A Barna research report reveals that the members of Generation Z are less likely to identify is Christian and the number “that identifies as atheist is double that of the U.S. adult population.”
Here are the takeaway numbers:
13% of Gen Z identify as atheist, compared to 6% of adults.
59% of Gen Z identify as Christian, while 75% of Boomers do.
Teens and young adults are more likely to call the problem of evil a dealbreaker than their adult counterparts.
Teens are less likely(!)to call religious people judgmental than adults (17% versus 24%)
“For many teens, truth seems relative at best and, at worst, altogether unknowable.” (I’m quoting directly from the report)
Beware of over-interpreting this data. It’s very, very soon to make the claim that Gen Z’s relatively high percentage of atheism and low percentage means that religion is on the decline in America. That claim has been made again and again, and it has always been wrong. In fact, historically speaking, a rising number of non-believers might actually lead to an increase in religion in the long term for a variety of reasons: evangelists will see opportunity, churches will unite against non-belief and work hard to return members to the fold, and like any societal movement secularization eventually leads to a pendulum swing in the opposite direction.
TIME magazine has named “The Guardians” Person of the Year, specifically in reference to Jamal Khashoggi, who tortured and killed earlier this year for speaking out against the Saudi Government. According to time, Khashoggi’s death hit the news so hard because
it laid bare the true nature of a smiling prince, the utter absence of morality in the Saudi-U.S. alliance and—in the cascade of news feeds and alerts, posts and shares and links—the centrality of the question Khashoggi was killed over: Whom do you trust to tell the story?
The Guardian summarizes the TIME piece as a tribute to persecuted journalists:
Those named also included the journalists killed in the mass shooting at the Capital Gazette in Maryland in June, two Reuters reporters jailed in Myanmar after investigating the massacre of Rohingya Muslims and Maria Ressa, a journalist in the Philippines facing tax evasion charges that she has called “political harassment”
Today interprets TIME’s Person of the Year as an homage to the warriors in the “war on truth.”
Multiple news sources, including TIME, point out that journalists are particularly embattled in the age of social media and fake news, because most of the public has forgotten the standards of journalistic integrity.Read More
One of my favorite shows is Person of Interest. It explores the power of the internet and cellular technology has to become surveillance devices. When the show first came out, it seemed like they took the whole “cellular tracking device” thing to an extreme. But nowadays, it’s becoming increasingly obvious that cell phones are literally tracking devices. A New York Times exposé has revealed just that.
Here’s the upshot from the article:
At least 75 companies receive anonymous, precise location data from apps whose users enable location services to get local news and weather or other information, The Times found. Several of those businesses claim to track up to 200 million mobile devices in the United States — about half those in use last year. The database reviewed by The Times — a sample of information gathered in 2017 and held by one company — reveals people’s travels in startling detail, accurate to within a few yards and in some cases updated more than 14,000 times a day.
You can check whether your apps share data here. The article reveals how sneaky apps can be when they sell your location data, with some simply saying they’re going to use it to deliver targeted ads. They don’t tell you that they’re actually selling it to third parties.
More about tech.Read More
The Proud Boys are a group that defines themselves as “western chauvinists.” Many have accused them of being racists, but their tenants are a little more complex than that. They’re fiercely isolationist and libertarian, they are also patriarchical insofar as they “venerate the housewife,” which presumably means they’d prefer women not be in the workplace.
Although they have participated in violent alt-right protests, the FBI has said that they are not a hate group. That does not mean they’re not violent, and that does not mean their ideology isn’t a bit silly, but it’s significant because the Proud Boys have been booted from Facebook and Twitter for violating community standards. YouTube went a sneakier route and banned the founder for copyright violations.
The interesting this about these tech bans is that the Proud Boys are not, technically speaking, a hate group. They’re just a small group of guys with views that can be (and should be) easily refuted with some thoughtful argumentation. Social media users and companies have nevertheless quashed their activity on the platform. If they were indeed encouraging violence, it’s well and good that they’ve been banned. If they were attempting, say, a massive and well-organized effort to interfere with U.S. elections, then they certainly should be banned.
Meanwhile, Russia continues its cyber assault on our democracy and these companies are only slowly ramping up their policing.Read More
Facebook’s press has been bad lately. From their international scandals and legal troubles to Sheryl Sandberg’s fall from grace, Facebook’s reputation has been pummeled and their share price has suffered accordingly. But the worst may be yet to come, and the problems may not be coming from outside the company––they may be coming from within.
