Thursday, April 30, 2009

I don't quite get this poll result

I'm somewhat confused by a poll I just ran across.

I certainly can understand the notion that people of faith might separate their faith from their belief about whether torture is a good idea or not (though I don't think that it is a good idea myself), so I might have not been surprised to see a lack of correlation between religion and support or non-support for torture, but a new Pew poll out today suggests that especially among evangelicals and to a lesser degree among adherents of a number of other religions, support for torture is actually higher than it is among people who don't go to church.

According to the linked poll, 54% of people who go to church at least once per week believe that torture of prisoners is sometimes or often justified, versus 42% of non-church goers.

That statistic is somewhat misleading or at least overly broad though, as the survey finds that members of 'mainline' Protestant churches-- such as Lutherans, Presbyterians and Episcopals-- were actually more strongly opposed to torture than non-church goers (30% of mainline protestants answering that torture is never acceptable, versus 25% of the non-churchgoers) and Catholics were not that far behind non-churchgoers. The number that really sticks out is that only one in eight evangelicals believes the same.

Now, I'm not a member of an evangelical church and the President of the National Association of Evangelicals, Leith Anderson, had no comment on the poll. I'd be interested in knowing how they justify this though. I do go to church every week, and I've read the Bible extensively and I'm not sure what in scripture justifies torturing prisoners. I was reading the sermon on the mount the other day and I'm sure there was nothing in there about waterboarding. Maybe I will read it again tonight just to be sure.

If anyone who is a member of an evangelical denomination would like to comment on this and what in your doctrine makes members of your church more likely to support torture I'd love to hear it. I've always thought that Christians were more likely to uphold the teachings of Christ-- starting with compassion, even towards an enemy once he has been rendered powerless. But maybe I'm getting the wrong idea about that, this is more like the Christian values as practiced during the Inquisition.


Josh said...

One would think what you say is correct but there are probably some simple explanations for the discrepancy. An uncharitable explanation is that a lot of those people are simply "fake Christians" that attend church mostly because they were raised that way but never really internalized any of the morality.

Another uncharitable explanation is that some, but surely not all, evangelical churches are actually very nasty and focus much more on fire and brimstone than love. This is less prominent in catholicism and mainline Protestant churches but occurs there some, too.

A more charitable explanation is simply the fact people often do not find it very difficult to simultaneously hold completely contradictory views. It's called "cognitive dissonance" (at least when you're not conscious of it; otherwise it's "hypocrisy"). We all do it to some extent but usually it isn't so obvious.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe what I am reading?Just what kind of "poll" is this?
Note this statement:

The analysis is based on a Pew Research Center survey of 742 American adults conducted April 14-21. It did not include analysis of groups other than white evangelicals, white non-Hispanic Catholics, white mainline Protestants and the religiously unaffiliated, because the sample size was too small.
So this poll only significantly represented ONE religious group? Evangelicals were the ONLY group that had a statistically valid sample on? That is either the most biased poll published or a political sham.

Also if other groups were not significantly represented how can they make thos statemenst at the end such as:

The religious group most likely to say torture is never justified was Protestant denominations -- such as Episcopalians, Lutherans and Presbyterians -- categorized as "mainline" Protestants, in contrast to evangelicals. Just over three in 10 of them said torture is never justified. A quarter of the religiously unaffiliated said the same, compared with two in 10 white non-Hispanic Catholics and one in eight evangelicals.

Why target Evangelicals? Nice job PEW. Of course it is expected from CNN.

Anonymous said...

CNN can't seem to resist slandering Conservative Christian's at every opportunity. 742 respondents? That's a joke. The sampling is too small. No wonder Newspapers and other media outlets are losing money. There is no journalism anymore. What's scaring is that people actually beleive what CNN says and take is as fact and don't realize the blatant liberal bias.

Jerro@dallasTx said...

But is it a lie? Don't dismiss it because it comes from CNN. I find it funny, that the same people that "uphold" the morality of America by being against abortion, are the same group that are bashing Obama for releasing torture memos. It is true! You just have to read the news forums to see that these people only use religion when it suits them, but quickly discard to when it doesnt. I bet ya if the poll asks "do you support death penalty" what do you think will be the result? Shameless bigots.

Anonymous said...

I smell a rat. The title of the article is pure spin by CNN, that fact comes into relief once you get a dispassionate view of how limited this study is. CNN is hustling bias and bigotry and that's the straight up truth. They are controlling perceptions via omission of crucial details so that they can stir the pot with a provocative headline (covering their asses in the fine print 5 paragraphs deep into the article). All of this is motivated out of political design.

