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>Arundhati Roy on Taslima Nasreen

>Taslima Nasreen is an outspoken feminist writer from Bangladesh, where her championing of women’s rights and her humanist critique of Islam so enraged the followers of the Religion of Peace that she was forced to flee her homeland in 1994, in fear of her life.

There was a time, and not so long ago, when someone like Taslima would have been feted and showered with honors by secularists, liberals, progressives and leftists the world over. But today she is a nearly friendless fugitive whose quaintly plain-spoken feminism hasn’t kept up with the times. Political correctness now demands that the Religion of Peace must be respected, and all its critics silenced for daring to engage in “hate speech.”

Two years ago the leftist Indian diva Arudhati Roy released a very revealing “statement” on the subject of “Taslima Nasrin & ‘Free Speech’.” At the time, Taslima was in the custody of the Indian government, not for any crime she had committed or was even accused of committing, but because she was once again facing mounting death threats, this time from the followers of the Religion of Peace in India, where she had been granted asylum.

But instead of making a clear and unequivocal declaration of support for and solidarity with Taslima, Arudhati Roy hems and haws and lectures her audience about how complicated these things are, how there are many different kinds of fundamentalism, etc, etc. Eventually Roy manages to get around to her real point: she insists on linking Taslima’s case with that of several prominent Indian Maoists who had been arrested, accused of being linked to the “Naxalite” terrorists.

The Naxalites are essentially the Indian Maoist equivalent of Al Qaeda. They have been responsible for thousands of deaths over the last two decades. But Roy insists that these murderers “have as much right to the freedom of expression, as much right to place their ideology – however abhorrent the government or anybody else may believe it to be – in the public domain, in the so-called marketplace of ideas as anybody else does.”

It is emphatically not “ideology” or “freedom of expression” that is the issue in the case of those whom Roy insists on equating with Taslima. Communists, including Maoists, are major players in India’s political scene. The Communist Party of India is one of the most successful parties in the country, and they have a history of cooperating with the Congress Party.

The Naxalites, however, are not interested in election campaigns and parliamentary coalitions. Rather, they are waging a merciless war of terror throughout a region that now includes 40% of India’s territory (now known as “The Red Zone”).

The point is that even if those named by Arundhati Roy are falsely accused, their cases are completely different from that of a novelist and poet who is targeted only because her outspoken feminism and humanism is unacceptable to the Religion of Peace.

You see, Roy and those like her are not at all interested in defending Taslima. However, Roy’s fawning Western admirers falsely believe that she is actually a sincere feminist, rather than just another soft-core Islamist (that is to say, Indian “secularist”). So Roy felt the need to give the appearance of lending her support to Taslima, although she is only willing to do this as an aside, while focusing on her real agenda of appeasing Islam and defending the Naxalites.

Below is the complete text of Roy’s “statement.” It is interesting to contrast what Roy says below, from February of 2008, to her much more straightforward support for Taslima that she voiced two months earlier in this interview conducted in December of 2007.

. . . . . . . . . .


Taslima Nasrin & “Free Speech”

Arundhati Roy’s Statement February 13, 2008, New Delhi, India

I would like to caution us all against looking at this issue, in particular the issue of Taslima Nasrin, through the single lens of a battle between religious fundamentalism and secular liberalism. Taslima Nasrin herself sometimes contributes to that view. On her website, she says: “Humankind is facing an uncertain future.” In particular, the conflict is between two different ideas, secularism and fundamentalism.” To me, this conflict is basically between modern, rational, logical thinking and irrational, blind faith. It is a conflict between the future and the past, between innovation and tradition, between those who value freedom and those who do not.”

How strange it is then, that it was the West Bengal Government – led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), a party that sees itself as the vanguard of secularism, modern, logical, and rational thinking – that banned Nasrin’s autobiographical novel Dwikhandita, not once, but twice. Twice the ban was successfully challenged in the Calcutta High Court. The book was published, and for four years people in Bengal read it and Taslima Nasrin lived in Calcutta. And there the matter remained – without incident.

