Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Converting to Catholicism

In a post a while back I referred to (among many other things) the conversion of eminent Buddhist scholar Paul Williams to Catholicism back in 2000. Williams had been born Church of England, then spent 20 years as a Tibetan Buddhist, most of that time as a monk, before becoming Catholic. Shortly after that old post of mine (way back in July) there came a post over at Impotent Rage, in which I discovered that somehow Newt Gingrich had managed to convert to Catholicism without my noticing it! If it hadn't been for Mamiel's blog I still wouldn't know.

High profile conversions to Catholicism are a fascinating topic. Another one that caught me off-guard was that of former poodle, er, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who came out of the closet in 2007, pretty much just as soon as he stepped down as PM. According to this piece in the Guardian, Blair's Catholic leanings actually dated back three full decades to a "spiritual awakening" he experienced while still in school at Cambridge, but he put off official conversion (for half a lifetime) "due to political considerations". Catholics are by law excluded from the British throne, and also from marrying a reigning sovereign or anyone who might be an heir to the throne. Srsly. While it is not legally proscribed, no British Prime Minister has ever been (officially, at least) Catholic.

Other big-name converts have included Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, columnist Robert Novack, not-quite Supreme Court Justice Robert Bork, Plumber-in-Chief E. Howard Hunt, Kenneth lookalike Bobby Jindal, John von Neumann, Vincent Price, Bob Hope, Tony Snow, Marshall McLuhan, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Jim Nabors, Salvador Dali, Knute Rockne, Jane Wyman, Aubrey Beardsley, Tennessee Williams, Jeb Bush, Anne Rice, and Arlo Guthrie. Also, two of the most prominent modern popularizers of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular were converts (which actually makes a lot of sense). For the namby-pamby liberal types (like Cherie Blair) you've got Thomas Merton and for the more solidly conservative set (like Robert Novack) there's good old G.K. Chesterton.

There was actually a flurry of speculation in the summer of '08 that George W. Bush was seriously contemplating thinkin' 'bout conversion to Catholicism.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Nazis & Christians & Pagans, Oh My! (Part One)

European Christendom and the Historical Background of Nazism

It's easy to get the impression that such topics as the "Religious Aspects of Nazism" or "Adolf Hitler's Religious Beliefs" are mind-bogglingly complex, intractably tendentious, and incapable of any simple, straightforward summary. But this is not true.

(1) Adolf Hilter was a Christian, and the vast majority of Nazis were Christians.

(2) Anti-semitism and strident German nationalism were widespread among both Catholics and Protestants in Germany during the decades leading up to the Nazi seizure of power.

(3) Antisemitism had been a permanent and pervasive feature of European Christendom continuously throughout its history (inclusive of the Protestant late-comers).

(4) By the late 19th century anti-semitism was a core feature of political conservatism in Germany, and these same conservatives were overwhelmingly Christians who believed that Germany should be a "Christian State".

(5) Even those Nazis (such as Himmler) who are often referred to as "neo-paganists" were consistent, and insistent, admirers of Jesus and Luther (and also Meister Eckhardt). The hostility of these "neo-paganists" was primarily directed against Catholicism.

Below are some excerpts from Christoper R. Browning's 2004 The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Jewish Policy. These are all taken from the the first chapter of that book, which is titled, simply, Background. (I have provided some links and some comments inserted in brackets but I have refrained from adding any emphases to allow the original to speak for itself.)
Christians and Jews had lived in an adversarial relationship since the first century of the common era, when the early followers of Jesus failed to persuade significant numbers of their fellow Jews that he was the Messiah. They then gradually solidified their identity as a new religion rather than a reforming Jewish sect. First, Pauline Christianity took the step of seeking converts not just among Jews but also among the Pagan populations of the Roman Empire. [This is the one important thing that Browning gets wrong in this summary spanning two millennia of history: the Jews were already a proselytizing sect, and had been for centuries prior to Paul.] Second, the Gospel writers -- some 40 to 60 years after the death 0f Jesus -- sought to placate the Roman authorities and at the same time to stigmatize their rivals by increasingly portraying the Jews rather than the Roman authorities in Palestine as responsible for the crucifixion -- the scriptural origin of the fateful "Christ-killer" libel. Finally, the Jewish rebellion in Palestine and the destruction of the Second Temple motivated early Christians not only to dissociate themselves completely form the Jews but to see the Jewish catastrophe as a deserved punishment for the stubborn refusal to accept Jesus as teh Messiah and as a divine vindication of their own beliefs. Christians and Jews, two small sects that had much more in common with one another by virture of their monotheism and scriptures than either had with the rest of the tolerant, syncretic, polytheistic Pagan Roman world, developed an implacable hostility to one another.

This hostility became historically significant in the course of the fourth century when, following the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, Christianity became first the favored and then the official religion of the Roman Empire. The religious quarrel between two small and relatively powerless sects, both at odds with the Pagan world in which they lived, was suddenly transformed into an unequal relationship between a triumphant state religion and a beleaguered religious minority. Even so, the Jews fared better than the Pagans. Triumphant Christianity destroyed Paganism and tore down its temples, but the synagogues were left standing, and Judaism remained as the sole legally permitted religion outside Christianity. Without this double standard of intolerance -- Paganism destroyed and Judaism despised but permitted -- there would have been no further history of Christian-Jewish relations.

Seemingly triumphant Christianity soon faced its own centuries-long string of disasters. As demographic and economic declines eroded the strength of the Christianized Roman Empire from within, the western provinces fragmented and collapsed under the impact of the numerically rather small Germanic invasions from the north. The later invasion of the Huns from the east dissipated, but not so the subsequent Muslim invasions, which stormed out of the Arabian Peninsula and conquered half the old Roman world by the end of the seventh century. In the area destined to become western Europe, cities -- along with urban culture and a money economy -- illiterate, impoverished, and huddled in isolated villages scraping out a precarious living from a primitive subsistence agriculture -- reeled under the impact of yet further devastating invasions of Vikings form Scandinavia and Magyars from central Asia in the ninth and tenth centuries. Neither the Christian majority nor the Jewish minority of western Europe could find much solace in these centuries of afflication and decline.

