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Author Topic: Persecution of Atheists
Gaoics79
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quote:
The percentages here are all made up. How about some real data? I think you would find that there are far more Mormon converts than you allow for, and far more ex-Mormons. Same goes for any other religion.
No, I think my assessment was pretty much bang on. I think you can probably count on one hand the number of practitioners of a given religion in any given community who were not born to parents who also happened to practice that religion.

You'll find exceptions, but so few that they are scarcely noticeable.

And no, I don't have any statistics. But I'd be happy to see some if you have them.

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MattP
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The 99.999% and similar numbers are made up, but it is a fact that religion of your parents is the strongest predictor for the religion of the children. No, I'm not going to go look for a reference right now, but if anyone contests that assertion, I'll make an effort later tonight or tomorrow.
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The Drake
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Oops, look what you guys just stepped in!

Princeton faculty member treatment

quote:
One can start answering these questions by observing that the church's role as a community of memory is being emphasized by thinkers like Maclntyre and Bellah and by many church leaders precisely at a time when an increasing percentage of Americans are not being born and raised in churches, or if they are, they are. not being reared in the churches of their ancestors, and are probably not attending churches that their children will attend. In other words, memory is being emphasized because memory is increasingly problematic.
EDIT: Take your time responding, this seems like an important question, and this was an off-the-cuff search - not to be considered definitive.

[ February 24, 2007, 12:44 AM: Message edited by: The Drake ]

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Gaoics79
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quote:
Would you approach this question the same way if we were talking about a belief in democracy?

Are we all brainwashed into thinking that voting for a leader is a good way to run our state?

I was brainwashed. My mother brainwashed me into thinking that effort is rewarded with hard work, that honesty was important, and also that God existed.

Am I abused?

I simply don't think that "democracy" has been ingrained in our culture to even a fraction of the degree that religion has been. One other meaningful distinction between democracy and religion is that democracy actually can be tested in the real world. If democracy doesn't work, you can see it and understand it, because it's something real and falsifiable. The total voter apathy we have witnessed is evidence of democracy's fallibility. Like most ideas, it can be defeated by practical experience.

Religion, by contrast, is infallible. By its very nature, no one can ever prove it to be wrong. That's what makes it so insidious. Once you're infected, odds are you will never ever be able to get away from it.

The only reason we see any significant number of changes in our society with respect to religion is because our society has embraced secularism, which has decayed religion's hold on people. Secularism is to religion what AZT is to AIDS. Not a cure, but a means of loosening the hold, just a little bit. Science has also helped corrode religion's hold, because science has managed to disprove some of the religious tenets that used to be non-falsifiable, and therefore beyond question.

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MattP
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quote:
Are we all brainwashed into thinking that voting for a leader is a good way to run our state?
I don't like "brainwashed" - it implies malicious intent. I'd say we are indoctrinated.

quote:
I was brainwashed. My mother brainwashed me into thinking that effort is rewarded with hard work, that honesty was important, and also that God existed.

Am I abused?

Only to the extent that these beliefs were damaging to you. My mother also said that God existed, but she was pretty wishy washy about her faith so I never got much fire & brimstone from her. I believed her just like I believed her about Santa Clause. Finding out that Santa Clause was a fiction played an important role in my eventually discarding the idea of God.
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The Drake
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Also, I think describing religion as infection is offensive. And I'm a freaking atheist.
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MattP
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quote:
an increasing percentage
A number can increase quite a bit before it becomes a majority.
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Pete at Home
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Fair enough. Glad I misunderstood. I'll reply in the same vein.

A virus doesn't fit the facts that you describe, Jason. A more apt analogy would be an operating system. You can scrub it, but chances are that you won't.

"these are the facts as I see them."

Pray tell, Jason, where do you "see" facts like this one:

"If you are like 99.999% of Mormons, you didn't choose to be a Mormon"

Those numbers are demonstrably false, Jason, given the number of people that convert to the LDS church as adults, and also the number born into the church that leave it. Personally I remember making the choice to be LDS, and I'd pondered that choice for years before making it.

