This conversation is closed.

I'm not an American, so explain to me the split in the American society... PLEASE!

One half of American society builds telescopes and rockets and puts men on the moon and probes on other planets, like Mars. They look at DNA and stem cell research, try to cure cancer and generally endeavour to improve the lot of humanity using science and logical thinking... in general.

The other group (again, in general) believe that the earth was created in six days, that fossils are less than 6000 years old, and that they're the bones of animals killed in 'The Flood' (sent by God to wipe out wicked humans a while back). These same people, or some of them at least think that if we cut down all the trees, Jesus will come again. I'm fairly sure that some of them would like to go to church on Sundays, then play 'hunt the witch' the next week, then have a court trial like the Salem Witch Trials and maybe burn someone by Saturday night at the latest, go to church Sunday and have the whole thing start over again.

This might seem like a sick joke and offensive to some people, but this really is, 'honest to God', genuinely how a lot of the world see 'Modern America' and Americans.

Deep breath... Think about what I've just said... Now tell me how a modern country like the USA is so divided in the way I've described, and whilst it's modern, and a 'World Leader' in so many ways, it also has people with some crazy beliefs.

Surely the education system has something to answer for, but central government must also have let this happen. This has always been mind-blowing to me, and a complete mystery at the same time. It's like Star Trek meets The Lord Of The Rings.

Help me.... someone?!

  • thumb
    Jan 20 2014: Dave,
    I do not know where you are from but, you need to stop watching TV or reading on the internet. Half of the 320,000,000 Americans are not involved in great scientific processes like rocket surgery or brain science. And the other half does not spend their lives in some sort of belief of creation in 6 days or burning witches at the stake. By the way if memory serves, it wasn't Americans that did that, it was English speaking Europeans living in what was to become America some hundred years or so later, but I digress.
    Most Americans are like the people in your country, They have jobs to go too, butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, their families, and yes, many go to worship on Saturday or Sunday. Now in the 320 million of us, are there a few nuts? Absolutely. And if I read the internet and watch TV, there are a few nuts in other parts of the world too.
    So, why are you painting this situation with such a broad brush? But, you did have some insight into the USA when you spoke of education and the central government.. In the last 50 years or so, the central government has taken a turn to a more socialistic ideology and has managed to pretty much destroy one of the best public education systems of our time.
    • Jan 20 2014: Why do I paint with such a broad brush? Maybe because I can't look at all of the 320,000,000 Americans individually.

      Whilst it would be easy to blame media for a distorted view of America, Americans, and many other things, some things are just fact, such as the comments of Rick Perry whilst he was Texas Governor campaigning for Presidential nomination on evolution and creation. Why did 3 out of 4 Republican candidates for the post of Texas Lieutenant Governor last December state that they wanted Creationism taught in schools in Texas?

      This isn't something you can blame solely on media. In this case media have only reported what these candidates said. These candidates get voted to high office and presumably already have significant positions of some importance in Texas already.

      I find it hard to understand why these sorts of people get voted into any kind of public office, which is partly the reason for the original question. Do Americans just ignore some of the more bizarre religious beliefs of candidates, or do beliefs in things like creationism actually increase a candidate's chance of election success? It would appear that a belief in creationism increases the chances of selection/election success, or why would so many candidates hold such views?

      It's been said that nobody could get elected to President of the United States of America without expressing a Christian faith and going to church. Can you give an example of a President or Presidential candidate who said that they weren't a Christian? I have no idea what the answer is... but I can guess. Maybe you'll surprise me!
      • thumb
        Jan 20 2014: OK Dave,
        Let's talk about specifics... I live in Texas and Gov. Perry is my governor. And he ran for President and his comments were reported. Further, Texas is about 13% of the US population... not half, although most Texans think we should be, but I digress.
        First, you have to understand that there are about a dozen different cultural areas of American. Texas is part of the MezoAmerican culture. MezoAmerica is a very strong Christian culture, so creationism is part of that culture. The education question came to being because of Federal law about religious teachings in public schools. Texas parents on the whole would like creationism taught in school. How to do that was the question, you also have to know that most main Christian religions hold creationism as a philosophical topic.
        As an aside, if you count the 6 days of creation as a couple of billion years for each day, it does sort of follow the timeline from the science of evolution...
        Anyway, the strict evolutionist who use the bible as a direct history are very vocal but small minority of Texans,
        So, our governor's comments, I heard them too as a Texan. I saw the reports as you did as a "world citizen". What did I learn? With judgmental editing and emphatic commentary, you can make Mother Teresa sound like the wicked witch of the west.
        If you don't understand the references... use google.
        Now would Governor Perry have made a good President? Don't know, but he wouldn't have been any worse then the one we elected. Perry did mange to get Texas though the recent US economic dilemma, His record on illegal immigration is unsteady, as mezoamericans, we are not so emphatic about people coming over for a better job, but the human trafficking, drug running and associated crimes do not make us happy with the lack of preventive action by the Federal government. The Feds seem to be reactive rather then pro-active in this issue. So, again, you been watching to much opinionated TV. Sorry, Dave!
        • Jan 20 2014: Hi Mike,

          Happy to talk specifics too, though I may paraphrase from time to time and not be able to cover much due to character limit. Sorry!

          First day, God created the earth, light and dark, and separated them and called them night and day.

          Second day, God created heavens (sky?)

          Third day, god gets really busy separating the land and sea and with grass, seed bearing plants, fruit trees, etc.

          Fourth day, god decides the sky's a little dark, so decides to put some stars up there. God then made the sun and the moon, though he seems to imply that the moon is a lesser light, not just a big lump of rock reflecting the sun's light during the night, but I guess Bronze Age man was pretty simple, so God decided to make it easy to understand, which I can really understand.

          Fifth day, God decided to get busy with the fish and birds.

          Sixth day, God created land animals and man.

          Now, from what I remember, the universe started with the creation of matter, stars, etc. Earth came a lot later, so the bible seems to have made a bit of a mistake there. The way I remember it, the earth would surely have been wiped out by the 'Big Bang' but some people don't believe in that, and all the evidence of background infra-red radiation and all those other scientific measurements we can take, so I we'll just skip that bit.

          But hang on, if God created grass (and all those other plants) before the sun, how did the grass grow (maybe for billions of years, if you don't take the bible literally, but say that a day is figurative and actually a couple of billion years or so). Maybe God was a 'glow-in-the-dark' God, who kept the grass growing while he was busy making the sun. Pretty sure the sun came first, but never mind, we can't be too specific and picky about these things. Then God made the ... You know what, I'm actually beginning to doubt that this 'God' guy even knows what he's talking about. He just doesn't seem to know what he's talking about and everything's out of order!
  • thumb
    Jan 17 2014: Dave, Everyone is crazy but me and thee ... and I have my doubts about thee. LOL

    You make some giant assumptions .. that people of science and logical thinking attempting to help society cannot be religious. They can be and are in many cases. That all religions are on a witch hunt ... and are some kind of kooks.

    I do not buy either as a blanket rule. Those are generalizations like red heads love to fight, blonds have more fun, etc ...

    The Colonists sought freedom from the tyranny of the King and religious freedom and left England to find it in the Americas. Here is is alright to be a believer or a non-believer. The laws apply equally to both.

    I would more readily think that the world judges America on its political agenda, diplomatic relations, economic impact, drug culture, and the ugly American tourists. I receive many political cartoons from people that show our President with the caption "the Prince of Fools" and other unflattering labels. I do not see cartoons of Christians killing scientists.

    Do we have some crazy beliefs .. yep. Do we have some mad scientists ... yep ... that happens everywhere.

    Your argument is very critical of the USA .... don't we have anything here you like?
    • Jan 17 2014: Robert,

      America is a wonderful place, but for one thing... the Americans! ;0)

      I'm not making assumptions so much as generalisations, for what I hope are obvious reasons.

      Those 'of faith' often do good things. I'm not denying that at all and I'm sorry if that was the impression that I gave.

      Seriously, I don't have a problem with most religious people in any country, just the ones who are most irrational and strident in their beliefs and wish to dictate policy to others. The reacted attempts by creationists to get creation taught in mainstream schools is one example. I realise they are a minority, but that to my mind makes it even more worrying.

      Whilst I believe in religious freedom I do worry at times that religion can and has been used to get some good people to do some pretty terrible things, though I understand that this isn't the norm, at least in peace time.

      There are many scientists who believe in 'God', but they are getting fewer, from what I remember about the statistics, less strident, and usually separate their science from religious beliefs. Scientists seem at least as able as the rest of the population to hold two or more conflicting views in their heads as any one time.

      I think that there are mad and illogical people everywhere, and as mentioned before, the media seems to have a lot to answer for, as they appear to give more credence and air time to the illogical than they surely should, or would possibly be given in some other countries.

      Colonists weren't just running from England and the king. Mostly they ran from religious persecution usually carried out by other faith groups, often just other sects of the same religion.

      There's much I do like about America, but it also seems to be a country of extremes, extreme beliefs and attitudes, and is often perplexing. Trying to understand why this is was the reason for my initial question. It wasn't designed with criticism in mind, though raising a contentious issue often gets the talk going.
      • thumb
        Jan 17 2014: Dave, I was in England not to long ago and was told that the Brits had everything under control in WWII and the bloody Yanks had to butt in.

        Guess we all have our people with issues.

        Sorry you worry so much about this ... it really is a non-issue. I stand behind my thought that the political and diplomatic images are a far great impression and concern. We are 17 trillion in debit, unemployment is rampant, and the economy is in the gutter while we are pissing off all of our friends and allies .... now that should be of concern to all of us.

        Cheers. Bob.
        • Jan 17 2014: Yes, I know it was a "joke" ... I didn't find it amusing. Let him joke about his own countrymen.
      • Comment deleted

        • thumb
          Jan 17 2014: Chris, See the smiley face .... he was joking with me. When I was in England there was a constant back and forth between the Brits and the Yanks. Most were in good fun ... some not.
        • Jan 17 2014: Robert,

          It's not unusual for Americans not to get our humour, in fact it's sort of a joke all in itself. Like our two nations being separated by a common language, etc. Glad you got it though!

          I seem to have upset Chris, judging by his last three posts, one of which seemed to be a rather incoherent rant/sermon. I don't think he likes my views, but seems to have some rather strange ones of his own that I really don't think are worth addressing, but people can make up their own minds. I'm not even going to attempt to reason with him. Seems there'd be little point.
      • Comment deleted

  • thumb
    Jan 14 2014: Dave, American society is not just divided into two groups. Americans are way more sophisticated and complicated than the impressions of some people abroad. There are many shades of gray between black and white, intelligent and not, creative and not, entrepreneurial and not, liberal and conservative, Democratic and Republican, good and bad.

    If you want to see the most diverse people on Earth, come to America.
    • Jan 14 2014: I think the point that somebody else made that seemed to explain what I have observed about America best is that some rather strange people get way too much media coverage and a little too much respect for some pretty crackpot ideas.

      In Britain, for instance, they'd be laughed at, in general. They wouldn't get air time on TV or space in any mainstream newspaper, and they definitely wouldn't be allowed to influence school curriculums.
  • thumb
    Jan 13 2014: Creationists and Christian fundamentalists get far much more than their share of news coverage, Dave, because the hysteria makes for a good story. The fact is, most Christians, like myself don't believe in either creationism or fundamentalism. Most Christians, again, like myself believe in evolution to one degree or another, and certainly do NOT believe the Earth is only 6000 years old.
  • Comment deleted

    • Jan 22 2014: Is it me, or did you make a point, then contradict that point, all in your first sentence?

      I think that it's reasonable to make certain general assumptions about people based on where they live, whilst acknowledging that those assumptions will be just that... generalisations about the population, which when looked at more specifically and in finer detail will be shown to not fit with every member of the population in question.
    • thumb
      Jan 22 2014: I disagree with everything you said there lilly, here's why!
      For a start, whilst I do not encourage it, you cannot ignore the useful aspects of 'bunching' people under a flag. Its a step in the ladder, thousands of years ago we were fighting with 'the alien others' who were most probably on the other side of the hill... groups of atruistic humans were in groups of miniscule size, what happened? Well religion was a good start, so all jewish individuals start looking at one another as 'friendly' or if you like (I do... so we're going with this) a member of an extended family, similarly to all Christians seeing one another in such a way and so on. However back then there was a lot of religions going about, variations etc. So whats the next level of bringing people together, countries!
      So people get together under a flag and say 'hey we believe in similar stuff and generally like each other'. Now dont get me wrong, the gentleman who initiated this discussion has the impression that this is not the case with America, he might be right, he might be wrong. I don't know enough to say. However banding people together as nations seems necessary to me.
      As for the whole 'slaves to our electrical....blah blah' paragraph, you seem to have a skewed view on nature... as if it were conspiring to keep spawning problems for us to tackle, to continue selection.
      Lets clarify, we humans are pretty damn good at solving problems, most resources can run out because by the time they do, we will have innovated an alternative. Now I wont say things wont get bumpy along the way, because we tend to procrastinate until problems are on the verge of being too much.....but hey, we've gotten pretty far already in terms of putting ourselves in a position to solve these things. There is many more labs and scientists on earth than there was 50 years ago, let alone 100, or a 1000!
      Your third point.....I wont bother with, you seem rather cynical!!
      Hope you find your answer Dave, I would like to hear it
  • thumb
    Jan 22 2014: Dave, inspite of their flaws, Americans are, arguably, the most sophisticated, innovative, creative, and inventive people on earth: From Thomas Edison to Ford, the Wright brothers, and to the thousands of scientists, engineers, artists, writers, film directors, CEOs, and founders of some of the biggest and most successful companies on Earth; And in recent times, Bill Gates of Microsoft, the Yahoo Guys, the Google Guys, former Steve Jobs of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and on and on and on ...

    And yes, most Americans are average people holding average jobs - from doctors, to lawyers, government employees, clerks, farm workers, factory workers, street cleaners, ditch diggers, plumbers, electricians, painters, teachers, preachers, cooks, servers, and on, and on, and on, ...

    And yes, many of them go to churches, and synagogues, and temples ...but many of them have a fair understanding of Creationism and Evolution. Many have a good understanding of Astoronomy, Chemistry, Physics, and also of the Humanities and the Arts. You go to US universities, and you will be amazed at what young students are doing ... computer hardware, computer software, robots, drones name it they do it.

    America is again, arguably, the most open country in the world. You go to any major city in America, you will be amazed at the variety of cuisine - it is a fusion of every cuisine on Earth - French, German, Italian, Irish, English, Spanish, Mexican and other Latin, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, Thai, Filipino, Ethiopian, Turkish, and on, and on, and on ... This is a reflection of the varied ethnicities of people in America.

    America is not an easy country to understand. Sometimes a lifetime is not even enough. I've been living here for about twenty five years and I'm still learning.

    If there is a huge meteor that can possibly hit our planet Earth, you bet, it will the Americans who will lead the way in changing the trajectory of that meteor.
    • Jan 22 2014: Rodrigo,

      I thought it might be churlish of me to go through your post and point out that most of your examples probably aren't as good as you might have initially thought when it comes to showing the inventiveness of Americans.

      Britain, and London especially, might surprise you when it comes to multiculturalism... and food. Many people from all round the world have chosen Britain as a refuge from discrimination and oppression, even when it was easier to get asylum elsewhere. I'm not saying that America isn't multicultural, but it may not be as different from other countries as you seem to think.
  • thumb
    Jan 21 2014: Dave,
    I give credit when due, your reply shows that you have done your homework.
    Just to clarify some small points, Commonwealths and States are similes when Americans speak of "States". There are many laws in state constitutions that are "unique". I am not familiar with the ones you noted about non-religious, but unless any law is challenged in court...
    We have a law that allows execution, not of hardened criminals who have done dastardly deeds, but real innocents, and it is constitutional according to the courts.
    I used the UN as an illustration and don't be too dismissive of the UN, they can go to war, levy taxes and do a lot of activities that are "governmental " like....
    One more thing about your non religious candidate... most religious voters would not elect such a candidate... Here in Texas for example, voters will tell you "if you can't love God, how can you love your fellow man?'
    We currently have a candidate for Governor who exaggerated her troubled past to make her more appealing as a "can do" candidate.... She is toast...
    Anyway, good reply.
    • Jan 21 2014: Despite disagreeing, I loved getting your posts. Thanks for your contribution and it's really made me think. Your comments and points really widened the topic out, for me at least.

      I'm not disagreeing with you at all when I say that your comment about not voting for a no-religious candidate because they would be considered unable to love their fellow man if they can't love God. That's exactly the sort of thinking that some of us outside the US find rather confusing. It just seems so illogical.

      We too have laws that are archaic and make little sense, like not being able to carry shopping in Coventry Garden, or being able to whistle. However, if we had archaic laws that were unconstitutional and could be used to stop a democratically elected public servant from taking up their office... I'm pretty sure the law would be off the statute books and wouldn't still be around for people to use in the 21st Century. If you don 't want to change your constitution for historic reasons, just have an amendment put on the books nullifying the relevant section of the state constitution... maybe?

      I'm not trying to upset anyone by being contentious just for the sake of it, but it's a mystery to some people why there isn't more action taken by logical thinking people to help those who think less logically. I think this is probably the crux of the discussion and why the question was originally asked.

      Why do sensible people not help and educate those with ideas that are somewhat illogical, at least when it gets to affecting public policy, education, scientific research, etc.?

      I'm not sure we've found a definitive answer, but I do feel closer to understanding. Thanks again for your help!
  • thumb
    Jan 20 2014: Dave,
    I was speaking very broadly when I stated that Genesis and current Cosmology were somewhat aligned.
    Then you come back with 2000 characters of detailed explanation of how the bible and current science are not, with all the fervor of the creationists and their 6000 year old earth.
    After all that I said, you pick on a throw away line that at best was an aside?
    OK, but you seem to have concerns that are greater then American schisms and as a non American, why do you even care. Most Americans have little or no interest about what's happening in the rest of the world unless our TV reporters tell us we should. Even then it will only be a 30 second sound bite.
    • Jan 20 2014: No, you asked me to be specific and I took you at your word, so I was specific.

      As you've been so kind as to reply, I'd now like to be specific about some of the other points you raised, but firstly I'd like to say that it's a shame that Americans only (I presume you mean generally) take an interest in things outside their own country when reporters tell them that they should. How sad! You almost sound as if you agree that everyone should be insular, mind their own business, not be inquisitive, or care about anyone other than themselves and their own countrymen! I'm really not surprised that you don't understand why Americans and their attitudes fascinate me, but the more you say, the more intriguing it becomes.

      Getting back to Texas, there's no specific reason I chose it as an example other than I'd heard of Perry and his comments, so it was easy to use him/Texas as an example. As for teaching creationism because it's what 'religious Mezzo-Americans want', I'd be interested how you'd feel if teachers started to teach astrology alongside astronomy, because that's what some people want, or maybe chemistry classes can be followed by alchemy, because that's what some people want. Maths could be followed by numerology. I think we could actually have a lot of fun with this and maybe come up with some really interesting, popular subjects to teach in schools and universities... but it wouldn't really be right to do that, now would it? Why encourage crazy ideas just because a few people like the idea? Do we believe it's a good idea to encourage stupidity, however popular?

      Why do I care? I don't care what religion you are or what beliefs you hold, but I'm pretty bigoted when it comes to stupidity. Doesn't matter where, either, it's never an attractive trait in any person. Guess I can't help pointing out crazy ideas and beliefs that some people want to push. Doesn't matter where I find them, I just think stupid ideas are bad for people, and I care about people.
      • thumb
        Jan 21 2014: Sorry Dave, if I led you to believe that I wanted a definitive explanation why Genesis was not like current cosmology.
        As far as Texas goes and what they want in school curriculum, you probably didn't realize that education is a state issue. So, if New York State wants to teach numerology in their schools, we Texans are perfectly happy for them. In fact, I understand there is a school in the western part of New York State that does. What you are not understanding is the USA is a federation of 50 states not unlike the UN. Only somewhat better functioning. You have made the mistake that so many people make in thinking that we are one country. We are 50 states and by last count, a dozen distinctive cultures. Our only commonality is that we are all bound by our Constitution. There are other things, Big Macs, Starbuck Coffee, but our Constitution is the biggie.
        So, I can appreciate your concern about stupidity. It is a an incurable world wide condition. But, may I make a suggestion, before you get righteous about religious beliefs in Texas, there are so many more stupid things going on around the world of greater importance as I see it.
        • Jan 21 2014: If you make comments or statements that are completely untrue, you can't expect others to just let them 'slip under the radar' because you claim they are "throw away comments". That's why you got the explanation, not because you asked for it or wanted it. I'm pretty sure you'd have liked me to just let your statement go unchallenged.