If you go to the original CNN article and follow the blogs, like this one, you can see how successful they are at spreading cynicism like wildfire.

The biggest and most dangerous cost of the so-called "culture wars" is a complete collapse of even an attempt at responsible journalism. This country is very sick.

J. Foster said... headline: "Survey: Churchgoers more likely to back torture"... Five lines later... 54 percent to be exact. Then after clicking the "full story" link and reading down to the middle of the story we learn that it was a survey of 742 Americans. Really? 742? ...out of 304,059,724 Americans and it was the top headline on

Thats 0.00000244% of the population quizzed before the survey was used to lump the 40-45% of the population that regularly attend church together as "more likely to approve torture."

RitaBendita said...

It is no wonder. In the worst misapplication of Bible truth I have EVER seen, instead of resting in the ground until Jesus comes with his reward, Satan has us believing in a torturous hell fire. See for more information. If God would torture us, why should we not torture others.

God won't torture, and neither should we. God is a much better parent than we are - and none of us would burn our children for one second as punishment.

Study your Bible, or find a local Seventh-day Adventist church. I think they have these materials.

God bless.

Rita in B.C.

Anonymous said...

Look at the actual survey results. The statistical differences between the various groups are basically...nil. CNN created a story where there was none, for no good reason than perhaps to bash Christians.

Joel said...

One of the worst headlines by CNN I've seen! What a joke of serious reporting!!! Reading the fine print of the insignificantly small survey reveals those weekly attending church actually were less in favor (16% often justified torture) than those who attended less (monthly or few times actually scored higher 18% approving the "often justified" category). The national average was 15% -- hardly even worthy of the story. Even if the overall data is correct, the apparent 54% vs. lowest 42% of those in overall favor is obviously still shows everything virtually in ballpark figures, certainly not worthy of the blatant connection of church going as with "torture". And then we need to ask is the church issue that really best explains the data here? What if faithful church goers were statistically older people, those that had survived WWII generation and suffered through the realities of Hitler and Cold War with the former Soviet Union? Could this explain the small 12% difference in overall national averages? What if we were to analyze the same data according to age group rather than church affiliation? Or perhaps region of USA (Texans vs. East Coast), north vs. south, or also as to sex (male vs. female). Perhaps we might have a more solid conclusion as to broader issues going on. Perhaps the church issue isn't even what explains the data. Our younger generation is more open on many social issues (homosexual marriage, etc.), so as such the real story here probably doesn't have much to do with churches as such. Let's hope CNN gets such a skunk of a lousy story off the air!!!!!!!!!!

peter1589 said...

18:33. Shouldst not thou then have had compassion also on thy fellow servant, even as I had compassion on thee?

18:34. And his lord being angry, delivered him to the torturers until he paid all the debt.

18:35. So also shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.

Pretty simple, actually. How come none of you could find this?? Aren't you Bible scholars? Do you just spend all your time on the Sermon on the Mount? When have you looked into John 6 lately? Unless you eat my Body and drink my blood, there is NO LIFE IN YOU, saith the Lord!

Anonymous said...

One American who believes in the efficacy of torture is one too many, regardless of religious denomination. I never attend church except the high holidays and my opinion with regards to torturing 'enemy combatants,' is that it should never be done. Not only is it morally wrong, but it doesn't provide good intelligence and is in fact counter-productive. It serves to provide fabricated information because those who are tortured will say anything to end the torture. The worst part is that torture is used on detainees who may be innocent. Children were held at Abu Ghraib. Men were tortured and killed. Their is no rationalization for these actions. We are America and we should be better than this.

Anonymous said...

The folks from CNN who produced this phony poll slandering evangelicals should be waterboarded.

sandyh said...

I wonder how the question was asked and the makeup of the sample.

And if it was linked to the 911 terrorists or protecting the country? This would understandably skew the results with all groups of Americans.

I assume that's what happened. And I'm not surprised that evangelicals in particular would react that way. Fire and brimstone preachers have been stoking the fear of God into them for generations.

It's natural that this group would feel the need for retribution and punishment of those who challenge their view of God's will. The End of Days is very much at work in their everyday reasoning.

What does abortion have to do with waterboarding? That argument makes about as much sense as comparing it with capital punishment. Apples and oranges.