This is the trouble I have with the Dawkins disciples. Every time I talk to a devotee, they start spouting these asinine numbers, and refusing to look at the facts directly in front of their face. Fact is that a considerable number of people going in and out the doors of the LDS belief system -- many of whom remain in LDS society, some without taking their name off church rolls, but make clear that they don't believe. Others bolt right out the door and never come back for a chat. Others take their names off the church and go become Quakers, or Hare Krishna, or Catholic, or Jewish, or Evangelical, or Atheist -- is it clear that I'm talking about specific friends of mine? Actual born in the LDS church folks, going and joining another religion. And we take in a greater number than those that leave us. Dawkins spews out these pseudofacts about "religion" and provides no nuance, no variation, and certainly doesn't bother to look at different doctrines and practice. He attacks a composite straw man. And then all his little disciplies assume that his numbers hold true for every single religion.

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The Drake
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quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
quote:
an increasing percentage
A number can increase quite a bit before it becomes a majority.
Doesn't take much increase to step past 99.999% though, does it?
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Gaoics79
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quote:
Also, I think describing religion as infection is offensive. And I'm a freaking atheist.
It's also apt Drake. I find Dawkins's description of religion as an intellectual virus to be as close to the truth as I can imagine.

quote:
One can start answering these questions by observing that the church's role as a community of memory is being emphasized by thinkers like Maclntyre and Bellah and by many church leaders precisely at a time when an increasing percentage of Americans are not being born and raised in churches, or if they are, they are. not being reared in the churches of their ancestors, and are probably not attending churches that their children will attend.
Which church? The interesting thing is that even as old churches decay, new ones pop up to take their place. In the third world, religion is as strong as ever. Obviously no particular strain of the virus, no matter how persistent, lasts forever. But I see no signs that the basis fact of religion, that people "choose" the religion of their parents, is in any danger of changing outside of a few pockets in the first world.
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MattP
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quote:
Doesn't take much increase to step past 99.999% though, does it?
You said "Oops, look what you guys just stepped in!" I only claimed a majority. If you were just addressing Jason, then "you guys" is confusing to me.
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The Drake
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Answer this question objectively, jasonr.

Which mores and values are not to be considered a virus, but instead a legitimate teaching? What else do you consider a viral teaching by parents?

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Pete at Home
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I'm a hell of a lot more offended at being told that I didn't have a "choice" as to which religion to belong to, than I am being called some sort of disease carrier.

Dawkins pretends to be a scientist, and he uses that credibility to pass off a conclusion he could only have pulled out of his ass. How do you prove who can choose and who can't?

If it turns out that children whose parents read them Richard Dawkins are more likely to remain atheists than kids of atheist parents that did not read them Dawkins, shall we take that as proof that reading Dawkins at a young age takes away free will?

Why is it that some people just hear the word religion and suddenly everything they ever knew about a falsifiable hypothesis goes right down the toilet?

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The Drake
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quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
The 99.999% and similar numbers are made up, but it is a fact that religion of your parents is the strongest predictor for the religion of the children. No, I'm not going to go look for a reference right now, but if anyone contests that assertion, I'll make an effort later tonight or tomorrow.

You're passing a value judgement that religion of the parents should not be a dominant variable in the selection of religion of their children, or that the most desirable situation would be for children to choose random religious values. Why?
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Gaoics79
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quote:
Those numbers are demonstrably false, Jason, given the number of people that convert to the LDS church as adults, and also the number born into the church that leave it. Personally I remember making the choice to be LDS, and I'd pondered that choice for years before making it.
If I'm wrong about LDS, then I'm happy to be corrected. What percentage of current LDS members are converts? That should be a fairly easy statistic to find.