Then Nandigram happened. Muslims and Dalits bore the brunt of the government’s attack. The CPI(M) began to worry about losing the “Muslim vote.” So it played the Taslima card. A report by Mohammed Safi Samsi in the Indian Express (December 1, 2007) tells the story.

The government launched its operation to “recapture” Nandigram at the end of October 2007:

On November 1, Path Sanket a CPI(M) magazine published an anonymous letter supporting Taslima Nasrin, adding some gratuitous insults of its own against Prophet Mohammed. On the November 8, the government banned the magazine and a member of the editorial team called printing the letter a “historic blunder.” But, of course, vernacular newspapers republished the letter. Photocopies of the letter were then distributed in Muslim-dominated localities.

On November 21 – a week after more than 60,000 people marched on the streets protesting the government’s actions in Nandigram – the little-known All India Minority Forum organized a protest that then “erupted” in violence. The army was called in. The government deported Taslima Nasrin from West Bengal.

And today, on February 13, we are all gathered here to discuss “free speech.” Not the recapturing of Nandigram or the continuing terrorizing, humiliation, and rape of the people who live there.

It seems pretty clear that the threat to free speech comes as much from chemical hubs and iron ore mines – and from the project of land grab, enclosure, and mass displacement – as it does from religious fundamentalism. To not see this is to fall into a trap that has been cleverly laid for us.

Religious fundamentalists, especially those from minority communities, are often inadvertently playing out a script that has been written for them. Their outrage, genuine though it may be, has become a dependable, predictable, and an extremely useful political device to further the agendas of others.

The principle of free speech and expression has to negotiate many, many fundamentalisms. Religious fundamentalism, ultranationalist fundamentalism, market fundamentalism, among others. Sometimes they are intertwined in the strangest ways.

Liberals often make the mistake of believing that free speech is a fundamental right given to us by the Indian constitution – and that when it is curbed either by the state or by vigilante militias and thugs, the constitution is being subverted. This is not true. Free speech is not our constitutional right. It is a contained right, beset with caveats, caveats that are always used by the powerful to control and dominate those who are powerless.

Now, we have a slew of new laws that make not just free speech but freedom itself in India a pathetic joke, a distant dream. There is the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), which incorporates some of the worst provisions of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA). There is the Maharashtra Control of Organized Crime Act, the Madhya Pradesh Control of Organized Crime Act, and the utterly draconian Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA). Some of these laws contain provisions whose sole purpose seems to be to criminalize everybody and then leave the government free to decide at leisure whom to imprison. Under the CSPSA and the UAPA, for example, the government is free to arbitrarily ban any organization without giving any specific reason for placing the ban.

Here is how the CSPA defines an organization: ” ‘Organization’ means any combination, body or group of persons whether known by any distinctive name or not and whether registered under any relevant law or not and whether governed by any written constitution or not.

Remember, the vaguer the provisions in the law, the wider the net it casts, the greater the threat to civil and democratic rights.

Here is how the CSPSA defines an “unlawful activity”: “Any action taken by such [banned] individual or organization whether by committing an act or by words either spoken or written or by signs or by visible representation or otherwise.”

And then there are some sub-clauses that widen the net:

(i) which constitutes a danger or menace to public order, peace or tranquility

(ii) which interferes or tends to interfere with maintenance of public order

And, remarkably

(vi) of encouraging or preaching disobedience to established law and its institutions.

In Section 8(5) it says that “Whoever commits or abets or attempts to commit or abet or plans to commit any unlawful activity shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to seven years.”

So now they have mind readers in the Chattisgarh government, as well as seers.

How can there be even the pretense of free speech or freedom under laws like these? All over the country, not just journalists and writers, but anybody who disagrees with the government’s plans is being arrested, tortured, and imprisoned. Sometimes murdered.

