Maybe Christians aren’t so bad after all

Bradley Wright, a professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, has published a book entitled Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media

This is the book that provides the research we blogged about earlier that Christians who faithfully attend church do not, in fact, as is often said, have the same divorce rate as non-Christians.  What’s especially interesting to me is that Professor Wright takes on the source of so many of these statistics the evangelical pollster George Barna.   Barna defines “evangelical Christian” as someone who has had a born-again experience.  Wright looks rather at church attendance as evidence of Christian commitment.  (You can buy the book, giving the Cranach blog a commission, by clicking any of these links.)

Here are product descriptions from Amazon:

From Publishers Weekly

A sociologist at the University of Connecticut, Wright examines recent survey data on Christian evangelicals to see if they substantiate the often misguided and hyperbolic public perceptions of this faith group. Separating the wheat from the chaff, he explains how some poorly worded, ill-sampled statistics give the wrong impression of evangelicals and why people should avoid giving them credence. Though he often blames the media for gleefully reporting bad news about devout Christians, he doesn’t spare evangelical polemicists such as Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel for their false exaggerations of evangelical shortcomings. His biggest target may be the pollster George Barna, whose surveys on Christianity have generated intense controversy. Wright’s colloquial writing style gives this volume the feel of a folksy college lecture series. The abundant use of graphics adds to the impression the book’s genesis was cribbed from introductory sociology of religion classes. The conclusions drawn here–no surprise–are that the most committed Christians practice what they preach, performing better than the rest of the population on a host of social measures including divorce, domestic violence, sexual misconduct, crime, substance abuse, and everyday honesty.

Product Description

According to the media, the church is rapidly shrinking, both in numbers and in effectiveness. But the good news is, much of the bad news is wrong. Sociologist Bradley R. E. Wright uncovers what’s really happening in the church: evangelicals are more respected by secular culture now than they were ten years ago; divorce rates of Christians are lower than those of nonbelievers; Christians give more to charity than others do. Wright reveals to readers why and how statistics are distorted, and shows that God is still effectively working through his people today.

via Amazon.com: Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media (9780764207464): Bradley R.E. Wright: Books.

 

And now .xxx

There will now be a new domain name just for pornography:  .xxx.  However, pornography will still continue to populate the .coms and every other domain also.  The big opponents:  The porn industry, which knows that the creation of an internet red light district will mean their product be easier to block:

On Friday in San Francisco, the California nonprofit that oversees Internet addresses gave the green light to the virtual red-light district. The vote comes after several years of clashes and deliberations by the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers.

Adult-entertainment sites will still populate the .com space and every other corner of the Internet. But now, many pornographic sites can also join a specialized domain that instantly telegraphs its content with the infamous suffix. ICM Registry, a Florida-based company that will run .xxx, said the domain’s Web sites will be the Internet’s most trusted place for adult entertainment: ICM will monitor the sites to ensure that they prohibit spam, viruses and any other illegal behavior. And it says it will use some of the registration fees for an affiliated foundation to promote free speech and combat child pornography.

“At the moment, the consumer has no way of knowing who is operating to good standards or has viruses,” Stuart Lawley, ICM Registry’s chairman and chief executive, said in an interview. “This new domain allows webmasters to associate with best business practices.”

But the dirty domain has a slew of critics. The Obama administration and some foreign nations say the domain’s offensive material will only encourage oppressive regimes to block .xxx entirely. A Commerce Department spokeswoman said the administration neither supports nor objects to the domain’s actual content or merit.

“We are disappointed that ICANN ignored the clear advice of governments worldwide, including the U.S.,” said Lawrence Strickling, assistant Commerce secretary. “This decision goes against the global public interest, and it will open the door to more Internet blocking by governments and undermine the stability and security of the Internet.”

Another set of foes, oddly enough: major pornography industry players, who fear that .xxx will be easily vulnerable to governments’ censorship. They also are concerned about aggressive policing by ICM and worry that porn Web sites will be forced to pay thousands of dollars in registration fees to buy multiple .xxx addresses simply to protect their brands from cybersquatters.

“This is putting a red target on us,” said Diane Duke, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, a trade association representing multiple adult-entertainment organizations including Hustler. “People who are pedophiles and child pornographers are not part of the adult-entertainment system. We have a code of ethics.

via Coming soon online: Dot-XXX – The Washington Post.

Right.  Anyway, pro-family groups also tend to oppose this, I suppose because it seems to legitimize pornography.  It seems that if porn will continue to operate from it current .com sites, this will do little one way or the other.  And if pornographers oppose it, they have no reason to put their material on .xxx sites.  If porn could be all moved to the .xxx sites, would that be a good thing or a bad thing?