quote:
This is the trouble I have with the Dawkins disciples. Every time I talk to a devotee, they start spouting these asinine numbers, and refusing to look at the facts directly in front of their face. Fact is that a considerable number of people going in and out the doors of the LDS belief system -- many of whom remain in LDS society, some without taking their name off church rolls, but make clear that they don't believe. Others bolt right out the door and never come back for a chat. Others take their names off the church and go become Quakers, or Hare Krishna, or Catholic, or Jewish, or Evangelical, or Atheist -- is it clear that I'm talking about specific friends of mine? Actual born in the LDS church folks, going and joining another religion. And we take in a greater number than those that leave us. Dawkins spews out these pseudofacts about "religion" and provides no nuance, no variation, and certainly doesn't bother to look at different doctrines and practice. He attacks a composite straw man. And then all his little disciplies assume that his numbers hold true for every single religion.
I'll confess I was sloppy with my numbers, and may have overreached. And I don't think I should ever make blanket statements like "every religion ever" because that's just asking to be proven wrong. I'll settle for "almost" every religion ever, LOL.

But I am curious. What are the actual numbers for LDS? I mean what percentage of current members had parents who were also members?

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Pete at Home
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Jason you cannot possibly know what percentage of people stay in a religion for religious reasons, which for cultural reasons, which for relationship reasons, and others out of sheer inertia. There is no calculus of free will. Your arguments make creationism look like a real science.
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MattP
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quote:
This is the trouble I have with the Dawkins disciples.
Oh dear God, I hope you're not talking about me.

quote:
If it turns out that children whose parents read them Richard Dawkins are more likely to remain atheists than kids of atheist parents that did not read them Dawkins, shall we take that as proof that reading Dawkins at a young age takes away free will?
Can I shorten this to "Are children of atheists that grow up to be atheists denied free will?" Dawkins only seems relevant when we're discussing a concept that he is closely associated with, such as the "indoctrination=abuse" thing.

I have a hard time providing a good answer to the ramifications of free will when childhood education comes into play. Children accept a lot uncritically, and much of what they accept is perfectly reasonable by virtually any standard. Few people are going to complain about their children being taught heliocentrism, for instance. Have they been denied the opportunity to select the model of cosmological dynamics that they wish to follow? Um, maybe?

Perhaps it's more precise to say that children that have been instructed on any matter are going to be highly biased towards their initial instruction despite having the opportunity to choose to believe something contrary in the future.

So, it's not so much that you don't have a choice about your religion, but that it's going to be very hard to choose another one (or none) if you've been raised to strongly believe in the one your parents believe in.

[ February 24, 2007, 01:02 AM: Message edited by: MattP ]

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Pete at Home
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If it's easy to find, then find it. I can just tell you that I know a lot of people who have left the church. And some that have stayed that don't believe in it.

Although a minority some who left still believe in it.

One factoid I do know: that the highest correlator to whether someone stays active in the church is *not* whether you are born in the church, but rather, whether you were married in the LDS temple. When the church found that out, a couple years ago, they dropped massive emphasis on the missionary work (went from 61,000 to 48,000 missionaries practically overnight) and started a storm of building temples all over the world.

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MattP
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quote:
You're passing a value judgement that religion of the parents should not be a dominant variable in the selection of religion of their children, or that the most desirable situation would be for children to choose random religious values. Why?
I am? I'm stating what I believe to be a statistically valid assertion. What is the value judgement that you think I'm making?

[ February 24, 2007, 01:05 AM: Message edited by: MattP ]

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jason m
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3. According to the Church’s Member and Statistical Records Division, first-generation members made up 64 percent of total Church membership as of July 2006

source

I just happened to know where to find that... back to lurking...