Govind Kutty, the editor of People’s March, a publication banned for being sympathetic to Maoist ideology, has been arrested and imprisoned. The Maoists have as much right to the freedom of expression, as much right to place their ideology – however abhorrent the government or anybody else may believe it to be – in the public domain, in the so-called marketplace of ideas as anybody else does.

I believe that the ban on People’s March should be lifted immediately and its editor unconditionally released.

Finally, I would like to say that the battle for free speech must not turn into a battle that limits itself to the freedom of writers, journalists, and artists alone. We are not the only ones who deserve this right. A friend from Chattisgarh recently told me of a doctor who had been arrested because a prescription of his had been found in some “Naxalite kit,” whatever that means.

In Chattisgarh, 644 villages have been evacuated of their inhabitants. That’s more than 300,000 people – displacement on a mass scale, which is eventually intended to clear space for corporate mining interests. Fifty thousand people have been moved into police camps and have become recruits for the dreaded Salwa Judum (the supposedly anti-Maoist “people’s militia” created and funded by the state government). Tens of thousands of people have fled to neighboring states to escape the horror. Nobody is allowed to go back to their villages or to cultivate their land. What is freedom of expression for a farmer? The buzz in town is that a new law is on the anvil which says that if farmland has not been cultivated for two years, it can be diverted for non-agricultural purposes.

Every form of resistance, peaceful or otherwise, is being shut down by the state. Of all the cases on the anvil, the goldfish in a bowl, the dire, menacing warning to us all and to anybody who may be entertaining the idea “of encouraging or preaching disobedience to established law and its institutions” is the continued imprisonment of Dr. Binayak Sen under false charges, underpinned by blatantly fabricated evidence.

Dr. Binayak Sen, who has worked as a civil rights activist with the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and a doctor in the area for more than 30 years, was arrested last May, charged under the CSPSA, the UAPA, and the Indian Penal Code (IPC). He has been in prison for eight months, denied bail even by the Supreme Court.

By imprisoning someone like Binayak Sen, the government is trying to close out the option of peaceful resistance, of democratic space. It is creating a polarization along the lines of the Bush Doctrine – “If you are not with us, you are with the terrorists” – in which people only have the choice between succumbing to displacement and destitution or resisting by going underground and taking up arms. This is the beginning of either civil war or the annihilation of the poor. Once that genie is out of the bottle, it won’t go back. There are reports that the Chhattisgarh state government has asked for 70 battalions of paramilitary forces beyond the 17 battalions that are already there. A fourfold increase. I fear the worst.

And so, from this platform I would like to ask for the granting of citizenship to Taslima Nasrin, for the immediate and unconditional release of Binayak Sen, Govind Kutty, and the other journalists whose names have been mentioned at this press conference, experienced journalists and peaceful activists who understand that reporting the realities of these situations is the only hope of righting this ship that is tilting dangerously and about to tip over. If it does tip over, everybody will suffer, the poor definitely, but the rich too. There will be no hiding place. I urge those present here to pay keen attention to the specter that is looming before us. And to begin a campaign demanding the repeal of these very frightening new laws that do not merely threaten free speech, but freedom itself.

>Global Warming ‘Skepticism’: Sometimes there really is no ‘there’ there.

>One assumes that if the so-called global warming “skeptics” could do better, they would. Or perhaps they think they don’t have to? I mean, can it really be any harder to convince people that global warming isn’t real than it was to convince them that Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction were?

I am referring (for now, there will be more to come) to a recent article that appeared on Sunday (Feb. 14, 2010) in the Rupert Murdoch owned and operated Times Online (UK), under the title World may not be warming, say scientists. The amount of attention that this article has garnered is indicated by the fact that it has been featured at both the RealClearPolitics and at the WitchesVoice websites!

The obvious intent of the article is to convince the reader that the scientific consensus on anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is facing “a new challenge” in the form of scientists who previously supported AGW but who are now “casting doubt” on the “claim that global temperatures are rising inexorably because of human pollution.”

In fact, the article in question names a grand total of six “scientists”. One of them turns out to not be a scientist at all. Two of them are economists with no expertise in climate science. The remaining three (all of the actual climate scientists named in the article!) all support and have always supported the scientific consensus behind AGW.

And not one of the six people named in the article has changed his or her position on the question of anthropogenic global warming!

Here are the named “sources” in the article, in the order that they appear:

John Christy
Atmospheric scientist.
Quote (not given in article): “It is scientifically inconceivable that after changing forests into cities, turning millions of acres into irrigated farmland, putting massive quantities of soot and dust into the air, and putting extra greenhouse gases into the air, that the natural course of climate has not changed in some way.”
No change in position

Ross McKitrick
Right-wing economist (not a climate scientist).
Has always opposed the idea of global warming.
No change in position.

Anthony Watts
TV “weatherman”, NOT an actual scientist of any sort.
Long time global warming skeptic.
No change in position.

Terence (Terry) Mills
Another economist, not a climate scientist. Has played no major role (that is, has not taken a public position) in climate debate until recently.
No change in position.

Kevin Trenberth
Climatologist.
Supports theory of anthropogenic global warming.
No change in position.

Vicky Pope
Climatologist.
Supports theory of anthropogenic global warming.
No change in position.

>Peter Kingsley: A New Age Christian Hiding Under an Ancient Philosopher’s Cloak

>Peter Kingsley is in most ways fairly typical of the modern wannabe guru type. His “teachings” are nothing more than warmed-over garden-variety late 19th century Christian Esotericism with a little pseudo-Sufism and a dash of Nietzsche thrown in. However, his scholarly pretensions do, somewhat, distinguish Peter Kingsley from the likes of Eckhart Tolle & Co.

But Kingsley himself claims to be first and foremost a “mystic”, and a scholar only secondarily. And he makes it clear that he has nothing but contempt for the entirety of the Western tradition of Classical scholarship, which he paranoiacly accuses of a “long tradition of altering the ancient Greek texts themselves to make them say what people have wanted them to say.” (See his interviews linked to below.)

In fact, everything that Kingsley has to say is very easily summarized: “true” Western Civilization springs forth fully formed from the minds of Parmenides and Empedocles. But then, no sooner had it started, but just as suddenly Western Civilization was fiendishly betrayed by Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and other effete, degenerate “rationalists”. Fortunately, and at long last, “we” can today reconnect with the long lost “roots” of “our culture” thanks to the miraculous Advent of the mind of Peter Kingsley.

Kingsley’s breathtakingly megalomaniacal message is delivered with a straight face, usually seated (he dislikes podiums), and in measured tones by a soft spoken academic who writes books packed with footnotes. It’s quite an act. And it has so far been very successful as these things go.

Who are Kingsley’s fans and admirers? Let’s look at the three interviews with Kingsley that he provides links to at his website. First there is a joint interview by Lorraine Kisly and Christopher Bamford. Kisly’s own publications include a guidebook to the Lord’s Prayer and at least two books that include the phrase “Christian Teachings” in the title. Christopher Bamford is one of the world’s leading “Anthroposophists”, an especially loopy and generally reactionary version of Christian Esotericism dating back to the 19th century.

These two good Christians, Kisly and Bamford, grovel before Kingsley, whose writings they praise as “gripping, urgent, unique, pioneering, courageous, original, challenging, learned, and enthralling.”

The next, equally fawning, interview is by Jeff Munnis, who early in life felt a calling to the ministry, but opted for a career in Horticulture instead. But then he later relented and “recognized that his interest in the ministry had never really left him.” He has since completed a Masters of Divinity is now a candidate for ordination in the United Church of Christ.

In the Munnis interview, Kingsley makes the ludicrous claim (repeated in the Lorimer interview below) that nearly all of Greek philsophy after Socrates amounts to a “charade right down to the present day.” A charade that only the amazing Peter Kingsley has been able to see through. Ta da!

