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21-02-2012, 02:48   #31
Galvasean
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It’s not as though there were powerful forces lined up arguing that everyone who ticks, e.g., “Catholic” is a faithful and observant Catholic. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that argument advanced. So, to some extent, the survey may be attacking a straw man.
That Stand Up Ireland group were very quick to say how over 80% of Irish people were Catholics, implying that said 80 odd percent wanted the Vatican embassy reopened (I apologize as I'm sure we're all sick to death of this being used as an example all the time, but it's just one that springs to mind).
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21-02-2012, 03:03   #32
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That Stand Up Ireland group were very quick to say how over 80% of Irish people were Catholics, implying that said 80 odd percent wanted the Vatican embassy reopened (I apologize as I'm sure we're all sick to death of this being used as an example all the time, but it's just one that springs to mind).
This is the issue really.

Cultural identification with a religious label seems a little weird to me, but whatever, people can label themselves as they wish.

However, when the stats are used dishonestly to imply that x% of people are believers in Catholicism and supportive of Catholic-centric education policies, keeping the Vatican embassy open, having religious imagery in public institutions etc. etc., that is a problem.
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21-02-2012, 03:16   #33
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That Stand Up Ireland group were very quick to say how over 80% of Irish people were Catholics, implying that said 80 odd percent wanted the Vatican embassy reopened (I apologize as I'm sure we're all sick to death of this being used as an example all the time, but it's just one that springs to mind).
(Just to get one thing out of the way, I don’t favour reopening the Vatican embassy.)

I don’t think Stand Up were necessarily implying that the self-identified Catholic 80% wanted the embassy reopened. In this context, it’s fair to point out that 80% of the people self-identify as Catholic and, therefore, relations between the state and the Catholic church are of some interest, some relevance, to them. That’s a legitimate point to make, I think, particularly as a response to Gilmore’s point that the Vatican embassy had no trade or consular business.

I haven’t read anything from Stand Up and I’ve read precious little about them, so I don’t know what use, exactly, they made of this statistic. They may well have abused it, but if you are relying on “implication” to show that the statistic was being misused, I have to point out that implication is to some extent in the eye of the beholder.

Can we find any clearer example of census data being used to support an argument that the Irish people are committed to the teachings and practices of the Catholic church? (I’m sure we can, if we look, but I still suspect the idea that the data is routinely or regularly used in this way is a bit of an atheist/skeptic urban legend. And if the use of the data by Stand Up turns out to be the most shocking abuse we find, my suspicion will be strengthened.)
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21-02-2012, 03:21   #34
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However, when the stats are used dishonestly to imply that x% of people are believers in Catholicism and supportive of Catholic-centric education policies, keeping the Vatican embassy open, having religious imagery in public institutions etc. etc., that is a problem.
With respect, Dawkins’s survey shows that use of the data to support a claim that x% of the people are believers in Catholicisms would be wrong, but it doesn’t show that it would be dishonest.

More to the point, it contains little or nothing to suggest that use of the data with respect to state support for church schools, the maintenance of a Vatican embassy, or the display of religious imagery in public places would be wrong, never mind dishonest. He didn’t ask any questions related to such issues. For all we know, self-identified religious people may be simply delighted about all these things.

We can’t accuse people of “dishonesty” when they use Catholic identification data to support claims about Catholic belief, and then in the same post imply that Dawkins’ data supports claims that it certainly does not support.
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21-02-2012, 12:08   #35
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No. But, then, age is neither a cultural artefact nor a communal identification. Religion is both.
I dont actually believe that religion is a cultural artefact or communal identification. Sure its presented as that by religious leaders so as to better infest themselves in communities, and to inspire the same knee jerk defensiveness in people that arises if they feel their nationality is criticised (not to mention the benefit of having people mindlessly label themselves as a particular religion despite breaking damn near every unique law it has). Your religion is a label to describe your current beliefs.
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If you’re asked your religion, you put down your religion. If, for you, religion is a matter of belief, then your religious identification will (presumably) be driven largely or entirely by your beliefs. That’s a decision you get to make for yourself.

But you don’t get to make it for other people. The authority claimed by Pope Mark Hamill may be extensive, but it’s not that extensive. They, not you, get to determine their religious identification, and the basis on which it is formed. The state’s interest is in knowing what religion they think they are, not what religion you think they are.
But what if, for me, age is not a matter of how long I have been alive, but a matter of how old I feel?
The state needs to know what people believe so that the state can make the decisions that best reflect that belief. Thats why we have labels for different theistic groups, so that we dont need an essay from each person explaining what they believe. Its all well and good knowing that 71.6% call themselves christian, if that is no actual reflection on their beliefs. How do you now how much of the 71.6% called themselves christian because they follow the teachings of the church or call themselves despite actively disliking the church? And so how do you weigh legislative and education decisions without that knowledge?
If people can base their religious labelling on whatever they want, as opposed to what religious doctrine they actually believe, then you might as well have them put their name down for the religious question, for all it will tell us about what they actually believe.
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(Interestingly, if you do choose to base religious identity largely or entirely on belief, you’ve adopted a very Protestant approach to the question of what religion is. A Jew, for example, would look at you blankly if you suggested that. Any particular reason why an atheist should adopt a Protestant understanding of religion, or expect the rest of the world to do likewise?)
Because labels, all types of labels, come after you satisfy the criteria for having that label, not before. Labels don't exist in of themselves, they are a short hand to describe some set of criteria a person satisfies, used because they are massively more convenient that listing the criteria each time you talk about the person. The only people who deny this are the ones who get their power from the simple act of others labelling themselves.
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21-02-2012, 12:29   #36
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I don’t think Stand Up were necessarily implying that the self-identified Catholic 80% wanted the embassy reopened. In this context, it’s fair to point out that 80% of the people self-identify as Catholic and, therefore, relations between the state and the Catholic church are of some interest, some relevance, to them. That’s a legitimate point to make, I think, particularly as a response to Gilmore’s point that the Vatican embassy had no trade or consular business.
You just directly contradicted yourself. By saying that 80% are catholic and the relations between church and state may have relevance to them, an implication is made that 80% want (or may want) the embassy reopened.
Your implication is also contradicted by your earlier assertion that people base their religious identification on factors besides actual religious belief or church adherence. The "80%" figure becomes useless if you admit that a sizeable proportion of the 80% dont necessarily care at all about the church. The only reason to bring it up is to imply they do.
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I haven’t read anything from Stand Up and I’ve read precious little about them, so I don’t know what use, exactly, they made of this statistic. They may well have abused it, but if you are relying on “implication” to show that the statistic was being misused, I have to point out that implication is to some extent in the eye of the beholder.
Try reading the website then. It will take you about 20 seconds. The important part:
"[Ireland Stands Up wants] To reinstate our Vatican Embassy so the Irish People, 87% (3.65million) Roman Catholic, continue to benefit from the Embassy’s historic, diplomatic presence."
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Can we find any clearer example of census data being used to support an argument that the Irish people are committed to the teachings and practices of the Catholic church? (I’m sure we can, if we look, but I still suspect the idea that the data is routinely or regularly used in this way is a bit of an atheist/skeptic urban legend. And if the use of the data by Stand Up turns out to be the most shocking abuse we find, my suspicion will be strengthened.)
Are you looking for something besides continuous church patronage of the school infrastructure and curriculum in Ireland?
Its also disingenuous to admit that examples will likely be found, but to dismiss them out of hand, before any response is made, as urban legend.
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22-02-2012, 02:09   #37
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I dont actually believe that religion is a cultural artefact or communal identification.
You don’t? Really?

I have to say, if so, you are the only atheist/agnostic/skeptic I ever met who doesn’t think that religion is a cultural artifact or a communal identification. I would have thought that it is glaringly obvious that it is both.

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Your religion is a label to describe your current beliefs.
And your authority for this proposition would be . . . ?

Most sociologists would see “religion” as embracing belief, commitment, reverence, practice and communal identification, in no particular order. Most Protestant theologians, by contrast, insist that Christianity rests upon faith alone. (Not all religions, note; just Christianity). I’m puzzled as to why, on this particular question, an atheist would be more Protestant than the Protestants themselves.

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The state needs to know what people believe so that the state can make the decisions that best reflect that belief. Thats why we have labels for different theistic groups, so that we dont need an essay from each person explaining what they believe. Its all well and good knowing that 71.6% call themselves christian, if that is no actual reflection on their beliefs. How do you now how much of the 71.6% called themselves christian because they follow the teachings of the church or call themselves despite actively disliking the church? And so how do you weigh legislative and education decisions without that knowledge?
If people can base their religious labelling on whatever they want, as opposed to what religious doctrine they actually believe, then you might as well have them put their name down for the religious question, for all it will tell us about what they actually believe.
Because you don’t need to know what they believe in order to predict whether they will, e.g., choose to send their children to Catholic schools. In most countries where this is an issue, demand for school places is much more closely correlated with census religious identification that it is with measures like attendance at worship, or doctrinal orthodoxy (as extrapolated by surveys and polls). The relevant data the state needs is how people see themselves, not how Protestant theologians, Mark Hamill and Richard Dawkins think they ought to see themselves. How poeple see themselves is a much better predictor of the choices they will make than how Mark Hamill sees them.

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Because labels, all types of labels, come after you satisfy the criteria for having that label, not before. Labels don't exist in of themselves, they are a short hand to describe some set of criteria a person satisfies, used because they are massively more convenient that listing the criteria each time you talk about the person. The only people who deny this are the ones who get their power from the simple act of others labelling themselves.
But you are assuming that the only proper criterion for a religious label is belief. I accept that you believe this, but I also observe that most of the rest of the world does not. By what authority does your opinion trump theirs?

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22-02-2012, 03:13   #38
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You just directly contradicted yourself. By saying that 80% are catholic and the relations between church and state may have relevance to them, an implication is made that 80% want (or may want) the embassy reopened.
Oh, come now, Mark, you can do better than that. There’s a big difference between an implication that people do want something, and an implication that they might want it. You can deny one and affirm the other without any contradiction.

Besides, the relevance of the 80% figure is this: part of Gilmore’s justification for closing the embassy is that it has no consular or trade work. But an obvious response to that is that it never did; whatever justification there was for opening the embassy in the first place, or for maintaining it, never depended on consular or trade work, and therefore pointing to the absence of same is not a compelling case for closure. The unspoken implication in Gilmore;’s argument is that nothing else matters, or matters enough. Stand Up point to the substantial Catholic identication of the population as indicating that, even if there are no relevant trade or consular issues and never were, we need to consider whether there are other relevant considerations. One possible inference might be that the people want an embassy, but that’s not the only one. Embassies aren’t normally opened or closed on the basis of popular opinion, and I see no reason to infer an argument based on popular opinion from Stand Up’s use of this statistic.

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Your implication is also contradicted by your earlier assertion that people base their religious identification on factors besides actual religious belief or church adherence. The "80%" figure becomes useless if you admit that a sizeable proportion of the 80% don’t necessarily care at all about the church. The only reason to bring it up is to imply they do.
I never said they didn’t base their identification on church adherence. To my mind, ticking “Catholic” in the census in itself indicates some level of adherence, though it may be a low one.

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Try reading the website then. It will take you about 20 seconds. The important part:
"[Ireland Stands Up wants] To reinstate our Vatican Embassy so the Irish People, 87% (3.65million) Roman Catholic, continue to benefit from the Embassy’s historic, diplomatic presence."
Well, there you go. They’re not saying that the Irish people want the Vatican embassy, just that they will benefit from it. (I don’t think they’re right, but that’s not the point. They’re not making the argument that Galvasean attributed to them.)

I would accept, incidentally, that this is a poor use of the census data. Just because somebody identifies as "Catholic" in the census, it doesn't follow that he will benefit from his country having a resident embassy in the Vatican, and the claimed "benefit" is not identified. But the RDF survey isn't relevant here; the claim of "benefit" is so vague that it's hard to say that anything in the RDF survey refutes it.

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Are you looking for something besides continuous church patronage of the school infrastructure and curriculum in Ireland?
Yes. I’m looking for explicit reliance on the census data in support of a position which, the RDF survey shows, the census data does not in fact support (e.g. that 87% of the Irish people believe in Catholic teaching, or participate actively in Catholic worship, or pray regularly, or need a public holiday so they can go to mass on 8 December, or whatever).

Dawkins doesn’t ask about church schools or Vatican embassies or the like. If we are going to say that census religious idenfication does not reliably indicate belief or practice, we also have to acknowledge that RDF survey data on belief and practice does not reliably indicate views on the place of religion in public life, or secularity, or schools, or embassies, or whatever the topic du jour happens to be.

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Its also disingenuous to admit that examples will likely be found, but to dismiss them out of hand, before any response is made, as urban legend.
No, I’m not dismissing the examples out of hand. If many examples are in fact found, my “urban legend” suspicion will be refuted. I mention the urban legend suspicion as a possible explanation of the fact that we’re having some difficulty finding examples of the census data being routinely used in a way that the Dawkins survey shows to be unjustified.

I think to an extent - not entirely, but to an extent - the Dawkins survey is attacking a straw man; it refutes an argument that is not often advanced and that is already widely known to be bogus.

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22-02-2012, 13:44   #39
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You don’t? Really?

I have to say, if so, you are the only atheist/agnostic/skeptic I ever met who doesn’t think that religion is a cultural artifact or a communal identification. I would have thought that it is glaringly obvious that it is both.
Religion is a cultural artifact or a communal identification in the same way that football is a cultural artifact or a communal identification. They both can get ingrained in cultures and both can be a source communal bonding and identification. But much like it would be factually wrong to say you are a Arsenal support if you dont actually support Arsenal, it is factually wrong to say you are a catholic if you dont actually hold to the majority of catholic doctrine.
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And your authority for this proposition would be . . . ?
Because that what the word is for? Seriously, were are you getting this nonsense from? If the specific religious label you have is not based on the actual religious doctrine that you belief in, then the label is entirely useless.
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Because you don’t need to know what they believe in order to predict whether they will, e.g., choose to send their children to Catholic schools. In most countries where this is an issue, demand for school places is much more closely correlated with census religious identification that it is with measures like attendance at worship, or doctrinal orthodoxy (as extrapolated by surveys and polls). The relevant data the state needs is how people see themselves, not how Protestant theologians, Mark Hamill and Richard Dawkins think they ought to see themselves. How poeple see themselves is a much better predictor of the choices they will make than how Mark Hamill sees them.
If the census was only interested in what schools people wanted, then why doesn't is just ask that question? Why beat around the bush? How can the state say "people said catholic on the census, therefore they want catholic schools" if only 4% of people chose catholic on the census because they went to a catholic school (see q5 on the census).
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But you are assuming that the only proper criterion for a religious label is belief.
No I am not. I am asserting that the proper critieria for any label, at all, is satisfying the criteria that label requires. If a religious label's criteria (ie its doctrine) says belief, then once you believe what it says, that label applies to you. If it also requires certain acts, then once you satisfy also those acts, that label applies to you.
This is how all labels work. They are supposed to be a short hand description for some property you have. Your age is how long you have been alive, not which number you most identify with. Having a label, any label, become redundant if the label is entirely arbitrary, as it no longer tells anything about you.
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22-02-2012, 14:21   #40
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Oh, come now, Mark, you can do better than that. There’s a big difference between an implication that people do want something, and an implication that they might want it. You can deny one and affirm the other without any contradiction.
Did you read the website before posting this bit? Its quite clear that the website is implying that the 87% RC in Ireland want the embassy open (they claim they will all benefit, implying they all want it, whether they realise it or not).
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Besides, the relevance of the 80% figure is this: part of Gilmore’s justification for closing the embassy is that it has no consular or trade work. But an obvious response to that is that it never did; whatever justification there was for opening the embassy in the first place, or for maintaining it, never depended on consular or trade work, and therefore pointing to the absence of same is not a compelling case for closure.
That's ridiculous. What if the reason it was opened simply doesn't apply any more? What if it never applied and it was opened under false pretences?. Whatever the embassy was opened for, embassies today are supposed to do some sort of consular or trade work. This embassy does neither, so today, it can be closed. There may be an argument for some other entity to exist to take its place, but that entity would not be an embassy.
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I never said they didn’t base their identification on church adherence. To my mind, ticking “Catholic” in the census in itself indicates some level of adherence, though it may be a low one.
Or it is none at all. Quite a number of self labelled christains have a distaste for, or complete indifference to, the RCC on par with that of some atheists. Even adding up the numbers of those who labelled christian because they follow the teachings, and attend or attended church, the survey only gives 25% of people who self labelled as christian because of any adherence to the church.
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Well, there you go. They’re not saying that the Irish people want the Vatican embassy, just that they will benefit from it. (I don’t think they’re right, but that’s not the point. They’re not making the argument that Galvasean attributed to them.)
You clearly aren't stupid Peregrinus, so why are you sayign stupid things. As I said above: "Its quite clear that the website is implying that the 87% RC in Ireland want the embassy open (they claim they will all benefit, implying they all want it, whether they realise it or not)."
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Yes. I’m looking for explicit reliance on the census data in support of a position which, the RDF survey shows, the census data does not in fact support (e.g. that 87% of the Irish people believe in Catholic teaching, or participate actively in Catholic worship, or pray regularly, or need a public holiday so they can go to mass on 8 December, or whatever).
The survey shows quite clearly religious labels don't reflect peoples belief properly at all, but the continued patronage of schools by religious organisation is based on the assumption that it does (you yourself keep saying that people want catholic schools based purely on their census religion mislabel).
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Dawkins doesn’t ask about church schools or Vatican embassies or the like. If we are going to say that census religious idenfication does not reliably indicate belief or practice, we also have to acknowledge that RDF survey data on belief and practice does not reliably indicate views on the place of religion in public life, or secularity, or schools, or embassies, or whatever the topic du jour happens to be.
Which just begs the question, how does the government justify religious involvement in state affairs (church patronage of schools etc) if not with the census?
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No, I’m not dismissing the examples out of hand. If many examples are in fact found, my “urban legend” suspicion will be refuted. I mention the urban legend suspicion as a possible explanation of the fact that we’re having some difficulty finding examples of the census data being routinely used in a way that the Dawkins survey shows to be unjustified.
If you want more, how about the law restricting the sale of alcohol on Good Friday?
How about the oaths of office for judges, members of the council of state and the president in Ireland still refers to god, despite being critised in 1993 by the UN and recommendations for secular oaths being made in 1996.
How about the Blasphemy law.

All of these are justified with the notion that Ireland is a Catholic nation, itself justified by the census data, which itself has been shown to be flawed by Dawkin's survey.
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23-02-2012, 02:08   #41
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Religion is a cultural artifact or a communal identification in the same way that football is a cultural artifact or a communal identification. They both can get ingrained in cultures and both can be a source communal bonding and identification. But much like it would be factually wrong to say you are a Arsenal support if you dont actually support Arsenal, it is factually wrong to say you are a catholic if you dont actually hold to the majority of catholic doctrine.
You were doing really well until you got to that last sentence.

In the Catholic church’s self-understanding, being a Catholic cannot be reduced to subscribing to a particular set of beliefs. Being a Catholic is a participating in a relationship with a community; shared faith is one, but only one, dimension of that relationship.

And Catholicism is not unusual in this regard; various religions have different ways of understanding themselves, but only a few - mostly Protestant Christian denominations - would say that religious character and identify is a matter of faith and nothing else.

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Because that what the word is for? Seriously, were are you getting this nonsense from? If the specific religious label you have is not based on the actual religious doctrine that you belief in, then the label is entirely useless.
Tell that to the Jews!

Religious labels are useful; we use them all the time. Your assumption that the only use is to identify religious belief seems to me to be completely arbitrary, and at variance with easily-observed realities. I don’t see you advancing either argument or evidence in support of your position.

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If the census was only interested in what schools people wanted, then why doesn't is just ask that question?
Because they’re not only interested in that. School preference is just one of a wide range of public policy issues in relation to which it is helpful to have data on religious identification. Back in post #25 I quoted what the ONS said about this; do you think they were lying?

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Why beat around the bush? How can the state say "people said catholic on the census, therefore they want catholic schools" if only 4% of people chose catholic on the census because they went to a catholic school (see q5 on the census).
They don’t say anything as simplistic as “everyone who ticks Catholic on the census wants a Catholic school” (or, at least, I see no reason to assume that they say that). They just observe from experience that the extent to which parents in a community express a preference for Catholic schools is related in a meaningful way to the proportion of that community which identifies as Catholic, and therefore data on the latter is useful to have when planning for the former.

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No I am not. I am asserting that the proper critieria for any label, at all, is satisfying the criteria that label requires. If a religious label's criteria (ie its doctrine) says belief, then once you believe what it says, that label applies to you. If it also requires certain acts, then once you satisfy also those acts, that label applies to you.
This is how all labels work. They are supposed to be a short hand description for some property you have. Your age is how long you have been alive, not which number you most identify with. Having a label, any label, become redundant if the label is entirely arbitrary, as it no longer tells anything about you.
But you’re still not offering any argument or evidence that religious labels point primarily to belief. Common experience suggests otherwise. In fact, the RDF survey is pretty powerful evidence that you are wrong.

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23-02-2012, 02:28   #42
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Did you read the website before posting this bit? Its quite clear that the website is implying that the 87% RC in Ireland want the embassy open (they claim they will all benefit, implying they all want it, whether they realise it or not).
Stop digging, Mark!

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That's ridiculous. What if the reason it was opened simply doesn't apply any more? What if it never applied and it was opened under false pretences?. Whatever the embassy was opened for, embassies today are supposed to do some sort of consular or trade work. This embassy does neither, so today, it can be closed. There may be an argument for some other entity to exist to take its place, but that entity would not be an embassy.
Mark, we agree that the embassy should be closed, and that Stand Up’s arguments for keeping it open do not hold water.

(We may, however, disagree on the reasons why it should be closed. The claim that embassies today are expected to do consular and trade work is demonstrably false; we have several embassies that do neither, but all (apart from the Holy See) have survived the review. But all of this is irrelevant to the main point of this thread.)

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You clearly aren't stupid Peregrinus, so why are you sayign stupid things. As I said above: "Its quite clear that the website is implying that the 87% RC in Ireland want the embassy open (they claim they will all benefit, implying they all want it, whether they realise it or not)."
You go around telling us that a claim that someone will benefit from something is a claim that they want that thing “whether they realize it or not”, and you think I’m being stupid?

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The survey shows quite clearly religious labels don't reflect peoples belief properly at all, but the continued patronage of schools by religious organisation is based on the assumption that it does (you yourself keep saying that people want catholic schools based purely on their census religion mislabel).
I don’t accept that Catholic patronage of schools is based on assumptions about peoples beliefs. The usual justification put forward for Catholic patronage rests not on “beliefs” but on “ethos”, which is a much broader concept.

But there is also the point that, to the extent that people do have a preference for Catholic schools, the reason why they have that preference may be of lesser importance. To the extent that census religious identification is in fact correlated with school preference, it is useful and relevant information. You don’t need to make any assumptions about “beliefs” to justify gathering the data.

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Which just begs the question, how does the government justify religious involvement in state affairs (church patronage of schools etc) if not with the census?
They do use the census. They just don’t have to make any assumptions about “beliefs” to do so. They merely observe a correlation.

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If you want more, how about the law restricting the sale of alcohol on Good Friday?
Yes, if you can find someone quoting the census data in support of a claim that the Irish people, or most of them, think drinking on Good Friday is wrong and should be banned, that would be a relevant example.

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How about the oaths of office for judges, members of the council of state and the president in Ireland still refers to god, despite being critised in 1993 by the UN and recommendations for secular oaths being made in 1996. How about the Blasphemy law.
Those too, if you can point to people using the census data to argue that the Irish people hold beliefs which these laws support and protect.

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Originally Posted by Mark Hamill View Post
All of these are justified with the notion that Ireland is a Catholic nation, itself justified by the census data, which itself has been shown to be flawed by Dawkin's survey.
Nitpick: Dawkins’ survey relates to the UK. While I expect an Irish survey would show something somewhat similar, the claim that Dawkins’ survey shows anything about Ireland is much more egregiously wrong than any of the misuses of the Irish census data that you have been pointing to.

Larger point: If the RDF survey did relate to Ireland and had results analgous to the UK results, it wouldn’t show that Ireland “was not a Catholic nation”. What it would show is that, despite not necessarily sharing all Catholic beliefs or participating regularly in worship, most of the Irish people do consider themselves Catholics and do identify with the Catholic church. This would lead to an improved understanding of what it means to be “a Catholic nation” (or, it would lead to an improved understanding if we didn’t already know this).

Your key problem is that, because Catholic identification doesn’t mean what you think it ought to mean, therefore you assume that it doesn’t mean anything. I don’t think many people will go along with you on that.

Last edited by Peregrinus; 23-02-2012 at 02:58.
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23-02-2012, 12:22   #43
Mark Hamill
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Originally Posted by Peregrinus View Post
In the Catholic church’s self-understanding, being a Catholic cannot be reduced to subscribing to a particular set of beliefs. Being a Catholic is a participating in a relationship with a community; shared faith is one, but only one, dimension of that relationship.

And Catholicism is not unusual in this regard; various religions have different ways of understanding themselves, but only a few - mostly Protestant Christian denominations - would say that religious character and identify is a matter of faith and nothing else.

Just because shared faith isn't the only criteria doesn't mean it isn't a necessary criteria. Different religions may have other criteria on top of belief, they may even hold to these criteria as much as the criteria of belief, but belief is still a necessary criteria for all of them. The only ones who deny this are the ones who realise that political power comes from the label regardless of whether the belief is actually there. But that level of dishonesty doesn't make the label, without belief, in any way valid.
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Tell that to the Jews!
Judaism is a special case, as jews are an ethnic group as well as a religious group. Saying how the ethnic group doesn't require belief, doesn't excuse the religious group from having belief. You don't to beleive in jewish doctrine to be an ethnic jew (its genetic) but you do if you want to be a religious jew. There are no other ethnic religions.
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Originally Posted by Peregrinus View Post
Religious labels are useful; we use them all the time. Your assumption that the only use is to identify religious belief seems to me to be completely arbitrary, and at variance with easily-observed realities. I don’t see you advancing either argument or evidence in support of your position.
FFS, Are you trolling? Seriously now. Its arbitrary to point out that labels have a function? That labels have specific uniform meanings, meant to tell us something? That if you start letting people use whatever labels they feel like, regardless of whether they apply or even understand them or not, you get the situation where you can't say why they have chosen the label, based purely on the label itself? What do you think labels are for?
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Originally Posted by Peregrinus View Post
Because they’re not only interested in that. School preference is just one of a wide range of public policy issues in relation to which it is helpful to have data on religious identification. Back in post #25 I quoted what the ONS said about this; do you think they were lying?
But if religious identification is not based on an uniform definition of each specific label, then you can't say why people actually identified as a particular label and therefore can't use the label to infer their desired public policies. Your survey proves this - it shows that people had a wide range of reasons to label as catholic, none of which you can quantify from the overall amount of people who labelled as catholic.
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Originally Posted by Peregrinus View Post
They don’t say anything as simplistic as “everyone who ticks Catholic on the census wants a Catholic school” (or, at least, I see no reason to assume that they say that). They just observe from experience that the extent to which parents in a community express a preference for Catholic schools is related in a meaningful way to the proportion of that community which identifies as Catholic, and therefore data on the latter is useful to have when planning for the former.
Another contradiction. They dont say "catholic = want catholic schools", they say "Catholic = very, very likely to want catholic schools".
Besides, it would be in the states interest to know why people want catholic schools, which it can't from a survey where the answer is arbitrarily chosen by the citizen. Do people want catholic schools because they actually follow catholic doctrine (and therefore want more services tied to catholic doctrine)? Or do people want catholic schools because they perform better (usually because they discriminate against against lower performing students attempting admission under the guise of their "catholic ethos" or they simply have more money from higher admission fees)?
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But you’re still not offering any argument or evidence that religious labels point primarily to belief. Common experience suggests otherwise. In fact, the RDF survey is pretty powerful evidence that you are wrong.
If you are going to continue to ignore what I actually said, I'm not interested in talking to you. I have never said that religious labels point primarily to belief, I said "I am asserting that the proper critieria for any label, at all, is satisfying the criteria that label requires.". There are religions that also and equally require actions with their belief to satisfy their label. But belief is always a criteria. Otherwise the label of religious belief doesn't actually tell anyone what religious doctrine people believe in.