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Gaoics79
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quote:
Which mores and values are not to be considered a virus, but instead a legitimate teaching? What else do you consider a viral teaching by parents?
I don't know. I'm not going to create some kind of master rule that applies to all situations, because I'm not nearly smart enough to do that properly. The virus analogy is only meant to illustrate a point about a particular phenomenon: religion. To the extent that it applies to other things, that's gravy, but I don't think it's wrong just because I can't turn it into some kind of meta rule to be applied to every idea ever.

quote:
I'm a hell of a lot more offended at being told that I didn't have a "choice" as to which religion to belong to, than I am being called some sort of disease carrier.
Pete, you may personally have had a choice. You're an individual, so anything is possible. But all I am saying is that if you are like most individuals, odds are you didn't choose your religion in a meaningful way. I guess it depends on how you define choice. Like most people, you could "choose" not to be the religion of your parents, which is surely some kind of choice. But if, statistically, only, say 0.1% of individuals ever exercise this choice, (a made up number, but probably not far from the truth) and if it is found that the only commonality between people who practice a certain religion is the fact that their parents practiced it, then isn't that something of a dubious choice, to say the least?

quote:
Dawkins pretends to be a scientist, and he uses that credibility to pass off a conclusion he could only have pulled out of his ass. How do you prove who can choose and who can't?
You can't. And Dawkins does not pretend to be able to prove that people have no choice. Dawkins won't say that he can prove that God doesn't exist either. Like Dawkins, I look at the facts and draw my own conclusion. I can't prove that you don't have a choice, any more than you can prove that you do have a choice. We can only look at the facts and express our opinions.

quote:
If it turns out that children whose parents read them Richard Dawkins are more likely to remain atheists than kids of atheist parents that did not read them Dawkins, shall we take that as proof that reading Dawkins at a young age takes away free will?
I don't know. I'd have to look at the situation in its context and make a determination then. I can't comment on some abstract scenario without needed context.

quote:
Why is it that some people just hear the word religion and suddenly everything they ever knew about a falsifiable hypothesis goes right down the toilet?
I'm not sure what you mean. Are you saying that my hypothesis that people don't "choose" their religion is non-falsifiable? I'd say that's probably true, since it's never possible to falsify an opinion like that. Language is too slippery for that.
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MattP
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quote:
One factoid I do know
Tee-hee. Given your issue with the changing meanings of words...

quote:
Factoid originally meant a wholly spurious "fact" invented to create or prolong public exposure or to manipulate public opinion and was coined by Norman Mailer in his 1973 biography of Marilyn Monroe. Mailer himself described a factoid as "facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper". Mailer created the word by combining the word "fact" and the ending "-oid" to mean "like a fact".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Factoid

[ February 24, 2007, 01:10 AM: Message edited by: MattP ]

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The Drake
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MattP, I may have been mixing your views with jasonr's. What statement do you actually make about the significance of a correlation between religious views of a parent and their children?
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Clark
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jason m just answered jasonr's question. What were the odds of that?
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hobsen
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Pete at Home and I seem to have been introduced to religious doubt by finding that Santa Claus did not exist.

That I think is the purpose of Santa Claus. He did not become important in the ages of faith; he became most important in the hundred years after 1850. That is the time when a lot of American Protestantism had to be overturned to make way for an understanding of geologic time and the evolution of species. The message of Santa Claus to children is that your parents will lie to you and your teachers will lie to you. Children get disillusioned, and they never accept an idea uncritically again. But most of them grow up to accept the ideas of their group anyway, just not so blindly.

But this is a hypothesis; I admit I have no scientific data to support it.

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Gaoics79
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quote:
3. According to the Church’s Member and Statistical Records Division, first-generation members made up 64 percent of total Church membership as of July 2006
Well, there you are. I guess I was wrong about LDS. Maybe I'm wrong in other respects to. Maybe the old rules don't apply anymore in a modern, secular society.
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MattP
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quote:
Originally posted by jason m:
3. According to the Church’s Member and Statistical Records Division, first-generation members made up 64 percent of total Church membership as of July 2006

source

I just happened to know where to find that... back to lurking...