The great recovery -- demographic, economic, cultural, and political -- began shortly before the milllennium. Population exploded, cities grew up, wealth multiplied, centralizing monarchies began to triumph over feudal anarchy, universities were invented, cultural treasures of the classical world were recovered and the borders of western Christendom began to expand.

But the great transformation did not bring equal benefits to all Europe's first great "modernization crisis," like any such profound transformation, had its "social losers." A surplus of disgruntled mounted warriors -- Europe's feudal elite -- faced constricted opportunities and outlets. A new money economy and urban society eroded traditional manorial relationships. Expanding literacy adn university education, coupled with an intoxicating discovery of Aristotelian rationalism, posed a potential and unsettling threat to traditional Christian faith. Growth, prosperity, and religious enthusiasm were accompanied by bewilderment, frustration and doubt.

For all that was new and unsettling, incomprehensible and threatening, in this modernizing crisis, the Jewish minority provided an apt symbol. The anti-Judaism (and "teaching of contempt") of Christian theologians that characterized the first millennium of Chrstian-Jewish antagonism was rapidly superseded by what Gavin Langmuir has called a "xenophobic" anti-Semitism -- a widely held negative stereotype made up of various assertions that did not describe the real Jewish minority but rather symbolized various threats and menaces that the Christian majority could not did not want to understand. A cluster of anti-Jewish incidents at the end of the first decade of the 11th century signaled a change that became more fully apparent with the murderous pogroms perpetrated by roving gangs of knights on their way to the First Crusade. In the words of Langmuir, "These groups seem to have been made up of people whose sense of identity had been seriously undermined by rapidly changing social conditions that they could not control or understand and to which they could not adapt successfully."
[pp. 1-3]
[Having taken us through more than one thousand years of the Jewish-Christian "adversarial relationship", Browning then proceeds to describe the further development of "xenophobic" anti-Semitism, which I will skip over. Then he comes to the second great "modernization crisis" which centered on the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution, finally bringing us to the 19th century.]
[I]n the far more secular and scientific world of the 19th century, religious beliefs provided less explanatory power. For many, Jewish behavior had to be understood instead as caused by allegedly immutable characteristics of the Jewish race. The implications of racial anti-Semitism posed a different kind of threat. If previously the Christian majority pressured Jews to convert and more recently to assimilate, racial anti-Semitism provided no behavioral escape. Jews as a race could not change their ancestors. They could only disappear.

If race rather than religion now provided the rationale for anti-Semitism, the various elements of the negative anti-Semite stereotype that had accumulated during the second half of the Middle Ages were taken over almost in their entirety and needed little updating. The only significant addition was the accusation that Jews were responsible for the threat of Marxist revolution. With little regard for logical consistency, the old negative image of Jews as parasitical usurers (updated as rapacious capitalists) was supplemented with a new image of Jews as subversive revolutionaries out to destroy private property and capitalism and overturn the social order. After 1917 the notion of menacing "Judeo-Bolshevism" became as entrenched among Europe's conservatives as the notion of "Christ-killers" had been among Europe's Christians.
[pp. 4-5]
[Then Browning states that "These developments in the history of anti-Semitism transcended national boundaries and were pan-European." He follows that with the question: "Why then did the Germans, among the peoples of Europe, come to play such a fateful role in the murderous climax that was reached in the middle of the 20th century?" Browning then considers three different "approaches" to answering that question, most of which I will skip over. except for the following summary, which makes a good place to stop.]
Shulamit Volkov's interpretation of late 19th century German anti-Semitism as a "cultural code" constitutes an admirable synthesis of major elements of these different, though not mutually exclusive, notions of a German Sonderweg. German conservatives, dominating an illiberal political system but feeling their leading role increasingly imperiled by changes unleashed by modernization, associated Jews with everything they felt threatened by -- liberalism, democracy, socialism, internationalism, capitalism, and cultural experimentation. To be a self-proclaimed anti-Semite in Germany was also to be authoritarian, nationalist, imperialist, protectionist, corporative, and culturally traditional. Volkov concludes, "Antisemitism was by then strongly associated with everything the conservatives stood for. It became increasingly inseparable from their anti-modernism." As Uriel Tal has noted, German conservatives made their peace with modern nationalism and the modern state by understanding them in terms of a traditional German "Christian state" and traditional values that were seen as the distinct antithesis of the values identified with modern, emancipated, relatively assimilated Jews.
[pp. 6-7]
The next installment in this series will focus on Richard Steigmann-Gall's book Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity 1919-1945.

The series on "Nazis & Christians & Pagans":
[1] Nazis and Christians and Pagans, Oh My! (Part One)
[2] Christian Nazi Quote-fest (Part Two)
[3] Fascism, Islam, and Freedom of Expression (Part Three)
[4] "Hitler was not an occultist": Mitch Horowitz is right but his sourcing is all wrong (Part Four)
[5] Karla Poewe's "New Religions and the Nazis" reviewed by Richard Steigmann-Gall (Part Five)
[6] Rosenberg, Chamberlain, Harnack (Part Six)

Much of the history that Christopher R. Browning covers in the above excerpts is also discussed in a series of posts I have done on the History of Monotheism:
Charlemagne, Part Deux (A Brief History of Revolutionary Monotheism, Part Six)
Charlemagne (A Brief History of Revolutionary Monotheism, Part Five)
Muhammad (A brief history of Revolutionary Monotheism, Part Four)
Constantine (A brief history of Revolutionary Monotheism, Part Three)

Moses (A Brief History of Revolutionary Monotheism, Part Two)

Akhenaten (A Brief History of Revolutionary Monotheism, Part One)
Monotheistic Robots of Doom, Part Deux
Monotheistic Robots of Doom

Saturday, December 26, 2009

"A form of ministry" (Push Polling for Jesus, Part Four)

Have you ever wondered what, if anything at all, Amway has to do with the Order of Charlemagne? Or how they are both connected to the modern business of public opinion research?? All this, and more, will be revealed in what follows.

