Churchgoers More Likely To Support Torture

Surprise, surprise. According to a new survey, churchgoers are more likely to support torture for terrorists:

The more often Americans go to church, the more likely they are to support the torture of suspected terrorists, according to a new survey.

More than half of people who attend services at least once a week — 54 percent — said the use of torture against suspected terrorists is “often” or “sometimes” justified. Only 42 percent of people who “seldom or never” go to services agreed, according to the analysis released Wednesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

White evangelical Protestants were the religious group most likely to say torture is often or sometimes justified — more than six in 10 supported it.

The good news?

People unaffiliated with any religious organization were least likely to back it. Only four in 10 of them did.

The sample size is too small (742 Americans) to be definitive, but I’d be surprised if this wasn’t somewhat representative of reality. There’s just something about fundamentalism that attracts people without morals…

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Brian

    “Only 42 percent of people who “seldom or never” go to services agreed” (with torture)

    It is still a big number. I am not happy. 0% would be the ideal amongst religious and non-religious people.

  • Well of course they do! They worship a god who with torture you forever, by sending you to hell, if you don’t believe in him or love him enough. Torture is the name of the game for Christians. It’s how you keep people in line! Of course they would be down with torture…

    • Before any christian tries to correct me and say that god doesn’t send you to hell….he does. He set up the system that lands you there. Just because he gave an escape clause doesn’t mean he didn’t make a screwed up system. A truly loving god wouldn’t let anyone burn in hell…ever.

    • Mau de Katt

      I remember reading (in a devotional book no less!) that “You become like the god you worship.”

      We have seen and continue to see this dynamic in action with the fundagelicals.

  • NickDLP

    Wow, this was like a real bizarro FOX news article.

  • I just read this one last night. I find it incredibly ironic and funny.

    But hey: we atheists are still the immoral ones.


  • There is a “shock.” Since we all know how “loving” Christians can be.

    Why wouldn’t they believe in torture? They’ve accepted the “love” of God on the basis that it will save them from eternal torture in hell. It worked on them, so they figure, it should work on others, too.

  • professoryackle

    I think that given the size of the statistical sample – 742 – the percentages are irrelevant. Basically, nearly as many people from the non-xian group backed the torture as did from the xian group. Summarising, yes there were more pro-torture xians than non-xians, but not many more.

    It’s easy to jump on a bandwagon. I say, until we have a statistically large enough sample to be relevant, all we really have is lies, damn lies and statistics (and the statistics ain’t worth shit).

    Now, debating whether the torture of “suspected” terrorists can ever be justified: that’s a other post, surely?

    • dr.R.

      Such ‘surveys’ should never be taken too seriously, anyway. Not only the sample size is rather small with respect to the total US population, the outcome also depends on the way the original question was phrased. How was ‘terrorist’ defined, and how ‘torture’?

      • Andrew N.P.

        First off, the population size doesn’t affect the accuracy of the survey. As long as the sample is truly random, all that matters is the sample size. And 742 is a pretty good size, with a margin of error of +/- 3.7% (at 95% confidence).

        The bigger problem is that when you break down the sample into subgroups, you’re looking at smaller samples and therefore bigger errors. According to the article, there were 336 weekly churchgoers, 225 monthly churchgoers, and 168 non-churchgoers. Do the math for each of those sizes, and you get +/- 5.5% for the churchies, +/- 6.7% for the semi-churchies, and +/- 7.7% for the heathens. And if you use the low figure for churchies and the high number for heathens, you get about 49% either way, so we can’t say that this survey shows a statistically significant difference between the two groups’ support for torture.

        Secondly, the phrasing of the question is in the article. “Do you think the use of torture against suspected terrorists in order to gain important information can often be justified, sometimes be justified, rarely be justified, or never be justified?” Neither “torture” nor “terrorist” was given any more definition, so there was a lot of leeway for the respondents’ own biases to take the wheel.

        • dr.R.

          First off, the population size doesn’t affect the accuracy of the survey. As long as the sample is truly random, all that matters is the sample size. And 742 is a pretty good size, with a margin of error of +/- 3.7% (at 95% confidence).

          That’s only true if the population is sufficiently homogeneous, and the sample truly random. In surveys, that is hardly ever the case.

        • professoryackle

          I agree it’s true that the population size and the accuracy of the survey are two different things, and that the accuracy will depend on several factors, some to do with exactly how the survey is carried out, the demographic of the people ‘selected’ as a sample, etc.

          However I still say that even given perfect survey conditions and a truly random sample, we shouldn’t claim in any way shape or form that 742 opinions are representative of those of the whole of the US: 306,334,000 people as of yesterday, according to Wikipedia. Ffs, that’s around 0.00024% – multiply that up to “represent” the opinions of the US and any error from within the survey gets magnified way beyond the point where it’s reasonable to claim anything. Hell, we could prove the US believes moon is made of string with this kind of math.

          742 is a pretty good size: my arse. Would you trust a new medicine enough to give it to your child once it had been tested in trials comprising 742 people? The reason Glaxo et al don’t do just that is because they know it would be madness: they need to be sure they have enough data.