          I quite understand that America is a federation of 46 states, and four commonwealth states, Kentucky, Virginia, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. This designation makes no legal difference to them as states, as such, but it's interesting that they call themselves Commonwealths. They're also all members of the original 15 states of America. I've digressed somewhat, but I just wanted to show at least a passing interest in the USA and it's history and demonstrate to you that I don't believe that the US starts and ends at the Texas border.

          The UN is absolutely nothing like the US federation of states. It's not a government, but a coming together of countries to, largely speaking, arbitrate disagreements and settle conflicts and started where the League of Nations had left off. It's purpose is to ensure and increase world peace, not govern. It inherited several agencies and organisations from the league.

          I don't think that I have a bad understanding of the different cultures in the US. It's probably my awareness of different cultures that makes some aspects of American culture so interesting!

          Your (US, not Texas) constitution, which, according to you "is the biggie" seems to state (big point, I think) separation between church and state. However, at least 6 states have constitutions that bar non-religious people from holding civil office and/or giving evidence in court... and these constitutions have been acted upon to try to prevent elected individuals taking up office. It's not the small number of 'crazies', but the power they wield at times without moves to limit their powers that makes the US look kinda strange at times.
  • Comment deleted

    • Jan 20 2014: I never got to talk to my grandfather about his war experiences, but my mother has told me enough to know that they weren't good, and as far as I know he never went inside a church or had any religious views. A friend's father was 16 when his New Zealand Army unit landed on a beach in Southern Europe (if I remember correctly) and as the padre blessed the soldiers and prayed with them just before they stepped out and were machine-gunned dead by the hundred, my friend's father was filled with disgust and would have nothing to do with Christians or churches after that.

      I still have one of my grandfather's leather belts. It has a rather nice steel clasp on it. It is quite ornate and has the words 'GOTT MIT UNS' (God with us) on it. I'm not sure what happened to the soldier it was issued to, but I don't think God was with him any more than anyone else. I think a lot of people in Europe, especially Britain, looked at the aftermath of WWII and everything that had happened and decided then and there that there either wasn't a God, he was powerless to do anything, or he just didn't care to. Whichever it was, he wasn't worth taking too much notice of.
  • thumb
    Jan 20 2014: I was about to say more or less what Mike just did, but he beat me to it. The split in American society isn't about scientific progress vs. Christian fundamentalism - most Americans don't think about either. The split in American thinking is between progressivism, conservatism and libertarianism.

    I wouldn't even say that most Americans are definitive progressives, conservatives or libertarians, as much as they might think they are. When it comes down to individual people and the issues, most have their own thoughts unique from the status quo. But looking at the political movements that dominate political thinking in the US today, those are the big three.
    • Jan 20 2014: Judging by the number of Congressmen who openly admit to not having any religious beliefs I think America still has a way to go along the path towards progressivism, but that's just my opinion. Some might think that America is progressive enough already?
      • thumb
        Jan 20 2014: I don't mean progressive in the context of scientific progress, or even in a vague concept of progress. I mean Progressive as in the American incarnation of the movement, which came to be characterized by FDR's New Deal. The crux of the American progressive movement is that a better society can be achieved through government programs. In the context of US history, it's also somewhat a continuation of the Federalism vs anti-Federalism debate - government programs mean more government, which libertarians and conservatives often resist.

        Crash Course provides some good crash courses, though with a bit of a left-leaning bias:

        Progressive Era -
        Progressive Presidents -
        Rise of Conservativism -

        It has really, really little to do with science and religion. That most Americans describe themselves as religious is no surprise, but the two groups most concerned with the Science vs Religion debate, militant atheists and fundamentalist Creationists, are both incredible minorities. Most Americans believe in God, less may think of themselves as religious, and far less weave it into their political views. American politics is much more about the rise of the Welfare/Warfare state, and its implications on the economy, individual freedom and the power of the government.
  • Comment deleted

    • Jan 19 2014: Interesting theory, so... why are there atheists? Why does America have 50% more theists than Britain? Has Britain found a way of immunising or inoculating at least some of it's population against theism?

      I understand that a lot about why religions survive is because of peer pressure, especially within families, but I'm just not convinced that your points explain everything we see. Even if everything you said is true, it doesn't explain differences between populations.
  • Comment deleted

    • Jan 19 2014: I think we've done some scientific research since Linnaeus in the 1700s and improved greatly on his work. As for science being a religion, it clearly isn't, and I'm not sure that it's worth trying to explain that if you don't understand it already. As for neuroscience, as with all science, theories are put forward, either stand up to scrutiny using present-day knowledge and understanding... or don't, and they are then expanded on and improved upon (or disproved) as time passes and knowledge and understanding increases.

      I'm not sure what point you wished to make, exactly, but science is different from religion in one significant way. It has no dogma as such in any area or field and new discoveries and knowledge constantly add to or change previous concepts, theories and beliefs about us, the world around us, and our universe. Scientists constantly look to find the new, re-evaluate the old, and expand and change what we know. Theologians in general seek to reaffirm the old, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and ignore much new evidence placed before them that they find uncomfortable and do not agree with.

      Maybe I should just ask you outright... on what basis do you think science is a religion? What constitutes a religion anyway, in your opinion?
  • thumb
    Jan 17 2014: Religion for some of us is just not believable but does propose to offer an afterlife that others hang their hat on. Science has discovered that all is not what is seems. That and using my imagination I can think of several possibilities that offer a more believable afterlife then what was written over 2000 years ago.
  • Comment deleted

    • Jan 17 2014: "One nation, under God, " etc. and "In God we trust" ... aren't they unconstitutional? Isn't there supposed to be a separation between religion and state? This doesn't help non-Americans see Americans as particularly rational and logical. Sort of part of the reason I asked the question in the first place. Americans do seem rather illogical at times, and religion does seem to get a foothold occasionally, even where it's constitutionally not supposed to go. I didn't ask the question to be deliberately rude, but to get some insight into, amongst other things, the American psyche. I apologise if it's cause some people discomfort of any kind!

