On the Foreign Policy website, you can read a fascinating collection of survey data about the attitudes of London Muslims compared to the British public at large. As the commentary notes,
A 2006 Pew poll of the British public found that British Muslims, when asked to cite the source of their primary identity, overwhelmingly chose their faith, while the majority of the British public chose their country. The finding set off alarm bells in a nervous Britain still reeling from the 7/7 attacks and was widely cited as proof that the country suffers from a crisis of integration.
The chart looks like this:
This comes as no surprise: the British public, largely secular and post-Christian, does not suffer from the conflict of interest between religion and state (God and Caesar, as Christ put it). What is surprising is that this does not prevent British Muslims from identifying themselves as Brits and as Muslims:
This is most fascinating, and, from my perspective, a cause for optimism, especially when coupled with this chart:
British Muslims strongly believe that getting a good education and becoming involved in public life are the most important aspects of integrating. Presumably, following survey data with which we’re all familiar, as the Muslim public becomes better educated and more fully integrated into a post-religious society, they will become less attached to their faith, and perhaps even just as tolerant and cosmopolitan as those 78% of Brits who don’t think becoming less religious is important…
In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Washington College dean Christopher Ames takes a higher view of American Idol:
We might think that Americans are eager to celebrate talented young people who can thumb their noses at the older generation and thus exorcise the lingering resentment so many harbor from being graded and evaluated in the classroom. But what American Idol reveals instead is a veritable hunger for realistic evaluation. Time and time again, contestants in the early episodes of this year’s season whine obviously off key and then insist they are highly talented — in spite of the judges’ protestations. Most of those kids have not learned how to sing, but they have mastered the self-esteem and “attitude” so valued in our culture. The persistent dynamic of these episodes is expertise putting down untalented braggadocio.
Essential reading in Salon: Peter Birkenhead on Oprah’s ugly secret
Has Oprah ever done anything that didn’t leave people with mixed feelings?
And at what point do we stop feeling like we have to take the good with the craven when it comes to Oprah, and the culture she’s helped to create? I get nauseated when I think of people in South Africa being taught they don’t have enough money because they’re “blocking it with their thoughts.” I’m already sickened by an American culture that teaches people, as “The Secret” does, that they “create the circumstances of their lives with the choices they make every day,” a culture that elected a president who cried tears of self-congratulation at his inauguration, rejects intellectualism, and believes he can intuit the trustworthiness of world leaders by looking into their eyes. I’m sickened by a culture in which the tenets of the Oprah philosophy have become conventional wisdom, in which genuine self-actualization has been confused with self-aggrandizement, reality is whatever you want it to be, and mammon is queen.
There’s no doubt that Oprah’s doing a lot of good with her South African project, and with many other charitable works. And yeah, I know, her book club “gets people to read,” and yadda yadda yadda. But there’s also no doubt that a lot of us have been making forgiving disclaimers like that about Oprah for years. And that maybe they amount to trains-running-on-time arguments. Maybe it’s time to stop. After reading “The Secret,” it seemed to me that there were basically three possibilities: 1) Oprah really believes this stuff, and we should be very worried about her opening a school for anyone. 2) Oprah doesn’t believe this stuff and we should be very, very worried about her opening a school for anyone. 3) Oprah doesn’t know that any of this stuff is in the book or on her Web site and in a perfect world she wouldn’t be allowed to open a school for anyone.
Via the Design Observer, a complete scan of Bertrand Russell’s The Good Citizen’s Alphabet.
It is fascinating to think back to the early 1950s. A couple of Polish émigrés, having studied physics, architecture and painting, and having made a few art films and started a publishing company, sit down with a leading philosopher to make something whimsical and subversive. That an alphabet book was the outcome pleases me to no end.
The Jewish Atheist has created some very interesting statistics on the relationship between a person’s vocabulary scores and their religious beliefs:
Here are some things I’ve come up with:
People who score higher on the vocabulary test are much less likely to believe that the Bible is “the word of God,” to be “fundamentalist,” to believe “God concerned with human beings personally,” to consider church “very important,” or to believe that “atheists shouldn’t hold public office.”
Here’s one of his graphs: