Saturday, March 03, 2012

And so on a Sunday, confronted by guilt and big mansions and problems with well-being, the pond commends mirth ...

If you ever grew up a Catholic, or have hung around victims of Catholic indoctrination, you'll know that the chief mechanism deployed to keep the faithful faithful is guilt.

Guilt is such a tasty thing, and of course it leads to guilty pleasures, sometimes with chocolate, and sometimes with altar boys.

Is there a tinge of guilt in Cardinal George "climate scientist" Pell's thoughts on Lent and guilt for last week's Sunday Terror, Consciences in Lent?

Some dismiss conscience as a childish feeling of guilt, a hangover from some religious education class of yester year or parental reproof. It is a somewhat unruly inner voice, which threatens and limits their freedom of action, imposing an uneasy social conformity. A few are allergic to most rules and regulations.

Indeed, but we can't all be altar-boy fiddling Catholic priests allergic to commonplace notions of power balances when it comes to sexuality and the young. Let alone rules and regulations ...

There's a lot more Pellist blather, which will be familiar to anyone who endured the strictures of the church, or had the length of their hems measured for fear that they'd be revealed as sluts, but the final line was a ripper:

True consciences always have a bite. Without this bite conscience is reduced to camouflaged self interest.

Yep, you couldn't summarise the Catholic church better, with its seething, and barely camouflaged self-interest always at work, whether in relation to the Jewish question in Italy in the second world war, or in its war on the right of women to use contraception by assuring them they'll end up in hell for not helping keep the Ponzi scheme afloat.

Meanwhile, the pond was shattered to see that Michael Jensen had thus far failed to deliver his treatise on the second of Sydney's sins this week for the Sydney Anglicans - and the time was right, what with the Sydney Mardi Gras and Kylie Minogue plunging the city into an orgy of rain-sodden decadence - and so we were left with the thoughts of Phillip Jensen as he brooded about wellbeing.

It seems a CNN report on a Gallup survey took Jensen's fancy: church people have better wellbeing outcomes? This week CNN reported a Gallup survey of 676,000 people, which demonstrated “a strong positive relationship between religiosity and wellbeing”. And “those who identified as not religious, atheist or agnostic finished at the bottom of the scale”.

And so we come back to the importance of church and family. These bring benefits of wellbeing that even the atheists can see. According to the Gallup survey, the benefits flow irrespective of the religious faith being followed, but not to the unbelievers.

But if you click through and read the poll results at the source - Gallup Wellbeing - it seems that the real message is that you're way better off being a Mormon or a very religious Jew or perhaps an irreligious Jew or a very religious Muslim. The difference between Protestant and no religion is pretty slight:

(click to enlarge)

And then when you get down to the devil in the detail - yes it seems Satan exists, and he always dwells in the detail - the margin of error turns out to be quite large when it comes to the smaller religious grouping:

The maximum margin of sampling error found for each reported group will vary according to the size, with the smallest expected error found for the largest reported group. For all three reported Protestant groups, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum expected error range is no greater than ±0.5%. For smaller groups of fewer than 1,000 respondents, such as some of those found for Mormons, Jews, or Muslims, error ranges can climb as high as ±6.0 percentage points.

Plus or minus six percentage points where the range of difference is about seven percentage points at its widest ... for Mormons, Jews and Muslims!

The conclusion? The talking point to emerge from all the blather, according to Gallup?

Jews have highest wellbeing overall, despite being the least religious

Turns out it might have more to do with community than religiosity?

Let's not even get into Gallup's definition of wellbeing, or why they bother to conduct this sort of relentless polling, or why anyone would want to lead a poll-driven life or mount a poll-driven argument of this kind as some kind of justification for having an imaginary friend.

Let's just say as a statistician Phillip Jensen knows how to weave a gossamer web out of half-baked figures, and might well be a match for Cardinal Pell when it comes to climate science.

You see, that line of his is demonstrably false:

According to the Gallup survey, the benefits flow irrespective of the religious faith being followed, but not to the unbelievers.

Actually, according to the Gallup survey, the benefits flow in relation to certain religious faiths, which they couldn't sample properly, and which therefore show a large possible variation, but in any case, Protestants don't do particularly well, and are way down the list, nose to nose with the unbelievers unless they happen to be as mad as march hare fundies.

Now of course that's American Protestants, but as Jensen seems to think American data applies to Australian non-believers, why let the horse go fit the cart.

It doesn't prove much at all when you come to think about it, except that Jensen will use any port on a storm to have a go at Richard Dawkins, even if it means showing some manly love for Alain de Botton.

Meanwhile, when you're going to jump the shark and nuke the fridge, and defame secularists, remember to go the whole hog:

Wellbeing is the bi-product of a lifestyle not its purpose. Indeed these benefits are not available for those who seek to manufacture them – pretending to be friends to gain friendship, pretending to be optimists to succeed, pretending to worship something you do not believe in.

Yep, it seems that if you don't have an imaginary friend, you're likely to be a pessimist, who is deceptive and devious, and pretend to worship something you don't believe in.

It's just another day in the life of a Sydney Anglican, using half-baked statistics to smear and besmirch everyday people going about their everyday lives. No wonder gays and women are routinely in trouble.

So this is what religion gives to you? Contempt for others who don't share your faith? Why can't true believers just keep to having contempt for Islamics, Jews, Mormons, Catholics, Protestants and Calathumpians - please select your category, so you can have disdain for all the others, who are clearly destined for an eternity of hell as heretics.

Who'd have thought it that the pond would now be desperate for Michael Jensen to return and complete his demolition of Sydney. Anything, anything, provided it doesn't involve reading Phillip Jensen ...

As the pond was reminded forcibly last week, perhaps Jensen (Michael's) part two piece could start with outrage at the sheltered, splendid lifestyles of those living in Darling Point, gateway to the eastern suburbs, including Bishopscourt:

By golly, that's a tasty little shack. The pond could feel its wellbeing index rising by the minute at the thought of living tehre. And what's the bet it gets a nice harbour sea breeze late in the afternoon? "A" marks the spot:

Well now you know how to improve your well-being index. Grab a shack in Darling Point ... now don't forget to wave as the mugs cruise past on their Sunday afternoon drive ....

A final thought? Well funnily enough Jensen (Phillip) begins and ends his piece by quoting Ecclesiastes. This is the pond's favourite book in the bible, but surely at the same time, it is the blackest, bleakest, gloomiest, most depressive work you could read, unless you happened to be a Calvinist in love with a good scourging and a whipping for their guilt-laden sins.

Except for a few lines:

Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labor the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun. (8:15).

Still, that could just be an arbitrary selection that pleases from a book full of contradictory advice, rules and regulations. A few other arbitrary interpretations have been made over the years ...


  1. "Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment."

    Ecclesiates 9:8, KJV (Cambridge Ed.)

    Ssshhh, don't mention it to Janet A.

  2. hmmmmm am i reading it correctly moderately religious atheists are less happy/well than very religious ones???


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