Waterboarding someone over 200 times after getting the info you wanted after 35 seconds is way over the top. Simon LaGree and Pol Pot were at work at Gitmo and Abu Graibe.

It wasn't just information they were after. It was about subjecting another human to their will and dominance. You really have to wonder about the backgrounds of the independent contractor "doctors" they hired to write up the standards and procedures.

Why did the Bushies go outside the CIA and military to begin with? Someone at the top had to know they were going to be doing something illegal. It's fact that the both the military and CIA both balked at approving what they wanted to do.

Torture has traditionally been applied throughout history to cover up actions rather than to elicit timely information. The dates of the legal briefs and the actual torture bear this out in this case as well.

Sorry I got off subject.

peter1589 said...

Quote: "What does abortion have to do with waterboarding? That argument makes about as much sense as comparing it with capital punishment. Apples and oranges."

No, dear, the USA and western "civilization" practice abortion with impunity which is, in fact, torture if you've even bothered to examine the evidence. But, being in denial as a card-carrying liberal, why should we expect you to examine honest data? After all, it doesn't support your supposition that there is no relationship between abortion and torture, so how can we convince the resolutely blind, such as you are, of factual evidence?

What is alarming is the STENTORIAN OUTCRY over the torture of terrorists being so deafening these days, while the 50 million children who have ended up as rat food in the sewers are SILENTLY PASSING, unmentionables in the liberal "mentality," if anyone can call that a mentality.

Quote: "You really have to wonder about the backgrounds of the independent contractor "doctors" they hired to write up the standards and procedures."

No, one wonders about the "doctors" who take the Hippocratic Oath and then spend their professional lives destroying future citizens via the torture of acidic effects of salt solutions in the womb, snipping off arms and legs of the unborn, sticking scissors into the skulls sticking out, "half-born" from their "mothers'" vaginas and vacuuming out the brain matter to kill a viable child. Ever had the guts to visit and look at exactly the tortures these "doctors" impose upon the utterly innocent, infant lives they destroy SIMPLY BECAUSE OF THE PROFIT FACTOR?

Eli Blake said...

Thanks, all.

As far as abortion is concerned, it does seem to be the single most polarizing issue in society today. I once took the 'legal but rare' philosophy I still have and suggested making it more rare via taxing abortions and using the money raised to pay for the cost of hospital deliveries for uninsured women, for which I was soundly jumped on from both the left and the right. Well, so much for proposing a moderate solution to an issue that is purely polarizing (never mind the fact that we've cut the rate of smoking in half just by taxing cigarettes and subsidizing smoking cessation programs, but without banning tobacco; nobody wants to consider a similar strategy for dealing with abortion as something that is, ultimately still up to the woman who makes the choice, however we as a society influence that choice.)

What I don't get though is this: the number of abortions that have been prevented by birth control, sex education and family planning is a significant number (one reason why the number of abortions is down by about a quarter since it hit its high in the early 1990's. So why are these not pushed harder by abortion opponents, especially since every attempt to ban it has been tossed out in court.

Jack Hampton said...


The scripture you quoted does not say whether the man who delivered up the servant to the torturers was righteous in so doing or not, it only says that he did.

Further, methinks you miss the point of it. The servant had not compassion and forgiveness of his fellow-servant in his heart, and so it was repaid to him. This falls under the heading of 'do unto others...'

It is certainly true that in the Old Testament the Lord wiped out whole cities and even almost the entire human race for their wickedness, and he also ordered Joshua's armies to lay waste to all the land and spare no one, but that was the vengeance of the Lord, not the vengeance of man. Where man often gets in trouble is when he decides to take to himself powers and decisions that are best left to the Lord.

peter1589 said...

Jack Hampton, you think that Old Testament episodes of God wiping out people is only past events? Read this, for starts:

Jack Hampton said...


I'm not disputing that God will visit the earth with destruction in the last days (it says that plainly in Revelation as well as throughout scripture) but my point is that it is not up to man to decide to take upon himself the role of God's avenger. God will do it in his way, and if some living on the earth are called to serve as the agents of destruction, they will so be called and Christians who know God will recognize them and be recognized by them.

But it isn't up to us to make the decision that we must waterboard in the name of God (anymore than, as Mr. Blake pointed out in the original post, those who burnt people at the stake during the Inquisition in the name of God, were actually justified by it.) Heck, aren't we fighting people who claim they are justified by God in the things they do? They have made the same mistake, of substituting the judgement of men which is often in error, for the divine judgement of God.