Finally there is a perfectly awful interview by David Lorimer. Lorimer is probably best known for his book Radical Prince, a 250+ page encomium praising that great modern philosopher, humanitarian, social visionary and spiritual thought-leader, Prince Charles. This book, by the way, is published by SteinerBooks, of which Christopher Bamford is Editor In Chief. It really is a small world, after all.

Lorimer begins his interview by breathlessly asking Kingsley “what first guided” him to “the fact that Plato had distorted … the essence of Parmenides’ teaching?” To which Kingsley answers: “Intuition.”

Bah.

But wait, there’s more. If one goes to the “testimonials” for Kingsley’s most recent book, Reality, the first of these is by none other than Eckhart Tolle himself, while the second is by the Grand Old Man of soft-core, sanitized, Christianized Perennialism, Huston Smith. The first “testimonial” for Kingsley’s 1999 book, In the Dark Places of Wisdom, is by Margaret Starbird, author of The Feminine Face of Christianity, while the very next “testimonial” comes from Jacob Needleman, author of Lost Christianity.

But doesn’t the above mostly amount to an argument based on “guilt by association”? That may be. But for Pagans who are interested in genuinely reconnecting with the spiritual traditions that Christianity has spent the last 17 centuries trying to extirpate, including the spiritual tradition of Philosophy, it is important to know just who and what Peter Kingsley really is.

Islam is …. (Or, If your search engine results were being filtered, well, how would you know?)

If you type “Christianity is” into google — that is, without quotes, without hitting return, and with “query suggestions” turned on (the last of which should be the default) — you will see, magically appearing, a series of suggestions, something like the screenshot to the right.

The same will happen with any string of the form “X is”, where X = Buddhism, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Catholicism, Wicca, Mormonism, Scientology, or Freemasonry (and possibly many others).

Jainism only yields two suggestions, as do Paganism and Seventh Day Adventism. Protestantism only yields one lonely suggestion: “Protestantism is wrong”, and Pentecostalism only gives: “Pentecostalism is a cult.”

The following labels, followed by “is”, do not prod google to yield any suggestions at all: Caodaism, Saivism, Vaishnavism, Discordianism, Heathenism, Raelianism, Druidry, Asatru, Thelema, UUism, Antinomianism, Christian Science, scientism, spiritualism, trinitarianism, and Islam.

Islam? Yes, that’s right, typing “Islam is” does not prompt google to offer up any suggestions for how to complete your search string.

wired.com ran a piece on this mystery almost 10 days ago. wired.com reporter Ryan Singel wrote that google’s official explanation at that time was that “This is a bug and we’re working to fix it as quickly as we can.”

I’ll file this one under “P” for: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Comparing World Vision and Hezbollah

We would like for everyone to become a Christian, that is part of our faith as Christians.
[Mark Howard, General Counsel of World Vision]

According to a report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affaris, social services operated by Hezbollah in Lebanon “are worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.” According to that 2006 report, these social services include “at least four hospitals, 12 clinics, 12 schools and two agricultural centres that provide farmers with technical assistance and training.”

Hezbollah’s charitable work illustrates their slogan: “The hand that fights, the hand that builds.” One hand provides food, medicine, education, etc, while the other hand still defiantly holds aloft the trademark Kalishnokov rifle.

The medical care provided by Hezbollah is “
cheaper than in most of the country’s private hospitals and free for Hezbollah members.” And Hezbollah’s medical facilities also have the advantage, from a charitable point of view, of being located in the economically poorest and politically most marginalized parts of the country, that is to say, wherever Shi’ite Muslims live, including especially the southern suburbs of Beirut, much of the southern half of the country, and the Bekaa Valley.

Hezbollah also operates “an environmental department and an extensive social assistance programme.” The social assistance progams, among other things, “provide financial and food assistance to the poor,” and, according to Hezbollah spokesman Hussein Nablusi, “We also run an emergency fund for instant care in case of immediate hospitalisation.”