This is a somewhat longish post, the bulk of which is divided up into four parts:

Part One focuses on George Gallup Jr, who has been, at times, very up front about how he uses the family business as a way to promulgate his own religious agenda.
Part Two discusses the strange idea of "Spiritual Capital", and also focuses on connections between the Gallups and the Templetons.
Part Three concerns the Cliftons, who bought The Gallup Organization in 1988.
Part Four focuses on the Christian "philanthropy" of the Pew Trusts, with special attention to Luis Lugo, Director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

There is also a very brief Conclusion.

While there is nothing new here, information-wise, I think there is some value in assembling this material in one place and attempting to provide a narrative tying things together. I hope that if you actually bother to read through all this, it will convince you to not look to outfits like Gallup, Templeton, Pew, etc, as sources of "objective research" on the subject of religion, but rather as purveyors of Christian propaganda, and rather crude propaganda at that, once you know what to look for.

Part One: George Gallup, Jr.

George Gallup Jr. (named for his father, the founder of The Gallup Organization) was a religion major at Princeton and almost became an Episcopal priest. For most of his long professional career, though, Gallup Jr has been somewhat circumspect about his intensely religious views. But he provided a glimpse of his inner life to Michael McManus in an interview for McManus' syndicated "Religion and Ethics" newspaper column in 1986 (for the youngsters out there, a "newspaper column" is basically a blog that is "printed" on material made from dead trees).

The headline of McManus' column for the last week of August, 1986, was The Powerful Religious Work of George Gallup Jr. The article is a mish-mash of Gallup poll statistics (about alcohol abuse, divorce, abortion, illegitimate births, and other signs of the decline and fall of western civilization) and homespun advice from George Gallup Jr. about how Churches "need to learn to think small", and how individual Christians need to form "small groups who meet regularly for fellowship, Bible study and prayer for each others needs." McManus refers to such small groups as "extended families", and says that "All readers of this column and every member of your church" should be in such an "extended family."

(Prior to 2005, McManus was primarily known for his column and also for the organization he founded called Marriage Savers: "a proven way to increase the success of marriage, reduce divorce rates, and provide a better environment for children to thrive." Since 2005, though, he is perhaps more widely known as one of the "journalists" caught taking money from the Bush Administration for "consulting" work, while writing about the very programs they were "consultants" for without revealing the blatant conflict of interest.)

A decade after the McManus column, which attracted little attention at the time, George Gallup Jr. seems to have decided to start talking more openly about his strong religious views, even going so far as to proudly proclaim that as a young man he had intentionally decided to go into the family business as "a form of ministry".

In January of 1996, Gallup Jr delivered a sermon for the program "30 Good Minutes": "a weekly ecumenical and interfaith program" on WTTW 11 (PBS) in Chicago. In his sermon, Gallup talks up his interest in small, home-based bible-study groups which he refers to as "Covenant Groups": "in which we share stories of how God is working in our lives, reflect on Bible passages, and how these apply to our daily lives, and join together in deep prayer."

Gallup also did an interview with one of the hosts of "30 Good Minutes", Floyd Brown. Here is a excerpt:
Brown: I want you to tell me about your cell group. You told us earlier about how you meet each week. What do you do at these meetings?

Gallup: Well I'm very, very excited about it. It's been the most important thing in my faith journey and my wife's faith journey. Basically we come together to share our lives and we come together to reflect upon the Bible, what it means to us in our daily lives. It's not really a head trip, it's a heart trip. And also these groups empower us for service to others. So it's really a transformational process. It's not a discussion group; it's an enriching group.
Later that same year, George M. Anderson (a Jesuit priest) interviewed Gallup Jr for America, The National Catholic Weekly. The resulting article, titled "Talking About Religion: An Interview With George H. Gallup Jr." begins like this:
"The light of Christ is shining through in a number of ways. The presence of the saints among us, ordinary people leading exceptionally good lives, is a sign of that light."
Then there came a puff piece in the Dallas Morning News (May 2, 1998) that positively gushes with Gallop Jr's missionary zeal. That article was later reprinted in Christian Ethics Today, with a note from the Editor that states "My own acquaintance with and appreciation for George Gallup, Jr. tracks closely with that of the author of this piece." The author, Diane Winston (who is now a professor at USC and a frequent contributor to religiondispatches.com), makes her own feelings quite clear when she praises Gallup as a "Spirit-filled layman". Here, Gallup once again talks about his "Covenant-Groups":
Mr. Gallup is keenly aware of his flaws. To stay honest and in touch with his “brokenness,” he participates in small groups for prayer and fellowship. He also “practices the presence of God.”

"If you believe God is here at any point, then God is here all the time,” said Mr. Gallup, who notes God’s presence by praying throughout the day. “The pieces fit together when you try to submit your life to God.”

While many Americans would voice similar sentiments, Mr. Gallup’s polls suggest that few really know what they believe, much less how to put it into practice.

“People’s faith is broad but not deep,” he said. “There’s a lack of charity, and spiritual disciplines—such as fasting, prayer, and meditation—have been ignored. The one good sign is the growth of the small-group movement. That’s where people can find a place to be vulnerable and honest."
Kingsley Gallup, wife of George Gallup Jr, was also active in and enthusiastic about the bible study groups at their home, and, along with her husband, she often spoke at churches around the country encouraging the formation of similar home-based "Covenant Groups" (she died in 2007). Kingsley was also a member of the Board of Directors of "VirtueOnline": "The Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism", and she, along with other members of the Gallup family, had formed the George Gallup International Institute in 1988, in honor of the family patriarch, George Sr. The Institute is a non-profit with the mission to "discover, test, and implement new ideas for society". George and Kingsley's son, George Gallup III, now sits on the Board of Directors of the Trinity School for Ministry, which describes itself as "An evangelical seminary in the Anglican tradition," and whose motto is "Forming Christian Leaders for Mission." George Gallup III is also Chairman of the Gallup Institute.

