Latest Gallup poll says around a third of Americans are nonreligious.

Here’s some news that’ll make you feel better. The latest Gallup poll on religious views in America indicates that nearly a third of Americans are nonreligious:

Gallup classifies 40% of Americans nationwide as very religious — based on their statement that religion is an important part of their daily life and that they attend religious services every week or almost every week. Another 32% of Americans are nonreligious, based on their statement that religion is not an important part of their daily life and that they seldom or never attend religious services. The remaining 28% of Americans are moderately religious, because they say religion is important but that they do not attend services regularly or because they say religion is not important but still attend services.

Religiosity varies widely across U.S. states and regions, with Mississippi in the deep South and Vermont in New England providing the most extreme example of the disparity. Fifty-nine percent of Mississippians are very religious and 11% nonreligious, while 23% of Vermonters are very religious and 58% are nonreligious. Although New Hampshire ties Vermont with 23% of its residents classified as very religious, slightly fewer (52%) residents in the Granite State are classified as nonreligious.

Granted, this isn’t to say that a third of Americans are atheists. This classification includes the “unchurched” — a group of people who still believe in a higher power but aren’t a part of any particular religion and don’t care to be. Often they refer to themselves as “spiritual.” Still, that’s better than being in the very religious category as far as I’m concerned.

Not surprisingly, Missouri is the most religious state and has been for some time. Just as Vermont is the least religions and also has been for some time. According to Gallup, these state-to-state patterns have been stable for awhile now and are in part a result of a state’s culture:

Gallup research has shown that these state differences appear to be part of a “state culture” phenomenon, and are not the result of differences in the underlying demographics or religious identities in the states. For example, while Mississippi has the highest percentage of blacks of any state in the union, and while blacks are the most religious of any major race or ethnic group in the country, the Magnolia State’s white residents are highly religious on a relative basis compared with whites in other states. And, Vermonters who identify as Catholics or with Protestant denominations are less religious than Southern state residents who identify with the same religions. It appears there is something about the culture and normative structure of a state, no doubt based partly on that state’s history, that affects its residents’ propensity to attend religious services and to declare that religion is important in their daily lives.

This calls into question the oft-cited statistic that 98% of Americans believe in God. It’s a statistic you’ll hear often, but I can’t recall the last study or poll that suggests that is truly the case. Certainly polls such as this one suggest otherwise.

Fox News viewers are less informed than people who don’t watch news at all.

We’ve mentioned here on SEB before that studies have shown that watching FOX News will make you stupid. So it probably shouldn’t be a big surprise that there is yet another study that pretty much says the same thing.

OK, to be fair, what it says is that not watching any news at all will leave you better informed than if you watch FOX News. The poll asked folks questions on major news stories such as “were Egyptian protesters successful in their bid to overthrow longtime president Hosni Mubarak earlier this year?” Stuff that, if you’re paying any attention at all, you should know the answer to. The results were that people who weren’t paying attention scored better than people who watched FOX News:

Fairleigh Dickinson PublicMind Poll Shows Fox News Viewers Less Informed on Major News Stories

After controlling for factors like partisanship, education, and other demographic factors, the pollsters found that Fox New viewers were 18 points less likely to know that the revolt was successful than their non-active news consuming counterparts. Fox News viewers were also 6 points less likely to know that the Syrian uprising has yet to succeed.

“Because of the controls for partisanship, we know these results are not just driven by Republicans or other groups being more likely to watch Fox News,” said Dan Cassino, a Fairleigh Dickinson political science professor who took part in the analysis of the PublicMind data. “Rather, the results show us that there is something about watching Fox News that leads people to do worse on these questions than those who don’t watch any news at all.”

You don’t think it could be that FOX News is little more than a propaganda loudspeaker for the Republican party that writes its “news” stories to fulfill Conservative talking points regardless of what the reality actually is, do you? How could that be? They’re Fair and Balanced! You know this because they tell you that all the time! Surely they couldn’t say it if it wasn’t true!

In comparison, watching almost anything else resulted in people being better informed:

[P]eople who report reading a national newspaper like The New York Times or USA Today are 12-points more likely to know that Egyptians have overthrown their government than those who have not looked at any news source. And those who listen to the non-profit NPR radio network are 11-points more likely to know the outcome of the revolt against Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. However, the best informed respondents are those that watched Sunday morning news programs: leading to a 16- point increase in the likelihood of knowing what happened in Egypt and an 8-point increase in the likelihood of knowing what happened in Syria.

No wonder the Republicans want to kill off NPR. It’s actually informative and a threat to their political agendas as a result.

However, the main point here is simply stunning: If you get your information from FOX News then you are actually increasing your ignorance of the issues and events shaping the world around you. You’re willfully making yourself stupider with every passing minute. You may as well be hitting yourself in the head with a ball-peen hammer as the impact on your IQ would be about the same and it’d probably be less painful to boot.

You’d, quite literally, be better informed by not paying attention at all.

The Washington Post wants to know your favorite webcomic of the past decade.

Webcomics are a topic near and dear to my heart. While they don’t show up in my sidebar blogroll that’s only because I have a whole separate list of webcomic links I keep in my Google Reader and it would make an already long sidebar list even longer.

The folks at the Washington Post are having a little unscientific poll asking folks to vote for their favorite webcomics and I thought you guys would like to know about it.

Last week, Comic Riffs put out the call by asking: What are your favorite webcomics of the past 10 years? Readers soon responded strongly and passionately (via comments and Facebook and Twitter), nominating hundreds of titles. (For the uninitiated and even for the true fan, it made for a healthy wealth of recommended reading.)