About a year after the above mentioned UN report came out, Harper’s Magazine online published an excerpt from Augustus Richard Norton’s book Hezbollah: A Short History. The excerpt appeared in Ken Silverstein’s column on March 14, 2007:

Hezbollah offers an array of social services to its constituents that include construction companies, schools, hospitals, dispensaries, and micro-finance initiatives (notably al-Qard al-Hasan, literally the “good loan,” which began making loans in 1984 and now offers about 750 small loans a month). These tend to be located in predominantly Shiite areas, but some serve anyone requesting help. Hezbollah hospital and clinic staff also treat all walk-in patients, regardless of political views or their sect, for only a small fee….

The social services institutions that do exist in the Shiite community were put to an extraordinary test in 2006 by the Israeli attacks that targeted broad swaths of that community and left as many as fifteen thousand homes destroyed or badly damaged. The severe, extensive damage has overwhelmed even Hezbollah’s services framework, but the party’s prompt action to meet its constituents’ needs is a vivid example of the competence and professionalism that has won Hezbollah extensive support among many Lebanese Shiites.

More important than the specifics of any one association is the evidence that a palpable sense of community and religious commitment (iltizam) now exist that emphasize that a mark of faith is to offer a helping hand to others and participate in the community. Ayatollah Fadlallah is known for capturing this ethos when he says that he does not want followers but rather partners. It is impossible to appreciate the striking durability and loyalty that modern Shiite groups such as Hezbollah (or comparable groups in Iraq, for instance) generate unless one understands that their strength derives from the strong social fabric that they have woven over the years.

World Vision likes to cultivate a warm and fuzzy image in the hopes that any potential criticism of their proselytizing, their discriminatory hiring practices, and other questionable activities, will be muted or simply ignored because of their “good works”. But why should World Vision be treated any differently from any other multinational corporate empire, or, for that matter, any differently from any other politically active and well-funded and well-connected evangelical Christian organization?

And as a religiously based charity with strong political ties, why should World Vision be seen as fundamentally different from the “other hand” of Hezbollah?

In the second part I will focus on connections between World Vision and the CIA, and similar issues.

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

Introduction
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 as 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, 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”!!!

Conclusion
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)

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.

Baseless India Bashing in Pew’s Latest "Report" (Push Polling for Jesus, Part Two)

From the new Pew Forum Report on “Global Restrictions of Religious Freedom”:

As the chart on page 28 shows, nearly all of the 50 most populous countries that are high on both measures of restrictions (upper right) are in Asia or the Middle East-North Africa region. Many of the restrictions in these countries are driven by groups pressing for the enshrinement of their interpretation of the majority faith, including through Shariah law in Muslim societies and through the Hindutva movement in India, which seeks to define India as a Hindu nation. (Additional examples of restrictions on religion in India can be found on page 45 of the Methodology.)
[p. 27]

If one goes to the “examples” listed on p. 45 of the report, they are just a regurgitation of propaganda taken directly from the so-called “US Commission on International Religious Freedom”, which is nothing more than an advocacy group for western based evangelical missionaries. The Chairperson of the “Commisssion” is a high-ranking officer of the right-wing Federalist Society, and one of the Vice Chairs is a high ranking officer of a right-wing think tank that also includes Rick Santorum and Stanley Kurtz. Other members of the “Commission” include an officer of the Hudson Institute (the “think tank” that pays Dan Quayle for his “thoughts”), and an officer of the Southern Baptist Convention (a denomination that has the distinction of having been formed precisely and explicitly in order to promote and support the institution of human slavery).

Here is more information on the “Commission”:
Who the Heck is the US Commission on International Religious Freedom?

The Pew Report also offers zero evidence to support it’s misinformed mischaracterization of “Hindutva”.

Andrew Kohut is the president of the Pew Research Center. He learned his trade working for the folks at Gallup, where he started out in the 1960’s, and rose to be president of The Gallup Organization from 1979 to 1989. See this link to learn more about what Andrew Kohut learned at Gallup:
How Gallup and Pew Proselytize in the Name of “Research” (Push Polling For “God”, Part One)

Push Polling For Jesus: How Gallup and Pew Proselytize in the Guise of "Research"

[I decided to change the title of this series to “Push Polling for Jesus”, rather than “Push Polling for ‘God'”.]