Black swans

In the new words department:

The disaster bureaucrats talk about black swans: calamities from out of the blue, terrible and strange. The world is now transfixed by the black swan disaster of Japan — an earthquake larger than seismologists thought could happen in that part of the country, leading to a tsunami too big for the sea walls, and now a nuclear crisis that wasn’t supposed to be possible.

via Japan’s ‘black swan’: Scientists ponder the unparalleled dangers of unlikely disasters – The Washington Post.

I like new terms that are not mere abstractions but vivid images.  “Black swan” gives us a picture of something that is very unlikely, but that occasionally, creepily, happens.  (It turns out, though, that there is a whole species of black swans in Australia that wasn’t discovered until the 18th century.)

See this for “black swan events”

Karl Popper uses the example of a black swan to show how, contrary to naive scientism, you can’t jump from the observation of particulars to make universal conclusions, but how particulars are useful to meet the criterion of falsifiability.

Then there is the ballet movie Black Swan, which plays off of some imagery in Tschaikovsky’s Swan Lake , but that’s different, positing in the white swan and the black swan a contrast between purity and sensuality.

Now that we apparently have a new word, what are some other rare, unexpected, and weird calamities that would qualify as black swans?

War #3

We started our third war.   The United Nations called for a no-fly zone in Libya, to try to stop dictator Moammar Gaddafi’s military strikes against Libyans protesting his rule.  This time NATO allies are playing a big role, with the French launching airstrikes against Gaddafi’s tanks.  (How do aircraft attacking ground targets, other than air defense sites, relate to the mandate of establishing a no-fly zone?)  But the U.S. is in it too, launching 112 Tomahawk missiles against Libya, as well as co-ordinating coalition efforts from American bases.  See  International coalition launches strikes on Libya – The Washington Post.

But here is the problem:  It may be too late.   Gaddafi may have already crushed the revolt.  His forces had already entered Benghazi, the city of a million people that was the center of the uprising.  What good would a no-fly zone, or even airstrikes do, to stop the urban warfare that is now taking place in that city?

President Obama has ruled out sending ground troops.  (Was that wise to let Gaddaffi know that?)  It looks like the Europeans are going to do the heavy lifting–in addition to the French, the Danes, the Spanish, and others have sent in their American-made F-18s and are preparing them for action–while we launch our missiles from afar to prevent any American casualties.  (Is this  Obama style of warfare, in which we no longer lead but follow and let other countries do the fighting for us, worthy of our country?  Or is it about time other countries police the world and we start holding back for once?)

But what will the coalition do if the rebellion is put down and Gaddafi is still in power?  Try to overthrow him, as the Americans did with his nearest counterpart, the late Saddam Hussein?  Which would surely require sending in ground troops after all?  Or just give Gaddafi  his victory?

UPDATE: American jets have attacked Libyan ground forces

Majority of Americans now back gay marriage

And majority rules:

A slim majority of Americans now support gay marriage, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.The results underscore the nation’s increasingly tolerant views about homosexuals, and parallel a string of recent legal and legislative victories for gay rights advocates.

Five years ago, at 36 percent, support for gay marriage barely topped a third of all Americans. Now, 53 percent say gay marriage should be legal, marking the first time in Post-ABC polling that a majority has said so.

via Slim majority back gay marriage, Post-ABC poll says – The Washington Post.

Problems with the food supply

Just in case you need something else to worry about, global food prices are skyrocketing (here not so much–yet), due to increased demand and shorter supplies:

Since last summer, several events — floods in Australia, blistering drought in Russia, the threat of a poor winter wheat crop in China — have compounded concerns about the food supply and pushed world prices to the highest levels measured since the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization began calculating its index in 1990.

For decades, the world was often swimming in surplus food because farmers were so productive. But rising demand has caught up, and reserves have become so tight that global food markets are vulnerable to even minor shocks. Many analysts say that higher, more volatile prices may be here to stay.

The new dynamic reflects in part the rising demand for meat in developing countries such as China, which has almost single-handedly driven up prices for the soybeans it imports for animal meal, as well as the increasing use of corn for ethanol. Today, at least a third of the U.S. crop goes for making fuel. In addition, there is spreading concern that climate change may make weather less settled and more disruptive to growers.

“For the last 60 years, the simple story was agricultural productivity — great productivity gains, unabated,” said Joseph Glauber, chief economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “But in the last five years, prices have lifted, and you see this real strong demand.”

Since last summer, the market price for corn to be delivered in May nearly doubled from $3.67 to $7.23 as of late last month, according to data compiled by Dan O’Brien, an agricultural economist at Kansas State University.

Grain reserves have dwindled. The latest USDA estimates, released Thursday, show U.S. reserves of corn and soybeans at historic lows, less than 5 percent of projected demand for the coming year. Typical reserves have been three or more times that amount, a chief reason why it does not take much to send prices skyrocketing.

via Higher food prices may be here to stay – The Washington Post.


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