More Misleading Atheist/Theist Surveys

Tiny Frog has an excellent post taking a look at a recent poll being shopped around by several Christian news outlets purporting to show that atheists are less moral and sociable than theists.

Putting the subject matter completely aside, it’s a very insightful look into the way that survey results can give highly flawed or misleading pictures of people’s attitudes, both depending on what data you choose to report (and the sociologist in question, Reginald W. Bibby, does seem to make some rather suspicious choices), how you present it, and the questionable implications one might want to draw about causality (as far as I can tell, the survey doesn’t even include any statistical controls, making the claimed social implications nigh meaningless).

I actually wouldn’t be surprised to find that atheists and theists differ significantly in many respects (though I doubt this sort of uncontrolled study, even sincerely undertaken, could reveal much about them). Given Western society’s mixed and highly diverse attitudes about religion, theists and atheists likely have some fairly different experiences. Might be nice if theists and atheists spent more time comparing notes, rather than comparing statistical flufferies.

3 Responses to More Misleading Atheist/Theist Surveys

  1. michael says:

    Five of his best known works focus on religion – Fragmented Gods (1987), Unknown Gods (1993), There’s Got to Be More! (1995), Restless Gods (2002), and Restless Churches (2004).
    Professor Bibby has conducted research and analyzes in Canada for the Presbyterian, Anglican, United, and Alliance churches, along with the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada. He also is well-known to Roman Catholics as a researcher, writer, and consultant. His work in the United States has included a major study in the late 1990s of the ministry priorities of some thirty American denominations and close to 2,500 congregations carried out for a consortium of U.S. Protestant publishers.

    It’s nice to see he has no bias…….

  2. Grendel The Martyr says:

    No poll or survey is accurate, it’s just that some are more *useful* than others.

    There’s a quote concerning engineers and stats that applies to surveys and pollsters:

    “Statistics in the hands of an engineer are like a lamp post to a drunk—they’re used more for support than illumination.”

    Alfred Edward Housman


    An atheist from birth, I often read I ought to discuss God and religion, or compare notes on it, or share feelings about it, and so on, with theists. To what end I am unsure. I don’t feel any need to do so, and I don’t see what the theist would want with my empty vaccuum of anything ‘religious’. I’ve been told, “well, you could discuss how you feel about God or the concept of God, or religion etc., etc….”, but the fact is I don’t usually think of them at all except as a mental or skeptical exercise. My day-to-day is totally devoid of such thoughts however.

    Part of the problem is the whole shebang is framed from the theist’s point of view. Even the label for me is given only in relation to the theist. He’s a theist. I’m an a-theist. He is substance. I am absence of substance. Fuck that.

  3. The most shocking part: There’s a university in Lethbridge. The best part about being in Lethbridge is getting to leave Lethbridge.

    But seriously, folks, it’s a lovely town. It will be even better once they get start getting the seasons that are in between summer and winter.

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