And the RDF survey just shows that most common people understand religious labels as well as they understand the idea of a scientific theory (have you ever heard anyone say, in relation to a scientific field, "it's just a theory" as if that was somehow a negative?).
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23-02-2012, 13:25   #44
Mark Hamill
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Stop digging, Mark!
digging? I fell into a hole already dug before I got to the site. Seriously, if you think that the makers of the website weren't making such an implication, then you are far more naive than I thought, and I question the point of discussing something that clearly is over your head.
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Originally Posted by Peregrinus View Post
You go around telling us that a claim that someone will benefit from something is a claim that they want that thing “whether they realize it or not”, and you think I’m being stupid?
Yes, and I'm beginning to think its on purpose. Why would they mention the percentage if they weren't making the implication? The website is claiming that catholics benefit from the embassy and the obvious counter claim is that many people would not have even realised there was an embassy, or what it was actually for. The counter to that is that all catholics in ireland (hence 87% was even mentioned) will benefit regardless of whether they realise it, and who doesn't want benefits.
Seriously, if you don't see that, well then I have a rock to sell you that will keep all poisonous and dangerous animals away from you, it has 100% success rate here in Ireland so I'm sure it will work in Australia.
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Originally Posted by Peregrinus View Post
I don’t accept that Catholic patronage of schools is based on assumptions about peoples beliefs. The usual justification put forward for Catholic patronage rests not on “beliefs” but on “ethos”, which is a much broader concept.
Except its not. Oh, the schools like to claim that it is, but all "ethos" is is the word for when you get to force your religious-based discrimination as a matter of company policy. Its entirely based on religious beliefs.
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But there is also the point that, to the extent that people do have a preference for Catholic schools, the reason why they have that preference may be of lesser importance. To the extent that census religious identification is in fact correlated with school preference, it is useful and relevant information. You don’t need to make any assumptions about “beliefs” to justify gathering the data.
Are you honestly saying that why people want something is less important than them saying they do want it? What if people are wrong about why they want something? ie what if they are attributing something to an environment that is actually a result of something else entirely. How would you ever know? This is laughable moronic.
Ok, you have one more chance. Between you attempts to redefine the word and use for for "label", you are straying into the level of reality denying that is normally reserved by J C or the tabloid media and if it continues, then this conversation is over.
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Originally Posted by Peregrinus View Post
They do use the census. They just don’t have to make any assumptions about “beliefs” to do so. They merely observe a correlation.
But the census doesn't tell them that correlation. It only tells them religious belief (or its supposed to). The correlation is apparent to us because we have seen other surveys which indicate it, but if the government need to use outside surveys to justify major policies like school patronage, then it points to a massive problem with the census.
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Yes, if you can find someone quoting the census data in support of a claim that the Irish people, or most of them, think drinking on Good Friday is wrong and should be banned, that would be a relevant example.
Maybe its because you live in Australia that you didn't hear the noise about pubs wanting to open for a rugby match on Good Friday in 2010. Many politicians, were against the opening of the opening of the pubs describing a Good Friday rugby match as "odd and wrong" in a land "impregnated with Christian symbolism", and lamenting the lack of respect for “the crucifixion of the Good Lord”. Their justification for the legislative ban was the notion of Ireland being catholic (a notion others have justified by census data) and therefore
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Those too, if you can point to people using the census data to argue that the Irish people hold beliefs which these laws support and protect.
This is pretty hard to considering there are no official responses to these problems. Thats not to say there aren't politicians willing to claim that ireland is a Christian country and this justifies discriminative christain doctrine influencing law, Lucinda Creighton, amongst others supports IrelandStandUp. (David Cameron also recently called Britain a christian country and should use the bible as a moral compass)
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Originally Posted by Peregrinus View Post
Nitpick: Dawkins’ survey relates to the UK. While I expect an Irish survey would show something somewhat similar, the claim that Dawkins’ survey shows anything about Ireland is much more egregiously wrong than any of the misuses of the Irish census data that you have been pointing to.
Dawkin's survey shows that when religious labelling becomes arbitrary as opposed to defined (which you claim is applies to Ireland as well as the UK), you can no longer infer anything from religious labelling.
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Originally Posted by Peregrinus View Post
Larger point: If the RDF survey did relate to Ireland and had results analgous to the UK results, it wouldn’t show that Ireland “was not a Catholic nation”. What it would show is that, despite not necessarily sharing all Catholic beliefs or participating regularly in worship, most of the Irish people do consider themselves Catholics and do identify with the Catholic church. This would lead to an improved understanding of what it means to be “a Catholic nation” (or, it would lead to an improved understanding if we didn’t already know this).
Acually, it shows the very opposite. The census shows us that 80% of people label as catholic, the survey shows us that only 28% of that 80% do that because they follow the churches teachings. That means that 72% label as catholic despite not following the churches teachings. That means that only 22.4% of the entire population actually considers the church as their reason for labelling as catholic, but with your method, this number jumps to 80% of the entire population. Do you see now, how ludicrous it is to suggest that you can get any meaningful data from a census if the labels can be set according to the arbitrary definition the people answering may have? The only reason we can see how few people actually do identify with the church itself is because of an entirely separate, non-government study. The only ones who benefit from this are the church, who get to claim quadruple the support they actually have.
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Originally Posted by Peregrinus View Post
Your key problem is that, because Catholic identification doesn’t mean what you think it ought to mean, therefore you assume that it doesn’t mean anything. I don’t think many people will go along with you on that.
My problem is the religious organisations bastardising a word in order to fool people into labelling themselves as something they clearly aren't, something many of them actually actively disagree with, purely to increase the influence of said religious organisation.
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24-02-2012, 07:57   #45
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Mark, there’s a huge gap in your reasoning. Remember, what I have asked for here is examples of someone using the Irish census data in a way which the RDF survey - assuming its results to be broadly applicable to Ireland - shows to be unjustified.