Below is an excerpt from a 1998 article on George Gallup, Jr. in Christian Ethics Today, by Diane Winston, who was then a research fellow at the Center for the Study of American Religion at Princeton University, and who is now a Program Officer at the Pew Charitable Trust. The article originally appeared in the Dallas Morning News. The full article is available online here.

When George Gallup, Jr. joined the family polling firm, the church lost a prospective priest but the world gained a Spirit-filled layman. Mr. Gallup, who is chairman of the George H. Gallup International Institute and executive director of the Princeton Religion Research Center, chose a secular path for a religious call. But he can twirl a rubber band as deftly as a Catholic prays the rosary.

“I was drawn to the church and thought about being an Episcopal priest,” said Mr. Gallup, whose deep bass voice would have rung appealingly from any pulpit. “But I decided Dad’s field offered an opportunity to find truth, to see how people respond to God and to explore their religious lives. When I started surveying in the early 1950s, this was virgin territory.”

That the once-virgin territory is now well-explored is due, in no small part, to Mr. Gallup’s zeal. Over the years, Gallup polls have measured belief in God, angels, miracles, born-again experiences, biblical inerrancy, and heaven and hell. Among his recent projects is a survey on gratitude commissioned by Thanks-Giving Square in Dallas.

Recently, Mr. Gallup discussed his findings during the institution’s annual celebration of the National Day of Prayer.

“George Gallup was the logical person to talk to when we first conceived our interest in the healing power of prayer,” said Peter Stewart, chairman of Thanksgiving Foundation. “He has an amazing way of looking at subjective and intangible things through the polling method, and he himself is certainly a man who understands the power of gratitude and thanksgiving.”

Mr. Gallup would not divulge the survey’s findings before his speech, but he did say respondents were asked what motivated their gratitude and how they expressed it. He also revealed that the survey focused on teenagers, an age group that Mr. Gallup has tracked for more than 20 years.

Mr. Gallup’s interest in young people may spring from his own youthful conversion. At the tender age of 9, he felt the power of God’s presence and began contemplating a religious vocation. Later, as a student at Princeton University, he majored in religion and wrote his senior thesis about a survey, aided by family connections, of the reasons people believe in God.

“That was in 1953,” recalled Mr. Gallup, whose office walls, decorated with election memorabilia dating back to George Washington, reflect his interest in the past. “The study was one of the first attempts to poke around that area.”

At the same time, Mr. Gallup was poking around a religious vocation. He traveled to Galveston to work with a summer Bible school and an interracial youth program. Based at an African-American Episcopal church, the Christian collegian did his part to end segregation. But, despite his sympathy for the cause and dedication to the church, Mr. Gallup decided to serve God in a different way.

“The most important purpose of polls is to explore people’s response to God and indicate ways to strengthen that response,” he told The Business Journal of New Jersey. “That is a form of ministry.”

Working for his father, George Jr. explored this form of ministry at the Gallup Organization, a for-profit firm that conducts wide-ranging surveys and market research. Ten years ago, the Gallup family sold the business to Selection Research Institute of Lincoln, Neb. Mr. Gallup now divides his time between the George H. Gallup International Institute, named for Gallup senior, a public charity that seeks new approaches to social problems in education, environment, health, religion and human values, and the Princeton Religion Research Center, which publishes books and newsletters on religious trends.

And below is an excerpt from a speech given by George Gallup, Jr. in 1996. The full text of the speech is here.