      I'm very aware that there are many religions in America, as other countries. In general though, I think Christianity is and always has been the predominant religion. 73-80% of Americans profess some Christian faith, 20% profess no religious beliefs, with Jews, Buddhists, Moslems and others making up about 4% (according to the American Religious Identification Survey 2008). I don't imagine that the statistics have changed vastly in the last few years.

      As has been pointed out before (I'm pretty sure by others before me, so I can't take credit for this) many scientists believe that there is or may be a deity. However, many of these deists are not theists and have no belief in any specific God or religious beliefs.

      I'm not sure that America would crumble should American's faith in God decrease, though there appear to be some who would have you believe this.
  • thumb
    Jan 17 2014: well, someone can be a fundamentalist Christian and still appreciate cures for cancer or work on computers. My brother is a Stanford graduate computer programmer, yet he still believes many of the basic timeworn Christian beliefs. I think sometimes Christians don't look at their beliefs too hard, they know it makes them feel good, they can still function fine in the world, so they're okay with it. A lot of jobs your fundamental values don't really intrude, you're just measuring indisputable facts, like if you're an astronomer you might just measure how big a star is or how far too stars are from each other, but you might not comment on how the stars came to exist.

    some who believe the earth was created in six days will tell you that a day to god is not the same as a day to us, god's day could be longer.

    Personally I don't understand religion. The beliefs seem silly, but it seems to me that religious people do a great deal of good in the world, that religion holds people up and helps them through life. I wish I understood how what seems like a false belief can help people so much?
    • Jan 18 2014: Yes, some scientists can be very illogical at times.

      When I worked for a pharmaceutical company a woman was forever mentioning her diet. One day I questioned why she was spreading huge amounts of honey on her bread. She replied that it wasn't fattening like sugar... it was 'natural'. She had been the head of the microbiology department at the large site I worked at and was well qualified as a scientist.

      I have other examples of scientists being very competent within their field, and quite irrational at times outside of it, but as any psychologist will tell you, we have a great capacity to separate and compartmentalise things in our heads. It often leads to some crazy contradictions being held therein!

      As for false beliefs helping people, it's been said "If you think you can, or think you can't, you're usually right! People usually accomplish more if they believe in something, than if they don't, regardless of whether there's any truth to what they believe in.
      • thumb
        Jan 18 2014: well, then, you started this convo as a question about americans, dave, but it seems like you might be saying there's something of a split where you live, too? Maybe there's a split around the world?

        Yeah, I don't get that, if you're following a false belief you show know it somewhere inside yourself and become quickly discouraged?
        • Jan 18 2014: Although there may be a 'split' everywhere, there doesn't seem to be so much credence given to those with crazy ideas here in Britain.

          I'm not sure if anyone's done a poll of how many people in Britain believe that the sun goes around the earth, but I know the question's been asked for several years in the US. It would be interesting to see what the split in understanding (or not) is here compared to the US.

          Am I following a false belief? I'd say it's more a perception that I have that I'm exploring to see if I can find out more information, rather than a belief, as such.

          I'm not sure why you'd conclude that I might become discouraged, quickly or otherwise.
      • thumb
        Jan 19 2014: Well, I don't know. I haven't been to Britain, or traveled much at all, so it's hard for me to say how much credence is given. But is religion still important in Britain, the big marriage between Prince William and Kate Middleton still took place under the auspices of the church?

        I don't know that so much credence is given to crazy ideas here in the U.S. I would say it is tolerated. Possibly it is because Americans work really hard, maybe under the stress of working hard your mind does sometimes drift into crazy channels, like believing in flying saucers. But there could be a silver lining, how many successful movies have been built around flying saucers, if a country tolerates some craziness perhaps the craziness inspires the country's artists?

        No, Dave, I didn't mean you, Dave Day, are following a false belief. I was talking about religion, you were saying how people get inspired even by following a false belief. That's something I don't understand, I would think that if following a false belief, you would get discouraged because somewhere inside you would know it was false. To me religion is a false belief, so I don't get how it inspires people.
        • Jan 19 2014: Prince William is second in line to inherit the throne after his father, Prince Charles. As his grandmother is Queen and the head of the Church of England, he couldn't really have a quiet marriage in a Registry Office with just a few close friends and family, then the wedding breakfast at the local hotel or golf club. That and the fact that in general people like a big wedding and any excuse to gave a party.

          You mention American movies, and I can't help thinking about the rewriting of history through them, but that's a topic for another conversation.

          As for believing something false... well, it's never false, is it. God always answers prayers and does what's best for us. If the prayer doesn't get answered, we were either praying wrong or it just wasn't the best for us. If malaria kills millions of children (627,000 people killed in 2012, mainly in Africa and mainly children, but figure could be as high as 729,000 according to WHO) and we think that that's 'bad' then we just don't understand God, and he just has some grand plan that we couldn't possibly understand... or it's complete rubbish and we should just put more effort into eradicating malaria, finding a cure, etc. Whatever the best course of action, it's probably got something to do with science, medicine and hospitals, and little or nothing at all to do with building churches, praying, or any kind of God, but I understand there are those who subscribe to the other view.

          If I sound a little acerbic at all it's probably because I'm a little frustrated with some of the views put about by people of faith with regard to health and spending money on churches rather than hospitals.
      • thumb
        Jan 19 2014: well, dave, I think you thought many of the crazy beliefs in America had to do with Christianity. My point in bringing up the prince's Christian marriage is that Christianity is still powerful in Britain, so in my mind at least some Brits might have some Christian craziness. But like I say, I haven't traveled, so I don't know how much craziness there is in the world. I would have guessed that there's a fair amount everywhere, that America really isn't so different. But you think America has more, if so, perhaps it has to do with Americans being ambitious people, if you feel like you've seen a flying saucer perhaps that makes you feel important, like you're connected to something very history-making?

        I often hear people criticize religions, talking about how religions create religious wars and so on. Although I'm an atheist, I perceive that religions do a great deal of good on the planet, bringing people together for socializing, teaching many good values like love and forgiveness, helping poor people. What I don't understand is how this works, how people can follow a false belief and yet do so much good (I know, I'm repeating my question.) The best I can figure is that people don't look at their religion too closely, they take the good from it (for instance, I'm sure Jesus was a very inspiring man apart from his belief in God) and kind of overlook some of the hard-to-believe stuff?
        • Jan 19 2014: I like what you've written and asked, because it's made me do some digging. I'm personally not a fan of statistics but sometimes they can show some pretty clear differences (or similarities) between groups.

          In the USA in 1990, just 9% of Americans described themselves as having no religious affiliation. In 2013 it had risen to 20%. In a Pew Research Centre survey (conducted between Jan 2012 and March 2013) 73% said that they were Christian, 2% Jewish, and 4% were affiliated to other religions. 20% were non-religious, but only 6% were atheist or agnostic, with 14% being 'nothing in particular'. Whether this 14% were truly non-religious or not doesn't seem completely clear to me.