I hope I can say this without giving offense, but like many other organizations that are motivated to promote their numbers the LDS church is not very rigorous in their definition of membership. One has to make a deliberate effort to be removed from the membership rolls so anyone that's ever been baptized by a missionary is recorded as a member, even if they've never attended another day of church and reverted to the religion of their parents. Even without these problems, the missionary focus of the church and it's relative youth is going to cause it to have more first-generation members, as a percentage of total membership, than other churches.

[ February 24, 2007, 01:19 AM: Message edited by: MattP ]

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MattP
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quote:
Originally posted by The Drake:
MattP, I may have been mixing your views with jasonr's. What statement do you actually make about the significance of a correlation between religious views of a parent and their children?

I only stated that there was a strong correlation. I didn't say anything about whether this was good or bad.
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Pete at Home
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Why is it that some people just hear the word religion and suddenly everything they ever knew about a falsifiable hypothesis goes right down the toilet?
--------------------------------
I'm not sure what you mean.


What I mean is that you answer reasonably when I ask you this:

If it turns out that children whose parents read them Richard Dawkins are more likely to remain atheists than kids of atheist parents that did not read them Dawkins, shall we take that as proof that reading Dawkins at a young age takes away free will?

You reply: I don't know. I'd have to look at the situation in its context and make a determination then. I can't comment on some abstract scenario without needed context.

That's the Jason that I know. But when you're talking about religion, that sort of deference to fact seems to fly right out the window. Why? My scenario contained far more facts than the abstract religious scenario that you were judging.

I think you could reasonably conclude that some members don't really have a meaningful choice whether to remain in a church, since their family and all their friends were church members. But that's very different than brainwashed at birth.

Thanks for the info on the word Factoid, Matt. That's useful to know. That certainly would subert my meaning, since it would be strange for the LDS church to produce a "factoid" whose primary effect was to radically change the institution's own focus from missionary work to temple building. Heck, you were there in Utah while it happened; do you share my observation on that?

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The Drake
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But also, correlation does not imply cause, also it may indicate exposure more than coercion. Would you agree, MattP?
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Pete at Home
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Yay! I'm glad someone picked up on my note on Santa Claus.

quote:
Originally posted by hobsen:
Pete at Home and I seem to have been introduced to religious doubt by finding that Santa Claus did not exist.

That I think is the purpose of Santa Claus. He did not become important in the ages of faith; he became most important in the hundred years after 1850. That is the time when a lot of American Protestantism had to be overturned to make way for an understanding of geologic time and the evolution of species. The message of Santa Claus to children is that your parents will lie to you and your teachers will lie to you. Children get disillusioned, and they never accept an idea uncritically again. But most of them grow up to accept the ideas of their group anyway, just not so blindly.

But this is a hypothesis; I admit I have no scientific data to support it.

Historically, that would be interesting to explore.

Of course religiously, since I believe that salvation means KNOWING God, not just believing IN God, I think that doubt is an incredibly useful tool. Without doubt, without questioning my beliefs, I would have never come to know God.

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MattP
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quote:
Heck, you were there in Utah while it happened; do you share my observation on that?
I noted the change in focus, but I don't recall the bit about temple marriage and retention. That may just be because of my aversion to the topic of temple marriage which was until fairly recently the only real source of religious tension between my wife and I.

[ February 24, 2007, 01:24 AM: Message edited by: MattP ]

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MattP
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quote:
Originally posted by The Drake:
But also, correlation does not imply cause, also it may indicate exposure more than coercion. Would you agree, MattP?

Absolutely. I never implied that it was coercion. I think my recent response to Pete about children of atheists growing up to be atheists made that point. It's not so much a matter of choice as it is of bias. Given enough bias, certain choices become substantially more likely than others, but that still doesn't imply coercion.

