaps attended the occasional event. While there was a use for some loose commitment (or at least telling people they were committed) now there just isn’t that ground.  

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Religion and the Poor

Tyler Cowan posts a link to an interesting paper on religion.

What is the role of religious institutions and religious workers in the racial earnings gap in the United States? In this paper we explore the relationship between childhood exposure to religious density, as measured with the number of religious workers at the state level, and the labor market outcomes of the worker thirty years later. We use data that spans over fifty years to identify changes in earnings due to early exposure to religion: our first source of identification uses changes in these two variables within states, and our second source of identification uses states’ differences by following workers who moved to a different state. Our results suggest that living in a state with a an extra clergy member for each 1,000 habitants increases the earnings of black workers by 1.7 to 3.6 percentage points relative to white workers.. In addition we show that this relationship is robust to different measures of exposure to religious density, and that these estimates increase to 7.6 percentage points when the change on religious density is defined exclusively increasing an extra black religious workers for each 1,000 habitants. Finally, we estimate a series of robustness tests that suggest that these results are not due to spatial sorting across states, nor to secular time trends associated with changes in labor market outcomes for black American workers.

 It’d be interesting knowing how religion affects wages independent of race.

Grace as Reciprocal

Discussion of Brent Schmidt’s book on grace. Argues grace is “a reciprocal or covenant relationship between two parties. These parties that enter into a charis relationship are essentially a benefactor who grants a gift or donation of some kind and a beneficiary who reciprocates the gift with his or her own contribution, regardless how small or incomplete, of service and dedication to the benefactor.”

All Dogs Go to Heaven

Keith Lane noted an interesting blog post at First Things about spiritual materialism. I’m not sure it’s quite as similar to Mormon thought as some do. (Especially check out the final paragraph) it does get at though the difference in views between western Christianity (following Aquinas) and eastern Christianity on the nature of spirits. As many have long noted Mormonism in many ways is much closer to eastern Christian theology than western. (And of course eastern Christian marriages are always a little shocking to Mormons familiar with Mormon marriages.)

Significance of Heterodoxy

Religion Private LanguageDennis Potter put up an other post at academia.edu, “The Significance of Heterodoxy.”1 This is related to several of his past articles and blog posts including the one I commented on last month on subjective evidence. This is basically an argument suggesting that heterodox belief within religion entails a kind of doubt. As in his blog post he focuses in on the private language argument. This is a somewhat more sophisticated take on that argument so I thought it would be useful to take it up.

Overall it’s a bit of an odd strategy to take. He more or less adopts a fairly controversial movement (pre-war logical positivism) and uses it to attack Mormon theology of religious experience.2

Now even on those grounds I don’t think it works because I’m far from convinced religious experience is not intersubjective. As I mentioned about his blog post on subjective evidence I think we have to distinguish between what is practically private and what is absolutely private. Dennis doesn’t make this distinction unfortunately. Further if there is a God interacting with us in our religious experiences then certainly they are inherently intersubjective.3 The Mormon position of materialism means we can’t even take Carnap’s views on physicalism to push the religious experience towards a private language. Mormons might be wrong about a physical God, but if we’re critiquing Mormonism I think we need to take its materialism seriously. It seems to me that Mormonism more so that most religions isn’t open to the theoretic positivist attack.

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  1.  This is a preprint and thus not really a finished paper. However he posted it on a public site so I assume he doesn’t mind people discussing it. Just be aware it’s not fair to judge it in this form.
  2. Even thought positivism is seeing a bit of a resurgence this is pretty odd from my view – especially taking a fairly esoteric view with positivism that if I recall Carnap and Neurath disagreed upon somewhat. Seems like there’s so much to unpack that by the time your done you have the set of people interested in positivism and the set of people interested in Mormonism. That’s just not a large set. Especially since a lot of people who like the positivists, like myself, often still think they’re quite wrong in many ways.
  3. The potential move of saying God is ontologically special and not a subject doesn’t really work well in a Mormon context due to how Mormons conceive of the personhood of God. Even those Mormons, like Blake Ostler, apt to play down or reject a theology of deification taken from the King Follet Discourse are likely to say that God is a person in this sense of intersubjectivity. For the majority of Mormons who more or less buy into the notions in the King Follet Discourse of course God is a person and our interactions with him are intersubjective.

Scientists and Religion

I’d somehow missed this last year. There was a study, “Religious Communities, Science, Scientists, and Perceptions” about the religious beliefs of scientists. It was quite interesting and had a few surprising results.

The difficulty in studies like this is of course deciding what you count as a scientist and figuring out how to poll those people. In this case they polled a huge number of people (over 10,000) and then reduced that down based upon whether they could be considered tied to science. They go through their methods in detail on page 3. They ended up with about 574 who were considered scientists. Of those only 72 were in “life, physical or social sciences.” Now that’s a fairly small amount in terms of drawing out too many implications. So we have to be careful. I’d call this less an analysis of scientists than of professions like computer science, medicine or engineering related to science. 

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