Sunday, June 30, 2002

Religion in America Send this entry to: Spurl Ma.gnolia Digg Newsvine Reddit

Religion in America (and race of course!) OK, people have been talking about this whole "Under God" thing for the past week or so. I won't touch it-both sides are well served by their advocates. But what interests me is this-the American Religious Identification Survey 2001 has arrived. Interesting facts that jump out at me? Well, the number of non-religious and non-Christian religious has increased a lot in the past 10 years. No surprise here. Immigration and a weakening of traditional social mores explains both these phenomena. But here is something that I want to look at from the prism of human biodiversity: 21% of Asian-Americans, 11% of Hispanic Americans, 10% of white Americans and 6% of black Americans describe themselves as "Secular." This tends to map onto Rushton's Rule rather well (blacks at one end-Asians at the other). In the book published a decade ago by Kosmin & Lachman titled One Nation Under God, the authors posited the high secularism of Asian-Americans might be influenced by the scientific professions that many of them are in (correlation or causation?). This study of course covers only the United States. The fact is that east Asian nations all show (also look here) a relative high degree of secularism. Of course one can ascribe the People's Republic of China and and North Korea's irreligious populace to Communism, but both Taiwan and South Korea (despite prominent Christian minorities) are in the range of 50% non-affiliated. Though the Japanese tend to affiliate both Buddhist and Shinto, they are among the most religiously disinterested people on the face of the earth (this without any Communism). Traditional explanations are all cultural. This makes sense-religion is a facet of culture. The de-personalization of God in ancient China dates back to the Zhou era-circa 1000 BCE (the transition from the Shang "Lord on High" to the Zhou "Heaven"). This is 2700 years before the rise of Deism in the west (OK-to be fair less superstitious brands of late classical paganism were also Deistic-but they tended to become marginalized by mystery and magic quickly rather than becoming the elite zeitgeist-for instance the degeneration of Neo-Platonism as a case in point)! Some movements such as that of Mo Tzu espoused something close to a personal God-but this was the exception that proved the rule. Perhaps the Confucian administrative structure that fostered a stable government can account for the relative lack of theism in eastern Asia. Religious enthusiasm does break out during times of unrest and chaos-from the Yellow Turbans to the Taiping movement. The interregnum between the Later Han and the Sui/Tang period witnessed the efflorescence of Mahayana Buddhism (often under the patronage of non-Chinese rulers). But where in the west a movement like Christianity became the vessel that transferred the essence of Romanitas to later ages-and in the end became the raison detre itself, organized religion is quickly marginalized in China whenever order and stability are restored. I haven't mentioned Japan-whose political structure for much of its history echoes that of the Holy Roman Empire rather than Imperial Rome. Though superficially similar to westerners-the differences between the Japanese and the Chinese are myriad. While in China the family was always the atomic unit around with government and culture thrived, in "feudal" Japan the loyalty of the samurai class to their lords became paramount. It is from this that Francis Fukuyama partially derives the difference in social trust between Japan and China. In Japan Buddhism managed to remain a independent power for far longer than in China because the central government was far weaker. While Japan esteemed the warrior and marginalized the effete aristocrats during the Tokugawa era-China lionized the scholar. And yet, the Republic of China (Taiwan) and Japan show show similar levels of religious apathy (the latter more so insofar as its political class is also secular, while Christians have a strong position in Taiwan's government). What I am getting at perhaps is that it is not just a coincidence of history and therefore culture. Perhaps there is a genetic component to the apathy toward supernatural religion-and perhaps that certain Asian groups are predisposed toward secularism. Certainly there are hints that there is a god module in the brain-would we be surprised to learn that some groups are less well endowed with this most felicitous of God's gifts? Implications? South Korea's religious population (Christian and Buddhist) has stabilized at about 50% for the past 10 years. Christians now look to a future China dominated by their co-religionists (they have for 400 years!). Hmm. Well-Christians have had freedom to convert in Taiwan for 50 years-and many heads of state were Christians (the first three-I don't know if the current president is Christian), but they seem to have peaked at about 5-10%-and there were/are concerns that their numbers were in decline in the 1970s and 1980s (the same level as Hong Kong, perhaps little less than the percentage of Chinese Christians in Singapore). Based on this I predict that China will not have a Christian majority in the next century. There is perhaps a maximum of a quarter of China's population in my opinion that may or may not become Christian-using South Korea as the best case scenario for Christianity. The reasons maybe cultural-but I firmly believe that genetic predisposition almost certainly play a role-for I suspect culture and biology feed into each other far more than we acknowledge today. Just as liberalism is somewhat undermined in my opinion by the race realist project-I must say that I believe this might take the wind out of religious universalists who believe that all peoples will accept their view of God-that all people have equal worth under the eyes of God. What would a Calvinist make of the fact that blacks may naturally be more open to their religion than Chinese? Does God's grace only extend to certain people? For he might have graced some with more will to believe in him.