[ February 24, 2007, 01:27 AM: Message edited by: MattP ]

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The Drake
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Thanks, MattP, I'm glad we were able to clarify that.
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Clark
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quote:
the highest correlator to whether someone stays active in the church is *not* whether you are born in the church, but rather, whether you were married in the LDS temple. When the church found that out, a couple years ago, they dropped massive emphasis on the missionary work (went from 61,000 to 48,000 missionaries practically overnight) and started a storm of building temples all over the world.
Some numbers for Pete:
The great increase in temples took place in the very end of the 90s, and broke 100 just before the year 2000 hit. Specifically, there were 107 by April 2001, and 122 by 2005.

Missionary numbers and a bit of a change of focus ("raising the bar") first became a big issue in April 2002 61,638 missionaries. You are right that the number of missionaries dropped quickly to 51,067 by April 2004.

So, by your theory, the church had to find out that temple marriage was the more important factor, spend 5 years planning and building temples and /then/ decide to cut back on the missionary program.

Possible, but I always figured that it was simply that increasing temple production was the right thing to do, and refocusing missionary efforts was the right thing to do, and the timing was coincidental. (And not quite as coincident as maybe your comments suggest.)
quote:


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The Drake
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I'd expand by saying that the vast majority of people live what Socrates called the "unexamined life".

quote:
and if again I say that to talk every day about virtue and the other things about which you hear me talking and examining myself and others is the greatest good to man, and that the unexamined life is not worth living, you will believe me still less. This is as I say, gentlemen, but it is not easy to convince you.
Who will experience discomfort or ostracization for what they believe, let alone death?
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MattP
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quote:
I'd expand by saying that the vast majority of people live what Socrates called the "unexamined life".
No argument there. Ornery is a refreshing breath of fresh air in the intellectually stifling world out there. Few people seem to participate in any sort of metacognitive exercise. They seem to just believe what they believe and don't give much thought to anything more.
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Pete at Home
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Hang on, though. Advertising causes an increase in consumption, but does it necessarily deprive someone of free will?
quote:
I hope I can say this without giving offense, but like many other organizations that are motivated to promote their numbers the LDS church is not very rigorous in their definition of membership. One has to make a deliberate effort to be removed from the membership rolls so anyone that's ever been baptized by a missionary is recorded as a member, even if they've never attended another day of church and reverted to the religion of their parents. Even without these problems, the missionary focus of the church and it's relative youth is going to cause it to have more first-generation members, as a percentage of total membership, than other churches.
That's very true. But it's also true of members born in the church who go innactive or join another church.
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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by MattP:
I think my recent response to Pete about children of atheists growing up to be atheists made that point. It's not so much a matter of choice as it is of bias. Given enough bias, certain choices become substantially more likely than others, but that still doesn't imply coercion.

Exactly. I thought I was arguing that point with Jason.
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quote:
Originally posted by Clark:
quote:
the highest correlator to whether someone stays active in the church is *not* whether you are born in the church, but rather, whether you were married in the LDS temple. When the church found that out, a couple years ago, they dropped massive emphasis on the missionary work (went from 61,000 to 48,000 missionaries practically overnight) and started a storm of building temples all over the world.
Some numbers for Pete:
The great increase in temples took place in the very end of the 90s, and broke 100 just before the year 2000 hit. Specifically, there were 107 by April 2001, and 122 by 2005.

Missionary numbers and a bit of a change of focus ("raising the bar") first became a big issue in April 2002 61,638 missionaries. You are right that the number of missionaries dropped quickly to 51,067 by April 2004.

So, by your theory, the church had to find out that temple marriage was the more important factor, spend 5 years planning and building temples and /then/ decide to cut back on the missionary program.

Possible, but I always figured that it was simply that increasing temple production was the right thing to do, and refocusing missionary efforts was the right thing to do, and the timing was coincidental. (And not quite as coincident as maybe your comments suggest.)
quote:


You're right; looks like the causation on that the missionary side of my theory is broken.

But my main point was that correlation between temple marriages and staying in the church was bigger than being born in the church and staying in the church.

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