According to a Buzzfeed report, the recent scandals have caused rifts within Facebook:
Internally, the conflict seems to have divided Facebook into three camps: those loyal to Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg; those who see the current scandals as proof of a larger corporate meltdown; and a group who see the entire narrative — including the portrayal of the company’s hiring of communications consulting firm Definers Public Affairs — as examples of biased media attacks.
Morale within the company is so low, in fact, that employees are paranoid that exec’s are spying on them. They’ve allegedly started using burner phones to “talk shit about the company with each other.” So not only do Facebook employees not trust each other, but they also do not trust their leadership. These internal conflicts are only going to be exacerbated by the external pressures, such as the secret documents just released by the British.
More social media.Read More
A New York Times investigation has revealed that dozens of doctors failed to disclose their financial relationships with health care or drug companies when they published studies in medical journals, and medical journals did not adequately vet doctors for financial ties to such companies.
There’s a lot to say about this––including that the medical-scientific publishing “system is broken”––but we’ll leave that to others. In this piece, I want to focus on a concept called scientism. Scientism, in short, is an ideology characterized by the belief that science provides answers to all meaningful questions in life and will ultimately lead to humanity’s perfection.
Scientism contributes to the ideas that science and religion are totally incompatible and totally separate. For those who buy into scientism fully, religion becomes the realm of the corrupt––think televangelists and faith healers––while scientists are righteous.
This study is a good reminder that science, like any human endeavor, is prone to corruption. The implications of that corruption are as grave as the corruption that takes place within religious institutions. People trust the kinds of scientific papers that appear in these medical journals with their lives––little do they know that trust has been bought and paid for by drug companies that care only for the bottom line.Read More
Americans are lonely, and they’re getting lonelier. According to a recent survey by Cigna, nearly half of all Americans feel that they are alone. Psychology Today notes that loneliness is different than simply being alone: “Unlike physically being alone, loneliness is a feeling and a perception. It involves a way of seeing ourselves and the world around us. We can feel lonely in a wide array of social settings and circumstances.”
It’s easy to miss how lonely you are. Forbes even offered a quiz to help you determine if you’re lonely without realizing it.
Senator Ben Sasse, Republican of Nebraska wrote a book centered on the problem of loneliness, connecting it to the current political climate. The book is called Them: Why We Hate Each Other — and How to Heal. The New York Times summarizes:
Mr. Sasse’s assertion that loneliness is killing us takes on even darker significance in the wake of the mail-bomb campaign against critics of President Trump and the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, both of which were perpetrated by isolated — and apparently very lonely — men. Mr. Sasse’s book was published before these events, but he presciently described what he believes lonely people increasingly do to fill the hole of belonging in their lives: They turn to angry politics.
More about health.Read More
President Donald Trump has announced that his Chief of Staff, retired Marine general, will be leaving his position at the end of the year: “John Kelly will be leaving — I don’t know if I can say ‘retiring.’ But he’s a great guy. John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year.”
Trump tapped Kelly to be Chief of Staff during the first, chaotic year of his administration. According to the New York Times:
The chief of staff’s exit also adds another prominent name to the list of core advisers who have left after trying to manage the president through his nearly two years in office, often finding themselves shunned and sidelined for their efforts.
Kelly’s status had become endangered in recent months as his relationship with the President deteriorated. He was not on speaking terms with Trump during his last days, two officials told CNN, and their relationship was no longer seen as tenable. Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff Nick Ayers has been considered a top contender to replace Kelly for more than six months now. Both Ayers and Kelly typically join Trump and Pence during their weekly lunch in the dining room outside the Oval Office.
Fox News took a more optimistic approach:
Kelly has brought order to a chaotic White House, which has seen a historically fast turnover in multiple high-profile jobs—like White House communications director, national security adviser, and more. Kelly’s role, though, has lessened in recent months as the president has instead followed his own counsel, and added like-minded aides to his staff.
More news.Read More
The Washington Post recently published a fabulous long-form piece about southern whites’ willingness to ignore the horrors of slavery. The richness of the piece ultimately wound up in a disappointing conclusion:
It was clear to me that his convictions are informed by his upbringing and by illusionary cultural memory. Yet there are plenty of people of Frank’s age and background — children of segregationists, students of mid-20th-century public schools stocked with anachronistic textbooks — who scoff at his moonlight-and-magnolias mythology. It’s impossible to say for sure what keeps him grounded in a fanciful past — but this much I know: You can’t change his mind. I already tried.
