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Secular World

The following article is from the Secular Humanist Bulletin, Volume 16, Number 2.

Nonreligious Have Least Divorces

by Matt Cherry

Nonreligious Americans are less likely to divorce than any other belief group, according to a survey by Christian pollsters. The study, conducted by the Barna Research Group in late 1999, shows that one out of every four American adults has experienced at least one divorce. Among the characteristics that do not seem to be related to divorce are educational achievement, household income, and political ideology. But, to the surprise of the pollsters, Christians are more likely to divorce than unbelievers, and Baptists and born-again Christians experience more divorces than other Christians.

Using statistics drawn from a nationwide survey of nearly 4000 adults, the data show that 27% of born-again Christians are currently or have previously been divorced, compared to 24% among adults who are not born-again. (Because of the large sample size involved, that difference is statistically significant.)

The Christian denomination whose adherents have the highest likelihood of getting divorced are Baptists. Nationally, 29% of all Baptist adults have been divorced. The only Christian group to surpass that level are those associated with non-denominational Protestant churches: 34% of those adults have undergone a divorce. Of the nation's major Christian groups, Catholics and Lutherans have the lowest percentage of divorced individuals (21%). People who attend mainline Protestant churches, overall, experience divorce on par with the national average (25%).

Among non-Christian groups the levels vary. Jews are among those most likely to divorce (30% have), while Mormons are no different than the national average (24%). Atheists and agnostics are significantly below the norm (21%). 

Trampling Minority Faiths All in a Day's Work for Kentucky Solons

by Tom Flynn

The Kentucky legislature reached new lows in interfaith sensitivity this spring. A flurry of bills encouraging-or requiring-public posting of the Ten Commandments triggered acrimonious debates on matters religious. Then there was the H.B. 70, a bill that let religious groups discriminate against unbelievers (inspired by the Council's own Camp Quest). H.B. 70 passed both houses of Kentucky's legislature before being vetoed by the governor. One might expect this sort of legislative agenda to furnish Religious Right legislators with ample opportunities for self-embarrassment. They did not disappoint.

In February, Senator Albert Robinson, sponsor of one Ten Commandments bill, enlivened a floor debate by grumbling that the Senate had slighted Christianity when it adopted a resolution calling for schools to teach about Judaeo-Christianity's impact on American history. Robinson and eight other senators launched a serious debate as to whether Judaism deserved consideration as an influential religion! This drew harsh criticism from Representative Kathy Stein, Kentucky's only Jewish legislator, who called the nine senators' remarks "hate-filled statements."

The plucky Stein (who later satirically proposed that public schools post the Decalogue "in the original Hebrew") was soon on the hot seat again. During March debate over another Ten Commandments bill, Representative Billy Polston rose to demand whether Stein believed "in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior." Stein said she believed Jesus was a "wonderful rabbi" but not the Messiah. Unsatisfied with that, Polston next asked Stein whether she believed Jesus rose from the dead. Stein's quiet "no" apparently satisfied Polston's thirst for knowledge regarding Jewish beliefs, for he did not press the question further.

Virgin Territory 

by Matt Cherry

Just as it looked certain that 6-year old Cuban Elian Gonzalez will be sent back to his father in Cuba, there were reports of a miraculous intervention. Miami relatives of Elian claim that an image in a mirror in the boy's bedroom depicts the Blessed Virgin Mary, offering evidence, they say, that he is blessed and should remain in the United States. But did the relatives consider the possibility that the BVM actually wants Elian to return to Cuba so that she can have the room to herself?

Americans Friendly to Creationism

by  Tom Flynn

By a frightening margin, most Americans support teaching creationism alongside evolution. A poll released in March by the People for the American Way Foundation finds that while 83 percent of Americans support the teaching of Darwinian evolution in public schools, almost the same number—79 percent—think creationism should be taught alongside it. Some 68 percent agreed that it was possible to believe in evolution and God simultaneously; almost half assented that evolution is "far from being proven scientifically." The nationwide poll of 1,500 people had a margin of error of 2.6 percent. "You can read the poll as half-empty or half-full," said famed pollster Daniel Yankelovich, saying that the poll could be interpreted as a statement of pluralism, or as a postmodern denial that one best answer should be sought for any question.

Oklahoma OKs Creationism

by Austin Dacey

Oklahoma has moved to join over a dozen other U.S. states that in the last year have weakened the teaching of evolution in public schools. Early in April the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed legislation that would require science books used in Oklahoma schools to acknowledge "that human life was created by one God of the universe."

The amendment states that all science textbooks approved by the State Textbook Committee for use in public schools must include the reference to a Creator. The House went further, passing another amendment that gives the committee "authority to insert a one-page summary, opinion or disclaimer into any textbook reviewed and authorized for use in the public schools of Oklahoma."

The Campus Freethought Alliance, which has been monitoring and combating the new creationism as part of its "Save Our Science" campaign, forwarded to the Governor its pro-evolution education petition, signed by thousands, and urged the Governor to veto the legislation.

Indonesian Woman to be Stoned to Death for Adultery

by Matt Cherry

In February 2000, an Islamic tribunal in the United Arab Emirates ordered a pregnant Indonesian maid to be stoned to death for adultery. The same court acquitted her Muslim Indian lover in absentia, Al-Khaleej daily said. The man has reportedly fled the country. 

Thirty-five year-old Karteen Karikender received the maximum sentence from the Shariah court. She was arrested after the police were informed she was pregnant out of wedlock. Death sentences are unusual for adultery in the federation of seven Emirates. In October, the same court sentenced four male and three female Asian workers to up to 15 months in prison and 75-100 lashes each for adultery.

Christian Conservatives Give More (and More)

by Matt Cherry

Born-again and evangelical Christians give the most money to charities, churches, and other not-for-profits. As a proportion of their income, devout Christians give more than twice as much as other Americans. And, in contrast to other Americans, the amount given by devout Christians continues to grow.

A spring 2000 survey by the Barna Research Group found that more than four out of every five adults donated some money to nonprofit organizations last year. Overall, 84% of Americans gave money in 1999. Nonreligious Americans are among the people least likely to give—27% of people who do not attend church made no donations last year. 

The mean amount of money given to nonprofits and churches was $1,045 per adult in 1999. That represents a 24% decline from 1998, when the average cumulative giving was $1,377. The subgroups with the highest average giving were evangelical Christians ($2,476); households making $60,000 or more ($1,687); born-again Christians ($1,651); registered Republicans ($1,612); college graduates ($1,599); political conservatives ($1,533); people 54 or older ($1,341); and residents of the South ($1,281). Overall, one out of every four adults (26%) donated more than $1,000 to charities, churches, and other nonprofits during the past year. 

In contrast to the decrease in the overall level of giving, churches actually received more money from adults in 1999 than they did in the previous year. About three-quarters of every donated dollar went to churches or religious centers. Ninety-five cents of every dollar donated by evangelicals went to churches.

The Barna data are based on telephone interviews with a nationwide random sample of 1,002 adults. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. 

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