Many of the comics that made the cut were deadlocked — and among some of the worthy titles that just missed the cut were: “Anders Loves Maria”; “Cat and Girl”; “Goats”; “GPF”; “Templar, Arizona”; and “Wondermark” (that excellent exercise in “illustrated jocularity” that had ties to the print world, too, appearing until a coupla years ago in The Onion.).

Now, we’ve got the Big Ballot — and it’s time to vote for your faves as we all narrow this down to a handful of finalists. Balloting will close midnight Wednesday. (And if not all these strips fit your definition of a “webcomic,” feel free to sound off on that interminable kerfuffle, too — some obviously have seen the light of print at times.)

via Comic Riffs – THE BEST WEBCOMIC: It’s time to vote on your nominations….

Several of my favorites made the list: PVP, Penny Arcade, Sinfest, xkcd, and, surprisingly enough, Jesus and Mo. Another surprise was the fact that the amazing Wondermark did not make the cut. It was tough picking out my favorite, but I had to go with the one that got me started on reading webcomics, PVP, even though Scott Kurtz said he wanted PVP votes to go to Penny Arcade. If I could have voted for all my favorites I would have as those are the only ones I tend to read. The current front runner is one I’ve never read called Least That I Could Do and, while I hold no animosity towards said author, it is slightly worrisome that some of my favorites haven’t even gotten a percentage point in votes yet. Not that they have to win, mind you, but it would be nice if they had more than 0% of the vote.

So if you enjoy participating in pointless Internet polls that really don’t prove a damned thing then head on over and see if your favorite is on the list and then vote for it whatever it happens to be. You will have done your part in nothing of any consequence at all and can feel good knowing your small effort will result in the Washington post getting more traffic on a single entry than they probably have any right to get.

Another survey says more Americans believe in angels and devils than evolution.

Another Harris Poll with more proof that many Americans need a mental enema:

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll(R), a new nationwide survey of 2,126 U.S. adults surveyed online between November 10 and 17, 2008 by Harris Interactive(R).
Some of the interesting findings in this new Harris Poll include:

—80% of adult Americans believe in God – unchanged since the last time we asked the question in 2005. Large majorities of the public believe in miracles (75%), heaven (73%), angels (71%), that Jesus is God or the Son of God (71%), the resurrection of Jesus (70%), the survival of the soul after death (68%), hell (62%), the Virgin birth (Jesus born of Mary (61%) and the devil (59%).

—Slightly more people – but both are minorities – believe in Darwin’s theory of evolution (47%) than in creationism (40%).

—Sizeable minorities believe in ghosts (44%), UFOs (36%), witches (31%), astrology (31%), and reincarnation (24%).

There’s some other interesting stats as well such as the differences in beliefs between Catholics and Protestants with Catholics, for example, being more likely that Protestants to accept the theory of evolution. Which is kind of ironic given the history of the Catholic church.

The good news is that the ratio of people accepting evolution has risen since a similar poll in 2005 in which 51% of people didn’t accept the theory of evolution. Which was up from a poll in 2003 that had only 28% of people buying into the theory of evolution. One of the benefits of being a long time blogger is being able to look up old polls in your archives.

So Americans are largely still idiots, but less so than in the past. That’s some progress at least.

New Poll shows slight majority favors keeping religion out of politics.

It’s a very slim margin—only 52% of respondents—but it’s a majority just the same and hopefully the start of a continuing trend. The big surprise was in regards to where the shifts in opinion occurred:

The results suggest a potentially significant shift among conservative voters in particular. In 2004, 30% of conservatives said the church should stay out of politics while today 50% of conservatives today express that view.

Conservatives are now more in line with moderates and liberals when it comes to their views on mixing religion and politics. “Similarly, the sharp divisions between Republicans and Democrats that previously existed on this issue have disappeared,” Pew reports.

Increasingly voters say they are uncomfortable listening to politicians express religious views. In 2004, 40% said it made them uncomfortable versus 46% today.

Perhaps there’s a silver lining to the past seven and a half years after all. The best bit of news is that there may be a bit of a backlash in the Republican party. Though it seems us godless liberals are being held to similar standards:

The Democratic Party also made notable gains among voters who view the party as religion-friendly—a belief generally associated with the Republican Party. In 2006, 26% of voters said Democrats were religion-friendly, today 38% of voters said the same. More voters, 43%, also believe that non-religious liberals have too much sway over the party, versus 37% in August 2007.

The Republican Party still dominates as the friendliest toward religion, according to 52% of voters surveyed. However, that view also comes with backlash. Nearly half, 48%, said religious conservatives hold too much sway in the party ranks, up from 43% in August 2007.

I wish we had as much influence as some of these people seem to think, but it’s still good to see that the pendulum is swinging our way for a change.

Neil Gaiman seeks your opinion on which book to give away.

One of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, has just celebrated his blog’s seventh anniversary and in celebration he’s asking fans to vote for which book will be made available online for free:

As you may have deduced, it’s the blog’s 7th birthday today. On February the 9th 2001, I started writing this thing. And now, 1,071,213 words later,  it is still going. (Until the wind changes, as Mary Poppins said.)

One thing we’ve decided to do, as a small celebratory birthday thing is, initially for a month, make a book of mine available online, free, gratis and for nothing.

Which book, though…? Ah, that’s up to you.

What I want you to do is think—not about which of the books below is your favourite, but if you were giving one away to a friend who had never read anything of mine, what would it be? Where would you want them to start?

The possible offerings consist of American Gods, Anansi Boys, Coraline, Fragile Things, M is for Magic, Neverwhere, Smoke & Mirrors, and Stardust. A list that made me realize there’s at least one Neil Gaiman book I’ve not yet read (M is for Magic) so I’ll have to add it to my wish list. So go vote for whichever one you think would be the one you’d recommend to a new reader.