          The British Social Attitudes Survey says that in 1983, 68% of people had some sot of religious beliefs. In 2013 it fell to 52%. Between these two dates people describing themselves as CofE (Curch of England) fell from 40% to 20%.

          Even allowing for differences in question format, etc. the figures and differences between populations are quite stark. On 7th December 2013 there was a debate in Waco, Texas, with all 4 Republican candidates for Lieutenant Governor of Texas and 3/4 stated that creationism should be taught in schools alongside evolution. All four candidates stated that religion (Christianity) should play a larger role in education. Rick Perry, Texas Governor running for President (of the USA for goodness sake!) stated on the campaign trail that evolution had "got some gaps in it" and creationism was taught in Texas schools alongside evolution.

          To be fair to Rick Perry, the theory of evolution does have some holes in it, but not in the way he suggests. He doesn't strike me as a man who'd understand what a scientific theory was if it came up and punched him in the face.

          Our countries and politicians are vastly different. These guys wouldn't get past selection, let alone get elected to political office. I hope I've made the picture a little clearer but I'm not certain.
      • thumb
        Jan 19 2014: well, I see Rick Perry has a bachelor of science degree, so he's not completely science-ignorant: I could possibly think more Americans are religious perhaps they are more ambitious people than other countries, and religion helps them achieve their ambitions. Or maybe there's a lot of stress in American life, for example we are trying to deal with a great multiplicity of cultures, plus our ambitiousness, plus being the world leader, plus being a young nation, these are stresses and maybe being religious helps? If the people are religious most likely the leaders will be, too? I suppose people try to keep their world consistent, if they are following Christianity in their private life they will try to promote it to some degree in the public sphere?
        • Jan 19 2014: Maybe a young nation with a fair amount of insecurity might cling to irrational beliefs in an attempt to feel more secure, put more pressure on those who don't conform to the model so ensuring more people tow the line and fit in with believing in God eventually, if needing a bit of persuasion along the way? If you only have a history going back a couple hundred years or so, why not borrow from an older tradition that goes back a couple of millennia or so, even if it is irrational?

          That might actually explain it, or at least go a ways to explaining what's going on.

          As for Rick Perry, I can only assume that his qualifications didn't stretch as far as DNA, genetics, etc. I'm also assuming that he's not kept up with modern ideas in animal science, like Darwin's theory of evolution. Origin of the Species was of course written in 1859. Maybe a bit too modern for Texas, or at least Texas Governors?

          Despite having a very low opinion of some Americans I'd like to assure you that I've actually enjoyed meeting the many Americans that I've met. Not all of them seem as 'crazy' as Rick and Mitt, or George Dubbawa!
      • thumb
        Jan 19 2014: yeah, that sounds good, Dave. But then the Arabic nations are fairly frenetic about religion, and they're really old nations, so how does that square with what we are saying? They seem to be somewhat insecure nations, politically unstable?

        I would imagine Mr. Perry, and many religious people, kind of hold competing theories in their head simultaneously. They know science is strong and evidence-based, and probably have many ideas they have gotten from science; but they also know religion gives them a good feeling about life and helps them in life. I expect religious people feel what they have gotten from religion affected them more than what they have gotten from science, so Mr. Perry, for example, speaks in support of religion and just doesn't look too hard at his religious beliefs. But he has to be interested in science, too, doesn't he, he's a modern man, he knows that everything around him is partially a product of science?
        • Jan 20 2014: Arabic nations, as you call them are fairly new. Most of them didn't exist in their present forms until after the first or second world wars, or even later, and many, if not most, have seen violent regime changes over their recent pasts.

          Islam is a relatively new religion, the youngest of the three Abrahamic religions. There's an ongoing civil war (for want of a better description) similar to the old Roman Catholic/Protestant wars that occurred in Europe for so long. The first and second world wars pretty much taught everyone in Europe that religion isn't worth fighting for, and judging by the outcomes for both sides, there probably isn't a god anyway, at least not one that cares and takes an active role in people's lives.

          Islamists fight along sectarian lines as much as any national ones. They just don't seem to have learnt the lessons yet that Christians have. Moslems might disagree with my analysis, but the Pope hasn't encouraged any Catholic countries recently to go and invade a Protestant one. The same cannot be said of many Moslem religious leaders who promote fighting in sectarian wars.

          One of my concerns is that Moslems fleeing conflict will spread the very conflict from the areas they're fleeing to the places that they at present consider 'safe'. In Britain several secular values are being chipped away at by those with religious beliefs that they want to be put before secular values. In my view the safest place for anyone with religious beliefs is a secular society. It's tempting to suggest that anyone wishing to take up political office should disavow themselves from any religious affiliation, to better serve their constituents and country, but I think a lot of people would object to that. Personally, if I was say, Jewish or Moslem, I'd rather someone with no religious values spoke for me in government. Someone with no religious favouritism or prejudice.

          If Perry can't decide between science and religion, how can he make political decisions?
      • thumb
        Jan 20 2014: I would be curious to know what Islam's "creation myth" is, Dave. How does Islam assert that the universe came to be? I guess a question might then be whether the Arabic political leaders assert the Islamic myth like Rick Perry does with the Christian one.

        I think a lot of Christians will assert that science doesn't contradict religion, that it supports it. I usually have the impression these people are straining. I guess religious people believe god made the universe but humanity can still delve into it with scientific rigor in order to obtain the things we need to live a better life, such as good human food, clothing, good human shelter (as opposed to living under a bush like an animal.) In my mind it is not a perfect position but apparently you can still have a fairly good life with this approach.
        • Jan 20 2014: I'm no expert when it comes to Islam or the Quran, but I know a little, such as Islam is an Abrahamic religion, so it should follow what most of us would know as The Old Testament. However, the Quran makes some alterations to Genisis. For instance, the Quran affirms that the creation story took place over 6 days, but in two other places in the Quran a day to Allah is described as being a thousand years, or fifty thousand years... or just a day.

          I think it's fair to say that the Islamic creation story is scattered throughout the Quran with little references here and there, and they are generally vague and not always terribly logical.

          Unfortunately for Christians, science does contradict Genisis. The order is wrong. For instance, we know that the universe was created before the earth. Grass could not have been created before the sun, as Genisis claims, or how would it have grown, unless Christians believe in a 'glow-in-the-dark' God. Apparently God could create the universe, but he couldn't get the order of creation right when it was written down in Genisis, and he never considered it worthwhile to correct it later on. There are other inconsistencies, but most of the rest of them are after page one.