What we’ve got here is an instance of Stand Up using the Irish census data in support of a claim that the Irish people would benefit from the maintenance of a resident embassy to the Holy See.

Now, you and I agree that the Irish census data does not support the claim made here. But that’s not the issue; the issue is whether the RDF survey data shows that it doesn’t. And, as far as I can see, your argument is this:

1. The Stand Up website contains an explicit claim that the maintenance of the embassy would benefit the Irish people.

2. This is an implicit claim that the Irish people want the embassy maintained (even if they don’t know that they want it).

3. The RDF survey data shows that they don’t want it.

I’ve already quibbled with point 2. I’m not sure that I understand the notion wanting something but having no idea that you want it. I think you’d have to unpack that a bit. I can’t speak for Galvasean, but when said in post #31 that Standup were “implying that said 80 odd percent wanted the Vatican embassy reopened” I’m not sure that he had that sense of “want” in mind. I think his point was that Standup were implying that the Irish people must consciously want the embassy maintained because self-identified Catholics would definitely want that, wouldn’t they?

But it’s time now to focus on point 3. The problem we have here is that, just as the Irish census doesn’t ask people what they believe, so the RDF survey doesn’t ask them what they want in this regard (in any sense of “want”). And if it is improper to leap from the census figures to claims about what the Irish people believe, or how often they go to church, how can it be proper to leap from the RDF data about what they don’t believe, and don’t do by way of church attendance, to what they “want” in relation to the Vatican embassy?

If we criticise those who claim that the census data shows things which it does not in fact show, we expose ourselves to derision - to put it no higher - if we immediately move on to claim that the RDF data shows things which in fact it does not show. The plain truth is that it doesn’t show what people want about the Vatican embassy, or pubs on Good Friday, or religious oaths for witnesses, or a host of similar public policy issues, because people weren’t asked about those things. (They were asked about school patronage and, predictably support for church schools was more closely correlated with religious identification than with belief in the teachings of a religion.)

What the survey does show is a considerable diversity of religious belief and religious practice among those who self-identify as “religious”, much of it unorthodox or unobservant from the point of view of their chosen religious identification. And that’s an effective refutation of any claim, explicit or implicit, that people overwhelming hold orthodox beliefs in line with their religious identification, or are observant in line with their identification. But, of course, we knew that already.

And we’re not the only ones. Pretty well everybody who’s not delusional knows this, and it has been confirmed by previous research. And for this very reason, the claims which the RDF survey would effectively debunk are claims which are not advanced very often. Which is why I think, to some extent, the RDF survey, comprehensive as it is, interesting as it is, is attacking something of a straw man.

If we attempt to confer greater relevance or significance on the RDF survey by claiming that it shows things on which, in truth, it has no data, but we assume a correlation with the data that it has, we commit the very error that we are suppose to be correcting.

The RDF survey does show one very interesting thing; it shows that people’s religious idenfication is quite a complex matter. Comparatively few people identify as belonging to this or that religion purely by “ticking the boxes” of what they have come to believe at this point in their lives against the creedal statements of a denomination. Again, we (mostly) knew this already, but the survey does cast some light on the variety of factors which influences religious identification.

But, it has to be said, more light could have been cast. The survey prompts people with a list of possible reasons for their religious identification, inviting them to tick all that apply, and then inviting them to identify the primary reason. But there are some conspicuous omissions from the list. If people feel an ethnic affiliation to their religion - and, in the UK, this would be a factor with a number of religions - they have no opportunity to say so. If people’s religious identification is influenced by a desire for fellowship or community participation - and, again, my instinct is that this would be a factor - they don’t get to say so. People are asked about church attendance, but they are not asked about observing any other precepts associated with their chosen religious identification. They’re not asked to what extent their religious identification rests on values shared with the religion concerned. And so forth.

I started this thread, and it was I who chose the title “what does census religious identification mean?” But the more I look at it, the more I think the survey doesn’t really answer that question. What this survey does is to tell us - or confirm to us - some of the things that religious identification doesn’t mean.

Dawkins, I think, shares your assumption that religious identification should mean belief, and that it is somehow invalidated if it doesn’t. Hence the survey is mainly directed to exploring the connection between religion and belief (and church attendance). But I don’t share that assumption, and I’m much more interested in knowing what religious identification does mean that in knowing that it doesn’t mean what someone else thinks it should.
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