Obviously George Gallup Jr and his immediate family are "free to profess and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion" as Thomas Jefferson put it so eloquently. But the question is raised: what, exactly, is The Gallup Organization really up to? Jefferson had in mind citizens who openly and directly "profess" and "maintain" their beliefs in an honest and forthright manner, not those who deceitfully seek to influence the public without disclosing their true intentions. It is interesting to recall that Jefferson's proposed Act for Establishing Religious Freedom was strongly opposed by Christians who threw their support behind a counterproposal titled A Bill establishing a provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion (which was backed by Patrick Henry among others). Jefferson's bill was written in 1779, and was not finally passed until 1786, over the strong objections of Christians who wanted to have public subsidies for the promulgation of their religion.

In fact, both Congregationalists and Anglicans (the Gallups tend to be devout, and self-described "orthodox", Anglicans) in the colonies enjoyed public financial support from the Crown up until 1776. After the Declaration of Independence both denominations sought to convince the individual states to continue this subsidy, although they were now willing, in the spirit of democracy, to allow individual taxpayers a say in which Christian denomination their tax dollars would support. Such "Assessments" were actually approved by the state legislatures in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maryland and Georgia.

Part Two: Spiritual Capital
In January 2007 the Gallup organization and the Spiritual Enterprise Institute jointly released their "Spiritual State of the Union" report. The report was commissioned and paid for by the Spiritual Enterprise Institute, but the actual research and the writing of the report were done by Gallup. Although the press-release makes the claim that: "This is the first comprehensive survey of its kind since 1999," in fact Gallup had actually done another "Spiritual State of the Union" study in 2003, in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania.

The Spiritual Enterprise Institute (SEI, with offices in New York, Washington DC, and Palm Beach) turns out to be quite an interesting organization in its own right. The only thing at the SEI website main page other than glowing references to their (now almost three years old) Spiritual State of the Union report, is a link to a video featuring Michael Novak, a prominent Catholic writer and philosopher who publicly supported Mitt Romney in the 2008 Republican primaries (although Novak also claims to be a "life-long Democrat"). In the video, Novak drones on about something that he calls "Spiritual Capital".

What, pray tell, is Spiritual Capital? Fortunately there is a Spiritual Capital Research Program that has been established to answer just such questions. Interestingly, this Program is "generously supported by funding from the John Templeton Foundation", which, in turn, also provided "the initial funding needed to organize and launch the Spiritual Enterprise Institute"! It all sounds very cozy. But it's even cozier than that: the Templeton Foundation also funded a 2000 Gallup survey to find out how many people, broken down by age group, "say they believe in God or a universal spirit", and Templeton also funded a "Biblical Literacy Report" conducted in 2005 by Gallup.

But I digress. Here is an extended excerpt from the Spiritual Capital Research Program website:

The concept of spiritual capital builds on recent research on social capital, which shows that religion is a major factor in the formation of social networks and trust. In addition, the impetus for focusing specifically on spiritual capital draws on the growing recognition in economics and other social sciences that religion is not epiphenomenal, nor is it fading from public significance in the 21 st century, and the importance to social/economic dynamics of human economic intangibles. Recent developments in the social sciences suggest a growing openness to nonmaterial factors, such as the radius of trust, behavioral norms, and religion as having profound economic, political, and social consequences.

Scholars have already made important advances in the areas of human capital and social capital. Both concepts are associated with the pioneering work of the economist Gary Becker (University of Chicago and 1992 Nobel Laureate in Economics). The specific term “spiritual capital” has been used variously over the past decade by scholars such as Robert Fogel, an economist from the University of Chicago and 1993 Nobel Laureate in Economics, and University of Pennsylvania political scientist John DiIulio. Broadly, spiritual capital may be construed to refer to that aspect of social capital linked with religion and/or spirituality. In one sense, then, spiritual capital might be a subset of social capital. Given that Robert Putnam’s influential work on social capital found that religion is by far the largest generator of social capital in the United States, contributing to more than half of the social capital in the country, this is a major subset and thus an area of worthy study on its own.

Although the concept of spiritual capital remains relatively broad at the outset of this initiative, it will be important for the researchers’ to define the concept in a clear and compelling way that draws on existing research, can be measured, and points the way toward new findings. As a first step toward this greater conceptual clarity, Metanexus organized a strategic planning meeting on October 9 & 10, 2003 to assess the potential for a spiritual capital initiative The focus of this meeting was to identify key questions for research and assess the potential for interdisciplinary research on the positive “externalities” of religious and spiritual commitments. The working definition of spiritual capital developed for that meeting was:

The effects of spiritual and religious practices, beliefs, networks and institutions that have a measurable impact on individuals, communities and societies.

We have provided several papers and the beginnings of a literature review generated from that meeting, which discuss different conceptions and understandings of spiritual capital. We not only acknowledge the existence of different understandings of spiritual capital, but also seek proposals that reflect diverse methodologies in studying the topic. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches are necessary to gain a more accurate and comprehensive understanding of spiritual capital.

But now let's return to the Spiritual Enterprise Institute for a moment. The SEI is the brainchild of Theodore Roosevelt Moloch Malloch, who founded SEI in order to "measure, organize and direct new thinking about Spiritual Enterprise and Spiritual Capital. The fundamental goal of SEI is to stimulate new thinking and discovery with regard to the 'tool' of Spiritual Capital, and how it can best be employed to benefit social and economic development through Spiritual Enterprise."