“Will the Vitality of the Churches be the Surprise of the Next Century?”
I feel blessed, indeed, to have the opportunity to participate in the “30 Good Minutes” program. I feel that God has opened up this wonderful opportunity for me to share with you what is on the hearts and minds of the American people, as best we can discern this from surveys of the public; the title of my talk is, as you’ve heard, “Will The Vitality of Our Churches be the Surprise of the Next Century?” I’d like to start with a prayer:

Gracious God, help us today to step aside from the frantic pace of life and seek solitude in You. Help us to silence the noise within. Release us today, we pray, from the “tyranny of the urgent”. Help us at this moment, and at other moments during our busy lives today, to step back from the hectic demands of daily living. Help us to quiet our hearts and minds, to be still and know that you are God, and that you have total dominion over us. Heavenly Father, we earnestly seek your help for the many people who are homeless, for all who struggle to survive, for those who are physically hungry. We seek also your help for those people who are spiritually hungry; for those who enjoy the fruits of material success, but whose lives are empty; for those who are busy, but bored; for those who are among people, but are desperately lonely; for all those who live lives of quiet desperation. We pray that You will enter the lives of all people, renewing their hearts and minds, and giving them assurance of your loving care. We ask this in Christ’s name. Amen.

Over the years we’ve conducted a great number of studies on religion and values, including of course, the reasons that people give for attending – or not attending – church, which reminds me of a story:

This is about a mother and her son who were at the breakfast table, and they were arguing about whether or not the son should go to church. The son said, “Well, I can think of two good reasons why I shouldn’t go to church: First of all, the people at church don’t like me very much, and secondly, I don’t like them very much.”

Whereupon the mother said, “Well, I can think of two good reasons why you should go: First of all, you’re 45 years old, and secondly, they pay you to be the pastor of the church!”

On a more somber note, as we observe society today there is ample reason to be gloomy. Douglas Lawson writes this about present-day America in his book Give to Live:

“All is not well in Camelot. Millions of Americans are profoundly unhappy with their lives. Many are isolated, unconnected, adrift, lost. Family ties are tenuous. Divorce, disease and debt race like plagues through city and suburbs. Tension, aggression and the scramble to survive take a terrible toll. Marital and family problems, health problems, work problems, failures, financial setbacks, loneliness and despair seem to form an endless river threatening to submerge us. Hostility, crime and alienation seem to outpace progress.”

Certain basic and underlying trends give us real cause for concern, including the following:

We appear to live in an addicted society – addicted not only to chemicals, but to possessions, to success, to wealth and to an easy and self-indulgent lifestyle. In a sense, every human being is addicted in some way.

Six out of every ten new marriages will end in divorce. Divorce is an oddly neglected topic in a nation that has the worst record of broken marriages in the entire world. Divorce is a “root problem” in our country and is the cause of any number of other social ills.

We are physically detached from each other. We continue to move our places of residence frequently. One survey revealed that seven in ten do not know their neighbors. A wall exists between the privileged and underprivileged in our society, a wall built of ignorance, indifference, and perhaps to some extent, fear. And it is probably a safe assumption that we shall not really make any headway in overcoming certain social ills until we begin to break down this wall with direct, person to person kinds of relationships.

Loneliness is widespread. In fact, we are among the loneliest people in the entire world, we discovered in a Gallup International Study. As many as one-third of Americans admit to frequent periods of loneliness (by which we mean the absence of deep and meaningful relationships). Loneliness can have dire consequences, and we discovered in a recent survey that loneliness is the key factor in the high suicide rate among elderly people.

Privatism and rampant individualism contribute in a major way to a go-it-alone philosophy in religious matters, and other areas of life.

A depressing picture, yet there is, I believe, some profoundly good news, and I want to report to you now on a trend that may be contributing to a transformation of America. You will not read about this trend in our daily newspapers or on television, yet it is a powerful undercurrent in our society that, I believe, gives us cause for encouragement about the future!

This trend could be described as a sociological and spiritual phenomenon: Americans on a massive scale are rediscovering each other, and coming together regularly in small nourishing support groups, many with a spiritual dimension.

Our research reveals the great potential of such groups for both inner personal and social renewal. Large majorities of participants say that as a result of participation in small groups they are more open and honest with themselves, and better able to forgive others — certainly a vital need in our society in which retribution too often seems to be the operative word.