          • Jabster

            Comparing this to a medical trial is just plain wrong — they have totally different criteria. Of course this doesn’t mean that I trust this survey just that the comparison you’re trying to make is not correct.

          • Andrew N.P.

            Short answer: you’re wrong.
            Long answer: you’re provably wrong.

            Look, one of the more important theorems of statistics is that, unless the sample size is a significant fraction of the population (say, five percent or more), then the margin of error is determined solely by the sample size. Is this counterintuitive? You betcha. But that doesn’t make it any less true. For more, try this exercise.

            Sure, even in optimal conditions, you might get a sample that isn’t actually representative of the population. You might get the people who “believe [the] moon is made of string.” But unless there’s a systematic bias in your sampling (as noted by Dr. R), that should be really freakin’ unlikely. In fact, we can even quantify how freakin’ unlikely that event is. That’s the whole point of confidence intervals and margins of error.

            For example, with a sample size of 742, the margin of error is +/- 3.7% at 95% confidence. That means that there’s a 95% chance that the true proportions are within 3.7% of the survey results. If you’re worried that the Pew Forum rolled a natural 1 with this survey, you can crank it up to 99% confidence and a margin of error of +/- 4.7%. Not great, but still not terrible.

            Now, if lives or presidencies were on the line, you might demand something like 99.9999% confidence, so there’s only a one-in-a-million shot of being wrong. In that case, 742 people give a margin of error of nine percent, and suddenly that sample does look tiny. But that only matters for really important stuff, not for simple opinion polls like this one.

  • Custador

    That’s because, according to FOX, terrorist = Muslim and Muslim = enemy. Arseholes, tbh.

    • professoryackle

      If I may make an anecdote here…

      A good friend of mine, a (white) Texan, lives in Turkey now. She has a Turkish boyfriend who she lives with. During the last Bush administration, they had two (male) Turkish friends living with them also. As happens when guys flat-share, there were often abuses (breaking things, fridge-raiding, non-returned borrowings…) At some stage during the whole Iraq WMD invasion (which many of the common ppl in Britain and virtually all Turks perceived as ‘heavy-handed’ going on ‘completely unjustified’) my friend reported that the term “Terrorist” became a blanket term of abuse in their household. You drank my vodka? You… terrorist! Ad nauseam. She said: “We all think it’s funny when I call them a terrorist. It’s even funnier when they call me one.”

      In other words: the infidel are always on the other side.

  • “attracts people without morals…”

    According to the survey, 71% of respondents see torture as justified under certain circumstances. The fact that you disagree, doesn’t make everyone else immoral.

    • Daniel Florien

      You obviously are a very immoral person if you disagree with me. :)

      • Ok, I can’t argue with that :)

        • zach

          1. Daniel asserted that it attracts people without morals
          2. UNRR did not agree
          3. Daniel asserted that it was immoral to disagree with Daniel.
          4. UNRR acquiesced to this fact
          5. Baal is real.

          • Daniel Florien

            Fundamentalist logic is hard to disagree with…

          • professoryackle

            Who is this Baal fellow anyway? I call fnord.

  • MahouSniper

    “There’s just something about fundamentalism that attracts people without morals…”

    Well, considering that there are people who wouldn’t have any morals at all if they didn’t have something explicitly telling them what they can and cannot do, then it makes sense they’re attracted to the strictest, most rigid guidelines.

  • Daniel,

    I’m glad you posted this. I got to thinking about it after I read it yesterday via CNN.

    The sample size is too small (742 Americans) to be definitive, but I’d be surprised if this wasn’t somewhat representative of reality. There’s just something about fundamentalism that attracts people without morals…

    Let me try to put the sample size in some perspective.

    Here are some numbers about the church I attend personally. They have roughly 3,000 in attendance each week. So let’s just say that one fifth of those attendees are adult male (which is a lowball, if anything). That means Riverview, which is one church in one city in one state, has 600 white adult Evangelical males in attendance each week. And we all know that not every member of a church attends each week, which means it’s more likely than not that more than 742 whilte adult Evangelical males attend Riverview regularly.

    So in order for you suspicion:

    but I’d be surprised if this wasn’t somewhat representative of reality

    to actually hold water, you would have to argue that a sample size that is smaller than the number of white evangelical adults that regularly attends my church in Michigan is representative of the entire population of the United States.

    Now, of course, it’s possible that you could be right. And you deserve credit for noting the small sample size, which CNN is basically ignoring in spite of what appears in the article (check their blogs to see what I mean).

    But the long and short of it is, this survey’s margin of error is far too high to tell us about anything more than the 742 who took part in it.

    All that said, I don’t disagree with your claim, necessarily. I think it’s entirely possible that there are plenty of religious (and Christian in particular) in America that would condone torture under some circumstances… and that’s a tragedy.

  • DarkMatter

    Will the percentage drop for Non-Terrorists?

    I, myself am also asking this type of questions, is it wrong to torture those who are bent to destroy us to get informations in critical times or there are other ways that work better?

    But I know from the “Book” that christians welcome torture of themselves for their messiah and “His Coming”, but usually they do otherwise because of their disobediences. Unreasonable love, they have in their hearts.

  • Annie

    What do they like to say? “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy?”
    I love Christian moron – er – morality.