"Ted" Malloch is a well connected and well-traveled fellow. He has worked for the UN, the Aspen Institute, the World Economic Development Congress, and the World Economic Forum. Malloch also claims to be a "Research Professor" at Yale, although he's a little vague on the details of this faculty position. And, not surprisingly, he is also on the Board of Directors of the Spiritual Capital Research Program, as well being on the Boards of the Templeton Foundation and Yale Divinity School. He is listed as a "Key Christian Business Leader" by the group Business By The Book, which is dedicated to providing a platform for "amazing leaders" from the "business world" to "share their life experiences but most importantly about their faith in God and its positive impact in their business and personal life."

Gee, that name Templeton keeps coming up, doesn't it? What would happen if someone were to do a google search just on the names Templeton and Gallup? Why, you would discover that Annette Templeton is the "Global Chief of Principals" for The Gallup Organization. And that John M. Templeton Jr. is on the Board of the Gallup Instiute. Templeton was on the Friends of Guiliani Exploratory Committee and is a member of some outfit called The Order of Charlegmagne (whose mission is to "bring into one group the descendants of his successors and heirs")! One also finds out that the Templeton Foundation funds the annual Seligman Award, part of which is a subsidy to help pay for the lucky winner to attend the annual Gallup International Positive Psychology Summit.

The Seligman Award, referred to above, is named for Martin P. Seligman, who, among many other accomplishments, is a past President of the American Psychological Association. In her 2008 book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals Jane Mayer writes
In the spring of 2002, the period during which the CIA was probing what it could do to Zubaydya, Seligman was invited by the CIA to speak at the Navy's SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) school in San Diego. Among the organizers was Kirk Hubbard, Director of Behavioral Sciences Research at the CIA until 2005. Neither Hubbard nor Seligman would comment on the special briefing. But in an email Seligman acknowledged that he spoke for three hours. Seligman emphasized that his talk was aimed at helping American soldiers "resist torture," not inflict it. But whether Seligman wanted his discoveries applied as they were or not, Mithcell [James Mitchell, a psychologist who works for the SERE Program] cited the uses of Learned Helplessness in handling human detainees. According to Steve Kleinman, a reserve Air Force colonel and an experience interrogator who has known Mitchell professionally for years. "Learned Helplessness was his whole paradigm." Mitchell, he said, "draws diagrams showing what he says is the whole cycle. It starts with isolation. Then they eliminate the prisoner's ability to forecast the future -- when their next meal is -- when they can go to the bathroom. It creates dread and dependency. It was the KGB model.
Did I mention that the annual Seligman Award is part of the Templeton Foundation's efforts to promote "Authentic Happiness" and it "seeks to recognize talent and promise among young researchers exploring topics in the emerging field of positive psychology"?? Don't you feel more positive already?

Another thing that popped up when I did that google search mentioned above was a March 2009 article from religiondispatches.org, by Nathan Schneider entitled Seeing What They Wanna See: Religion Surveys Reflect Surveyors. I would encourage everyone reading this blog entry to follow that link and read Schneider's article for yourself. For now I will just provide this excerpt:
Thanks to Public Law 94-521, passed by Congress in 1976, the national census is prohibited from collecting information about religion. Keeping score in the American religious marketplace, therefore, has become a free-for-all among privately-funded polls and studies, and sectarian concerns have always hovered nearby. America’s best known pollster, George Gallup, was a devoted Christian, as is George Barna, whose Barna Group specializes in religion polls. In recent years, large foundations with religious roots have entered the field, bankrolling surveys and publicizing the results, notably the Lilly Endowment, which “exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development,” and the Pew Charitable Trusts.

One notable example is the John Templeton Foundation, founded in 1987 by the Presbyterian investor whose name it bears. It gave away $70 million in grants last year and boasts an annual Templeton Prize with a larger payout than the Nobel. Among fields as diverse as economics, theology, history, education, physics, neuroscience, and medicine, Templeton has become a force to be reckoned with in the sociology of religion. Some believe that Templeton’s syncretist approach to religion and reason is too weighted toward the theological.

“This is a really awkward time in the sociology of religion,” says Darren Sherkat, a sociologist at Southern Illinois University. He has noticed a “huge influx” of conservative Christians into positions of leadership in the field, editing journals and founding centers. According to his Web site, “I tend to focus on features of religion that are not necessarily so wholesome, with a particular focus on contemporary American conservative Christianity.” This, he believes, has made it harder to get his articles published. “Serious research which questions the Templeton line that religion makes you healthy, wealthy, and wise is unlikely to get a fair review at most journals,” said Sherkat in an interview.
Way back in 1997 Slate Magazine's David Plotz did a piece on Sir John Marks Templeton, titled "God's Venture Capitalist". Plotz describes Templeton as "the defining philanthropist of our time ... [a] religious philanthropist, investment wizard, amateur philosopher, and full-bore crank." I'll have more to say about Sir John, with more excerpts from Plotz' profile, in a future installment in this series.

Part Three: Meet the Cliftons
In 1988 The Gallup Organization was purchased by Selection Research, Inc (SRI). SRI had been founded in 1969 by Donald O. Clifton as a one-man operation that he ran out of his basement. Clifton was a decorated (Distinguished Flying Cross) WWII vet who went to school on the GI Bill after the war, and received a PhD in Educational Psychology. In addition to building one company from the ground up and purchasing another company (Gallup) Clifton has also authored multiple books on "positivie psychology" and was awarded a Presidential Commendation by the American Psychological Association in 2002.

