Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Tea Party Recession: Why Faith is Slowing Recovery

How can people lead the country when they are taught from youth to believe things that can't possibly be true? Does religion's insistence on faith over reason make a politician irrational and irresponsible?

According to a Baylor University Religion Survey released last fall, that's exactly what it does. The "Tea Party's Recession" that we're now facing may be an example of this phenomenon. Conservative Christian politicians' reliance on faith over evidence seems to be a direct impediment to their ability to accept plain facts. Their beliefs are based on their ideology, even when the facts are clear.

According to sociologist Paul Froese, co-author of the Baylor study:
  • Twenty percent of Americans believe God is actively engaged in manipulating the American economy.
  • Only twenty percent of Americans hold a purely secular view of the economy (that the economy is driven purely by market forces).
  • Eight in ten political conservatives believe there is only a single ultimate truth, and new economic information about cost-benefit analysis isn't going to change their mind about the economy.
In other words, there is a huge fraction of the population who won't listen to facts. And Froese's work is backed up by a Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life study that found that the most religious are on average least willing to accept well-established facts that conflict with their religious beliefs.

In an interview with State of Belief, Froese elaborated on his findings:
"[We're finding that] people who link strong religious beliefs to economic conservatism think that the state of nature is a free market; and that if you mess with the free market in terms of government regulation or some type of taxation, you are disrupting a state of nature that God wanted us to have. And so, really, we're finding that many of these believers see government as really a profane object, and I think that's the reason why they are against many of the liberal kind of suggestions on how to fix our economy - because they see conservative theory as, really, an article of faith.

"... [For] this population – again, I’m talking about people who have very strong religious beliefs that they connect to an economic conservatism – they tend to be poor and less educated ... these people tend to vote against policies that seem to be in their favor – increasing spending on education, increasing spending on social welfare."
Given the results of these studies about faith and conservatism, it's scary to reflect on the current Republican presidential candidates. It's by far the most religious slate of Republican candidates in American history. Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain ... I can hardly think of a single viable presidential candidate in my lifetime who was more religious than any one of these front-runners. And every one of them seems to be a perfect illustration for Froese's thesis: they put their religious interpretation of the economy before the facts.

Scary stuff ... is it Halloween or something?

(Paul Froese is also author of America's Four Gods: What We Say about God - and What That Says about Us.)

1 comment:

  1. So, if God is actively manipulating our economy, why can't He do something about the RMB? Or ... *is He*?


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