          One can have a reasonable life believing many things, and in lieu of modern science, medicine, etc. ... if you can accept that the mortality rate might be higher.
  • Jan 16 2014: I)ave,
    that is a 'D'.
    And even if the rates of mental illness are comparable from country to country
    it doesn't disavow it from havjng a great influence, or even being a cause, for problems.
    Surely you can see that the problems we have shed light on a very real possibility
    that humans, in great numbers, are mentally unbalanced.
    Simple acceptance of the status quo as being the 'norm' because we call it the norm, doesn't
    mean it is normal.
    People many times dismiss certain kinds of things with the simple phrase that "it is normal"
    when what they mean is that it is common and they are not the same and they no longer can tell the difference.
    When large groups of people are mentally ill, it goes largely unnoticed because the state of
    mental illness seems 'normal' to those who are ill.
    This in my mind, describes America, Europe and many other countries and cultures as well,
    seeing as what they are founded and based upon, are very old beliefs that are fought tooth
    and nail to keep alive, when they are so clearly failing.
    Mental illness breaks a person down when it goes uncared for, exactly what is happening
    throughout the world societies because it is not being treated correctly.
    Insanity needs sanity, not clarity.
    Insane people have clarity and can clearly seem to be sane as long as everyone else is insane like them.
    Then their views, opinions and even actions are condoned, supported and seen as right.
    What we do to one another, to the environment, to water, air, and dirt, is insane behavior.
    The fact that we continue to repeat and even increase the evils of the world can only be because
    of mental illness or insanity itself.
    That's a split from reality that is far more damaging then I think your softcore topic is about.
    • Jan 16 2014: I'm not sure that what you're saying is really true. Being illogical, which is what you're basically pointing out, does not make someone mentally Ill, however frustrating it might be that someone refuses to see your point of view, even when you place the facts right in front of them.

      It's a little like when I point out to you that you're not spelling my name with a 'D'. I'm not sure the reason why. Maybe you're a passive/aggressive, or maybe you're trying to be clever, but I've already tried to point out that it's a bit disrespectful. Messing around with people's names, in whatever way, is usually looked apon by people as being generally bad form, but I'm not sure anything I say is going to convince you how other people feel about what you do. To be honest, I don't think I want to waste time arguing with you about it.

      If you think my topic is a bit 'soft core' then maybe you'd like to start your own debate. I'd be interested in seeing what you'd like to have discussed here on TED.
  • Jan 15 2014: OK, so here's an attempt to describe what I'm talking about. It's not the only example, but it's the best I can think of off the top of my head at the moment.

    On 18th August 2011, Texas Governor Rick Perry was campaigning in New Hampshire for his party's Presidential Nomination. A boy (with some help from his mum) asked Governor Perry how old the earth was. After kind of dodging the question, he told the boy that "in Texas we teach both Creationism and Evolution in our public schools, because I figure you're smart enough to figure out which one is right."

    Now, I'm not sure what the situation is in Texas schools, either now or in 2011, but in Britain any school that taught creationism as science would probably face closure for two reasons. Firstly, the body that inspects schools might close the school. Secondly, even the Christian parents would be dragging their children away and looking for somewhere else to educate them! It is a requirement to teach the National Curriculum in UK schools. Religious Education does not teach creationism and neither is creationism taught alongside evolution in science lessons, as is the case in some US schools.

    Not just in the UK, but in many countries throughout the world, groups and individuals have sometimes sought to have creationism inserted into the school curriculum, and when they've done so, the groups have usually failed and the politicians have effectively never worked as politicians again, or been sidelined completely.

    Rather than the media being the issue in America, it would seem to me to be more the fault of educational establishments. One can imagine classes being told that after evolution, they will be studying creationism. After chemistry, alchemy. After astronomy, astrology. And so on.

    Whilst every country has it's crackpots, in the advanced societies in general, they don't get elected to high office, or run for presidential election (don't get me started on Mitt Romney) and they don't set curriculums!
    • thumb
      Jan 16 2014: Here are two leads for you The first places this specific case in the context of the Constitution. There is in truth no national curriculum in the US, with most decisions made at a state level, but what can and cannot be taught is bounded by the Constitution and in particular the interpretation of the first amendment's protection of free speech as well as religious freedom.. In the attached article, you might look most closely at the Supreme Court decisions that are excerpted. I don't know whether creationism is actually taught in public schools in any state or could survive legal challenge.

      In this second reference you can see what sorts of things in this area are going on in the UK and in other countries. It seems you have an official religious education syllabus, from which parents can choose to withdraw their kids. A relligious education syllabus of this kind would be unconstitutional in the US:

      So there are difference in fundamental values, priorities, and laws in different countries that have been in place for over two hundred years.
      • Jan 17 2014: Thanks for the links!

        In schools generally in the UK, Religious Education, or Religious Studies are just that... studies, not indoctrination. I'm not sure why it would be unconstitutional to study religions in this context in the US, though I think I understand where you're coming from.

        Though there may be schools in the UK that are run by religious groups (e.g. Catholic Schools, Muslim schools, etc.) where there may be one religious emphasis placed above all others, state run schools teach about all the main religions from a very factual, historic perspective.

        Maybe this is why there is more scepticism in general when it comes to religion in the UK when compared to many other countries. There's no better way to create atheists than to teach theology.
        • thumb
          Jan 17 2014: This is what I meant originally when I said that critical thinking is applied to all manner of subjects at school but not to religions.

          In fact, a couple of my children learned about Hinduism and Islam at school from a historical perspective as part of studying ancient history and about Egyptian or Native American beliefs and rituals in studying those cultures. There is the same distinction about historical presentations, probably though in order not to raise the possibility of a claim of proselytizing, there is no factual presentation of, say, Christianity. I expect this scenario is common, though curriculum is decentralized and varies school to school, within legal boundaries.

          There are parochial schools in the US as well.

          In my youth there were always Christmas trees at school and everyone learned Christmas carols, though in the youth of my children there was neither any longer.

          All schools teach evolution. In the US as in other countries, there is confusion as to what the word 'theory" means in science. Also, as the culture in America is one of questioning authority, some people reject (or forget) what they learned.

          I provide data-based comparisons, because people's views of other countries are sometimes quite distorted, and people everywhere more similar than people realize. When you ask about America, you will get your strongest, most assertive statements here often from people who do not live here and may never even have visited and yet believe they are the ones who REALLY know what is going on while those who live there are misled. Calamity and even genocide have often in history resulted from confident prejudices against some "other."

          People are often quick to misjudge, to ridicule, and to hate sometimes with utter confidence in their mistaken impressions. People are, I think, pretty similar across the world - human- and while certainly influenced by their institutions, people typically have distorted views of institutions in other countries.
      • Jan 17 2014: Chris Kelly,

        "There's no better way to create atheists than to teach theology" and like atheists, 'God' too is created by man.

        Heisenberg was overly optimistic about finding 'God', as he was about where he might find him!