After the acquisition, Don Clifton became Chair of Gallup's Board, while his son, Jim, became CEO. George Gallup Jr. told the New York Times that "his company 'was not in the black' when it was sold." That changed, big time, under the Cliftons' stewardship. According to Jim Clifton's bio at the Gallup website since the change of ownership, "Gallup has enjoyed a fifteenfold increase in its billing volume and has expanded from a predominantly U.S.-based company to a global organization with more than 40 offices in 20 countries." (article by Lisa Belkin in the March 6, 1990 NYT issue)

On top of everything else, Don Clifton also founded his own degree granting educational institution, the Clifton Stengths School, offering Masters Degrees and Professional Development for educators, managers and other "performance leaders". There is also an annual "Don Clifton Strengths Excellence Award" which is "presented by Gallup and the Clifton Strengths Institute". For 2009 there were four finalists for the award, two of them self-described Christian institutions. The winner of the award for 2009 was Lee University, "A Christ-Centered Liberal Arts Campus".

Lee University's president, Paul Conn, is also a prolific author. For example, he has written no less than three books on one of his favorite subjects, Amway:

The Possible Dream (1987) tells the story of Rich Devos and Jay Van Andel, founders of Amway:
two young and aggressive entrepreneurs, fast friends and fellow adventurers who turned a basement business into a billion-dollar-plus-direct-sales empire.

Rich Devos and Jay Van Andel had a dream big enough to embrace anyone seeking to change his life and willing to work to do it. Make it happen, they challenged. Write your own rags-to-riches story, build your own future within the framework of Amway. Hundreds of thousands of people have, spurred on by incentives like freedom, recognition, accomplishment, friendship and, above all, money.
[from the back cover]
The Dream That Will Not Die (1996) tells "the rest of the Amway story."

Promises To Keep (2008) appears to be simply a rehash with maybe some updating of the first two books. The subtitle is "The Amway phenomenon and how it works."

Azusa Pacific University was one of the finalists for the coveted Don Clifton Strengths Excellence Award. Like Lee University, Azusa Pacific University is a member of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, which awarded the John Templeton Foundation its annual Philanthropy Award in 2006, in recognition of the Foundation's "leadership in expanding research, scholarship, teaching and public awareness in several areas which are critical to the work of Christian higher education-most notably in character education, spirituality and spiritual formation and the interface between science and Christianity."

Azusa Pacific University has a very interesting "What We Believe" section on their website, containing a number of "documents" outlining "where APU stands as a faith community". Below are some excerpts:
Christian World View
The Statement of Faith, Mission Statement, Statement of Essence, Cornerstones, and the Motto of Azusa Pacific University provide a solid foundation on which to build positional statements of the institution as an evangelical Christian university. These documents evidence a strong Christian commitment and form the core of the increasingly far-reaching nature and scope of the APU community. They give expression to a strong, clear, unswervingly evangelical Christian worldview that permeates the university and guides its activity. As its guiding center, the university is able to grow more effectively in the confidence that its Christian nature will flourish.

Statement of Faith
We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative word of God.

We believe that there is one God, creator of heaven and earth, eternally existent in three persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, and in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return to power and glory.

Human Sexuality
As an evangelical community of disciples and scholars who embrace the historic Christian understanding of Scripture, Azusa Pacific University holds that sexuality is a gift from God and basic to human identity as well as a matter of behavioral expression. We hold that the full behavioral expression of sexuality is to take place within the context of a marriage covenant between a man and a woman and that individuals remain celibate outside of the bond of marriage.
Part Four: "The Wider Vocation of the Christian Political Scientist"
In 1999 Luis Lugo was asked to give an address to the biennial meeting of Christians in Political Science. The title of his talk was "The Wider Vocation of a Christian Political Scientist" (click here to go to the archives section of the CPS website, where you can download a pdf of the Fall 1999 issue of their newsletter, containing Dr. Lugo's remarks). Lugo has held a variety of positions at the Pew Charitable Trusts, he is currently the Director of the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life. Below are some excerpts from Lugo's talk to the 1999 Christians in Political Science gathering (held at Calvin College, where Lugo had formerly been on the Political Science faculty):
I'm afraid I have to begin with a rather formal sounding disclaimer: "The opinoins expressed here are those of the speaker adn do not necessarily reflect the views of the Pew Charitable Trusts." Actually, at times, I will be speaking as the Director of the Religion program at the Trusts. So please attribute to the Trusts any part of my talk that you happen to like, and the rest blame on me personally....

I'm delighted to be here with you and to share some of my thoughts from the vantage point of my current professional perch. I've been out of the classroom now for almost four years (I was on leave from Calving working in Washington for a year before I took the position at Pew.) But since the focus of the Religion program at PCT is on religion and the public square, I continue to deal every day with religion and politics issues, just as I did in my former life. The difference is that now I do so not only as an analyst but also as an activist, helping to make things happen on the ground. I should add that it's precisely that combination -- analyst and activist -- that makes my job at the Trusts so professionally rewarding. As those of you who have dealt with us lately know, our approach to grantmaking increasingly is more strategic and results-oriented, and not all in conformity with the old model of foundations as glorified ATM's....

For CPS ... its mission needs to be framed in terms of the vocation of the Christian political scientist and its relation to issues beyond our strictly disciplinary concerns. In that regard, I would argue that the larger social reality with which we in the first instance must reckon is not the world of politics and policy, but of the community of faith. For the Christian scholarly vocation, as is true of other vocations, emerges "from the heart of the church" (Ex Corde Ecclesia).

As with everything else in our lives, then, our starting point as Christian scholars is the communion of saints. For it is there that we find our most basic identity. That means that Christian political scientists are, before anything else, at the service of God's people, providing intellectual leadership to help them as they seek faithfully to carry out their temporal calling as citizens. Now, to do that credibly, I would argue, we must be formed in our intellectual lives by the church's wrestling throughout its long history with political questions. As you know these range rather widely: from the foundational questions concerning the nature and limits of political authority, and how government should properly relate to the family and other institutions of civil society, to specific issues of war and pease and the provision of social services to the poor. These are matters which the church correctly has approached, not as something extraneous to the life of faith, but as a natural expression of its calling before the Lord. So as we do our political science and stay fully abreast of developments ithin the discipline, we must also join that other conversation, and enter fully into the church's long tradition of political reflection on these and other matters.