The answers to the question of why southerners still believe––and I use that word deliberately––the Lost Cause are buried within the piece itself. Let’s start with the “Lost Cause,” which is also called the Myth of the Lost Cause. A myth is a way of making sense of the world, it’s a narrative that arranges chaotic, disparate events into a coherent story.
This is why white southerners still revel in Dixie’s glory days, and why they downplay slavery’s horrors. The Lost Cause represents the idyllic past. The positive aspects of that past, such as chivalry and fierce independence, are exaggerated. Naturally, negative aspects of that past have no room in this myth, so they’re explained away.
More politics.Read More
The West Wing is one of my all-time favorite shows. There are so many scenes that hit me right in the feels, but of all those scenes one never fails to make me misty-eyed:
The interesting thing about West Wing was that it ran from 1999-2006, during the George W. Bush era. It imagined a Democratic president getting the same kind of hate from the other side of the aisle that Bush got. Ainsley, a Republican, refuses to give into that kind of vitriol. She engages with the other side at the level of politics and ideas, not ad hominem attacks or gross over-generalizations.
Those days appear to be over. The Nation just ran a piece about the despicable actions of the Wisconsin state government. But here’s the thing, they used the actions of that state’s Republicans to write off all Republicans. What’s scarier to me is the backlash that I’m going to get simply for saying that all Republicans are not evil.
The hatred goes beyond simple party affiliation. It spread to entire political ideologies. According to one opinion piece in GQ:
All the bad of the Republican Party today is the clear fruit of these principles: the blithe disinterest in progress, the complete lack of recognition of injustice, the lionization of intractability, the hatred of working government, the hilarious lack of creativity, and the Pence-ian lust to control everyone’s “passions.” There are blind spots within these principles that you could drive a truck through. They’re not unlike the same blind spots to the oppressed that the Founding Fathers had when they drafted the Constitution, so no wonder conservatives are so eager to adhere to that document literally.
This point here is not that you have to agree or even like Republican political ideals––I don’t. But I also don’t write them off as evil, etc.Read More
Based on the comments to my post about John Oliver’s authoritarianism segment, I apparently need to disclose my own political leanings, otherwise people write off anything even not anti-Trump as pro-Trump.
So, here is my official disclosure. I did not vote for Donald Trump. I do not support Donald Trump. I think that, by and large, his presidency is a hot mess.
That does not mean, however, that I think everyone who supports Trump is a Nazi/fascist/redneck/racist/misogynist/[insert insult here]. Indeed, like most of those readers who do not support Trump, I have family who I love and respect who do support Trump––and I certainly love my family more than I hate a man I’ve never met.
On that note, take a look two Psychology Today articles. The first argues that Trump supporters tend to have one (or more) of five key psychological traits in common. Unsurprisingly, they’re all very negative: 1) Authoritarian Personality Syndrome, 2) social dominance orientation, 3) prejudice, 4) less contact outside their own social groups, 5) relative deprivation.
Another piece suggests that the Dunning-Kruger effect can help explain how Trump was elected. This effect is, according to the article, a cognitive bias “where people with little expertise or ability assume they have superior expertise or ability.” In other words, the entire internet?
There may be something to these “psychological interpretations” of Trump supporters. But I see one major danger here. Treating support of Donald Trump as a psychological condition, risks delegitimizing Trump supporters and pushing them to the absolute fringe of American society by labeling them pathological.
More politics.Read More
Beto O’Rourke ran a fantastic campaign for Texas state senator. He excited voters not only throughout the state, but also throughout the country. Although he didn’t win, he came closer than any Democrat in the state in over thirty years. After the defeat, O’Rourke said he would not run for president in 2020.
Things have changed, however. His team have been in talks with Obama era political operatives, Beto himself met with Obama, and he officially announced that he would not rule anything out.
CNN believes that Beto should run. The reason they give, however, is not particularly compelling: because he’s popular now and won’t be past 2020. Besides that lame reason, polls suggest that O’Rourke would be a contender for the nomination.
But there are to major issues with O’Rourke 2020.
First, he’s not inspiring––and that’s according to a Texas progressive! O’Rouke, according to that Washington Post piece, is just too middle of the road. He won’t capture progressives, and he’s going to remind everyone of Hilary Clitonesque politics. He presents like Bernie Sanders, but he reads like Clinton. It’s not a winning combination.
The second is more practical: O’Rourke lost in Texas. Trump’s attack on O’Rourke is ready-made: He’s a loser. It’s going to be hard to convince swing voters to cast their ballot for someone who didn’t win.Read More
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