Paradoxically though it may seem, if we are going to make a distinctive and lasting contribution to the larger public conversation, we must make the Christian tradition our primary intellectual community. Might CPS have an important role to play in briddging these two conversations? I leave that for you to ponder. Let me quickly add, though, lest I be misunderstood, that what I am talking about here is something much more basic that the subfield we call political philosophy. In Catholic circles, it is often referred to as the social teachings or the social doctrine of the church. This teaching bears on the whole range of questions with which the discipline concerns itself. So this is not something simply for politcial philosophers, but for all of us. We all need a thorough immersion in the tradition.

We in the Trust are taking some steps along those lines through our Civitas Program in Faith and Public Affairs. In that program, which involves an intensive summer seminar followed by an internship in one of the major Washington think taks such as Brookings or AEI, we are targeting a select group of doctoral-level students who are working in policy-related fields. The point of the program is to build bridges: bridges between the students' academic work and the tradition of Christian political reflection, on the one hand; and between their life as scholars and their broader responsibility as public intellectuals, on the other. The goal is train, over the next few years, at least 120 of these promising young Christian scholars who will be equipped to provide that kind of leadership to church and society.

.... Through a major initiative which we are calling Religious Communities and the American Public Square, we are seeking to engage seven of the largest religious groups in this country -- from Catholics and Mainline and Evangelical Protestants, to Muslims and Jews, to African Americans and Latinos -- in a serious conversation regarding the current state of their own civic health and their future potential to make a significant contribution to the renewal of American democracy. Incidentally, this first inventory phase of that initiative entails rigorous survey work and case studies, and involves literally dozens of political scientists. I have also called upon numerous members of this craft, including Allen Hertzke, who is serving as our chief outside consultant, in crafting a strategy paper on religion and civic engagement that will lay out how we plan to build on the Religious Communities initiative. That paper is scheduled to go before the board in March.

We realize, of course, that if the larger American public is to be more informed on the role of religion in civic life, the gatekeepers of information -- the press, particularly political reporters -- must do a better job of covering this emerging story. That is why the second prong of our work focuses on Religion and the Media. The board just approved our strategy paper in that area (now posted on our Web site), and we will be ready to roll out the full educational program in 2000. I must say, even at this early juncture, and based on a couple of exploratory grants, that I have been very pleasantly surprised with how receptive journalists are to our efforts.
Interestingly, Lugo's brief bio at the Pew website does not mention his faculty position at Calvin College, his membership in Christian Political Scientists, or his stint as Associate Director of the Center for Public Justice, the last job he held before coming to Pew. The CPJ website has this to say concerning "Homosexuality":
Marriage is one of the most important institutions of any society and should be recognized as a life-long covenant between a man and a woman that includes and legitimately bounds sexual intercourse (coitus). Sexual intercourse holds the potential for life-generation and should therefore be contained within marriage. From marriage may emerge children and the parental responsibility of spouses, who with their children constitute a nuclear family.

Homosexual relationships do not entail coitus and do not have the potential for life-generation. Consequently, such relationships neither constitute marriages nor, through procreative capability, can become families. The attempt to attain for a homosexual partnership the legal identification of marriage is thus a legal error based on an empirical mistake.

Public law does not create marriage or the family, which originate outside the political bond. But the law should recognize these two institutions and may, for purposes of public health and social wellbeing, support and regulate them. The primary aim of public recognition, support, and regulation should be to protect and encourage these institutions and the parental care of children. This is essential for a healthy and stable society.

If “domestic partnerships” are given legal recognition for the purpose of opening certain health care and death benefits to homosexual partners, the same privileges should be made available to non-homosexual non-marital partners and friendships. It would be discriminatory to single out one kind of non-marital relationship for a privilege usually granted to marriage partners while denying that privilege to other kinds of enduring partnerships and committed friends.

Lugo described his work at CPJ as follows: "At CPJ I studied how to legally incorporate religiously-based organizations into the welfare system," (from the Fall 1996 issue of Spark, the Calvin College Alumni newsletter).

One of the areas that Lugo has a strong interest in is Pentecostalism. He is, for example, listed as "principle investigator" for the 2006 "Global Pentecostalism Survey Project", which was bankrolled by a half million dollar grant from the Templeton Foundation. Here are some excerpts from the Executive Summary of that Survey:
In all 10 countries surveyed, large majorities of pentecostals (ranging from 56% in South Korea to 87% in Kenya) say that they have personally experienced or witnessed the divine healing of an illness or injury. In eight of the countries (India and South Korea are the exceptions) majorities of pentecostals say that they have received a direct revelation from God.

Pentecostals around the world also are quite familiar with exorcisms; majorities in seven of the 10 countries say that they personally have experienced or witnessed the devil or evil spirits being driven out of a person. Generally, fewer charismatics, and even fewer other Christians, report witnessing these types of experiences....

In addition to their distinctive religious experiences, renewalists also stand out for the intensity of their belief in traditional Christian doctrines and practices. For instance, in eight of the 10 countries surveyed (all except the U.S. and Chile), majorities of nonrenewalist Christians believe that the Bible is the word of God and is to be taken literally, word for word; but this view is even more common among pentecostals than among non-renewalist Christians. Similarly, large majorities of all Christians, renewalists and nonrenewalists alike, believe that miracles still occur today as in ancient times. But this belief tends to be even more intense among pentecostals and, to a lesser extent, charismatics than among nonrenewalist Christians....

Pentecostals' frequent attempts to spread the faith are consistent with their widespread belief that faith in Jesus Christ represents the exclusive path to eternal salvation; in every country surveyed except South Korea, at least 70% of pentecostals completely agree that belief in Jesus is the only way to be saved from eternal damnation.....

U.S. renewalists, like renewalists around the world, also often stand out for their moral conservatism. Eight-in-ten U.S. pentecostals say that homosexuality is never justified, for instance, and nearly six-in-ten charismatics share this view. Among the public as a whole, by contrast, roughly half say homosexuality can never be justified. Renewalists in the U.S. also are more likely than others to oppose drinking alcohol.

And just as renewalists around the world favor a role for religion in public life, the same holds true for renewalists in the U.S. For instance, nearly eight-in-ten American pentecostals (79%) say that religious groups should express their views on day-to-day social and political questions, compared with 61% of the public as a whole. And more than half (52%) of American pentecostals say that the government should take special steps to make the U.S. a Christian country, compared with only 25% among Christians overall.
It is interesting to note that when Pew recently published a global assessment of "restrictions on religion", the report specifically cites the existence of a "movement in India which seeks to define India as a Hindu nation" as evidence of "social restrictions" on religion in India. No mention is made anywhere in that report of the fact that one in four American Christians "say that the government should take special steps to make the U.S. a Christian country"!!!

There is absolutely nothing wrong with rich people (or anyone else) spending their money to support ideas they hold dear. But the organizations discussed above -- Gallup, Templeton and Pew -- all claim to be non-partisan and dedicated only to educating the public on the basis of objective, scientific research. The reality, and this becomes immediately apparent as soon as one bothers to look below the surface, is that all three are engaged in the promotion of Christianity. In the case of the recent Pew report on "religious restrictions" mere promotion of Christianity is not the end of it, as the report goes out of it's way to smear the nation of India and it's Hindu majority as among the very worst enemies of religious freedom in the world.

Here are some other online sources (these are all cited in the post above):

Will the Vitality of the Churches Be the Surprise of the Next Century 1996 sermon by George Gallup Jr.
A Measure of Faith Diane Winston's 1998 profile of George Gallup Jr.
God's Venture Capitalist 1997 Slate article by Marc Slotz on Sir John Marks Templeton
Seeing What They Wanna See: Religion Surveys Reflect Surveyors 2009 article by Nathan Schneider about how "Religion surveys have become a battleground for the American religious marketplace—and a magnet for big money."

And here are the previous three posts in the series "Push Polling for Jesus":
Comparing Apples and Bad Apples (on the Pew Report on "Religious Restrictions")
Baseless India Bashing in Pew's Latest Report (self-explanatory)
How Gallup and Pew Proselytize in the Guise of "Research" (mostly quotes from George Gallup, Jr, including the original "form of ministry" quote)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Comparing Apples and Bad Apples (Push Polling for Jesus, Part Three)

Religious Freedom in India versus the US, according to Pew

I learned about the recent Pew Research Foundation report on "Global Restrictions on Religion" from one of Jason Pitzl-Waters' regular "Pagan News of Note" updates over at his Wild Hunt blog. The thing that immediately caught my eye was that the report claims that India is one the worst places on earth when it comes to religious freedom. India is ranked worse than, or at best indistinguishable from, Iran, where "religious police" roam the streets beating women who do not conform to medieval dress-codes. India, a constitutional democracy with genuine guarantees of religious freedom and a rich history of religious diversity and tolerance, is ranked much worse than China, a totalitarian state with no pretense of freedom of any kind, let alone religious freedom.

On the other hand, the Pew study ranks the United States as among the paragons of religious freedom in the world. While focussing on what it refers to as the "Hindutva movement in India, which seeks to define India as a Hindu nation," the researchers at Pew completely ignore the fact that a powerful Christian fundamentalist movement exists right here in the United States. Many of these fundamentalist Christians openly declare that the US is already a Christian nation (or possibly a "Judeo-Christian" one), and they vow to fight to keep it that way.

Many American Christians, not just "evangelical" ones, also believe that all other religions are just so many variations on "devil worship", an idea originating not from modern-day big-haired televangelist, but from "early Church fathers" such as Saint Augustine. And most American Christian denominations are "damnationists" who promulgate the noxious idea that all non-Christians should be condemned to eternal torture. And there is at least one state, North Carolina, which infamously bars (in its Constitution!) from elective office "any person who shall deny the being of Almighty God." [I got that from the Wild Hunt, too: here.]

The Pew researchers also failed to take into account actual religious diversity (without which religious freedom is meaningless). The United States is one of the least religiously diverse places on earth, with less than 5% of the population adhering to any religion other than Christianity (according to Pew's own statistics). In India, on the other hand, almost 20% of the population belong to a variety of minority religions, including Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism (stats taken from here). Pew's own research on "religious diversity" in the United States tends to focus almost exclusively on different varieties of Christianity, not on genuine religious diversity. But when it casts its statistical gaze on India, Pew does not recognize the incredible internal diversity of Hinduism.

Possibly the most appalling aspect of the Pew report is its reliance on the so-called US Commission on International Religious Freedom, an organization packed with right-wing activists from groups like the Federalist Society, the Hudson Institute and the Southern Baptist Convention. Whole sections of the Pew report have simply been cut and pasted from USCIRF propaganda. This is especially true when it comes to sections of the report concerning India.

The Pew researchers actually appear to have been obsessed with India, which is mentioned 24 times in the report, far more often than any of the other nations also classified as "very high" in terms of their "restrictions on religion". Saudi Arabia, a country that expelled or killed all who refused to convert to Islam thirteen centuries ago (by the express order of the founder of that religion), and which allows zero religious freedom to this day, is mentioned only 14 times. China, a nation engaged in a genocidal campaign to wipe out one of the major branches of the Buddhist religion, is mentioned only 15 times. Iran, one of the most openly theocratic nations on earth, is mentioned a mere 12 times. Egypt, a nation where a person can be legally put to death for converting from Islam to Christianity, is mentioned 9 times.