        You quote Heisenberg as if by doing so it proves anything. It's just a vacuous homily with no substance, but I assume it gives you some comfort?
  • Jan 14 2014: Hi I)ave I)ay.
    The split isn't in the American people per se.
    It is in their individual and collective psyches.
    They have been split from reality through decades-long
    propaganda campaigns that over time become brainwashing.
    They are fed lies in every area of their lives whereby
    they believe what authority tells them because they have been led to believe
    that authority is the truth rather than truth being the authority.
    They worship lies and of course their leaders of all stripe cover up the truth with lies,
    because you cannot cover up the truth with the truth. It won't work.
    They no longer want the truth, seek the truth, or trust the truth but what is really bad is
    that they can no longer discern the truth. They cannot recognize it at all.
    Good example is how they have been, and continue to be, slapped in the face by their leaders,
    with their scandals concerning money, arms, funding of terrorists, lies, deceit, stealing
    and the outright theft of their hard-earned money and their liberties. Each one of those is
    an outright slap in the face and it is now done openly just to see if Americans will react to the slap.
    They don't. Proof they are Pavlov brain-dead.
    The main effects of brainwashing are: 1. A dulled ability to reason and 2. An impeded ability to act.
    Americans now do nothing. Their current leader is a Manchurian Candidate and the citizens are
    Manchurian Citizens. They are almost completely asleep.

    Studies show that over 1/2 the population is mentally ill and mental illness is spreading throughout the
    population. It goes upwards of 20 years before being diagnosed and then treated. One reason is that if everyone
    around you is mentally ill, you don't notice it. Seems normal and begins by age 11.
    Belief in false things is neurosis. They are on every kind of anti-anxiety drug, even
    successful people. The truth within them is making them sick with its calls for sanity to their conscious minds, which by the way is where false beliefs are held in human beings
    • Jan 14 2014: I understand some of your sentiments, but find it a little hard to believe that half the population of America is mentally ill. I'd be interested to know where you got that statistic, or how you calculated it!

      I originally asked the question in good faith and was looking for some insight into how some Americans seem to be logical, well educated people, whilst others seem to have missed a lot of things that would have been taught in a British or European school and led to a slightly more logical and scientific outlook on life. Either that, or they are ignoring a lot of what they learned at school!

      For instance, most British buildings have a 13th floor. People don't refuse to live or work there, but in America.... From what I've seen, in America the 13th floor is relabelled as floor 14. That in itself seems illogical. It's still the 13th floor. Do you imagine for one moment that nobody would notice? In a lot of progressive countries this sort of thing would be ridiculed, but it seems to be accepted in America. Most countries don't have a senior politician stand up and brag that in their state/country, they teach creationism alongside evolution in their schools.
      • thumb
        Jan 14 2014: Here is a good reference on the amount of mental disorder in America. As you will see, about 26%, in a given year may suffer from a challenge, with half of those being things like anxiety and depression.

        Some who are anxious or depressed one year will not be the next, as these states may be triggered by specific traumatic events, for example, so these are not necessarily permanent states for those who suffer. I expect these figures include elderly people whose medications for, say, heart disease or Parkinsons, may have these conditions as side effects.

        I know this is not the thrust of your thread, but you asked for a reliable source.

        The question you ask in good faith is complicated. One part of your answer is that the United States is a nation of immigrants many of whom were drawn to that country originally because of the strong value placed on religious freedom. One of the safeguards built into the founding documents of the country is a separation of church and state, which includes the principle that teachers may not either promote or discourage particular religious beliefs at school. Students religious instruction comes from the home and the community organizations within which a child is raised. While a practice of skepticism and questioning, particularly about matters of government, is very much in the American tradition, within schools that is not practiced on religions.

        In terms of people's being accepting of other people's beliefs and superstitions, I do not know whether that sort of acceptance rather than ridicule is more common in the US than in Europe. It is easy to see why acceptance of other people's beliefs would be valued in a land with great diversity of cultures and perhaps less urgent in a culturally homogeneous country.

        Do consider well what Lawren says. Media pick up and perpetuate images that may be misleading.
        • Jan 14 2014: Interesting... we've gone from, half, to 26%, to, well, a lot less as some people may only suffer intermittent/one off events that might be classified as 'mental illness'. In fact, if you ignore the people with depression or anxiety, you're down to around 13% using your figures.

          It seems that you're saying that America is more accepting of other cultures, but I'm not sure that's the case. For instance, London is the most culturally diverse city in the world (or at least it was until recently if you look at the number of communities numbering over 10,000 living in cities around the world. I'm not sure that America is so diverse and Europe so homogenised as you say. Maybe things are as you state, and America has more insular communities, where in Europe communities are more accepted and not so ghettoised. It seems to me that if anything, Europe, or Britain at least is the place to go if you want to be accepted, regardless of your race, colour, gender, or religion.

          With regard to Lawren's comments on the media, I did and still do accept the point that the media distort the overall picture and do not represent a balanced view. It just amazes me how many media organisations distort the view, and also by how much!
      • thumb
        Jan 14 2014: As rumors abound about people an ocean away, and as many people are all too happy to spread the most negative without worrying about verification, I was happy to seek for you actual reliable source material on the question at hand. I have no expertise in this area myself.

        I was not saying that Europe is homogeneous but that some countries in Europe are. Many seem to be going through various trials in accepting immigrants graciously, for example, are they not?.In the newspapers in the United States, for example, one reads about antagonistic attitudes toward recent immigrants in France and in Scandinavian countries. There was a popular mystery and television series by Swedish author Henning Mankell focused on this issue in, I think, Sweden? Here is something from last week in the most respected newspaper in the US: And another:

        I am never surprised at media organizations habits, as they take stories from each other. More to the point, in a place where a type of behavior is rare, an incident will make the front page and travel from news outlet to news outlet all over the world, with people then assuming it is common behavior in that distant country. The same behavior in another country where it is more common wouldn't make the news.

        When in England you had the issue with news reporters hacking into people's phones, it made the news around the world because it isn't common or expected. Meanwhile in some countries- maybe China? Syria?- people absolutely expect someone is listening in on them when they talk and evidence of it would not be news.
        • Jan 15 2014: I think you should be a little more grateful about my analysis of the figures... under the original estimate given, half of Americans suffered from mental illness. I've managed to get that number down from 50% to 13% for you. I would have thought that you'd be happy, no?!

          Maybe we should stick to the two countries we probably know best, the USA and the UK? I don't think that in Britain there is a news channel anything like Fox News (for instance). I'm not sure what the average American thinks about it, but I don't think their format would have much success here. Nothing to do with style, as such, they just don't have the quality of news stories and reporting, in my opinion.

          So, when there was much talk about Bulgarians (I think it was) coming to Britain to claim benefits, take jobs, etc. SOME newspapers sensationalised the issue. This doesn't happen with television, which is much more factual in it's presentation. As it turned out, two MPs went to meet the first immigrants arriving at the airport looking for jobs. They wanted to be seen to be welcoming. There was just one guy looking for a job. Everyone else on the plane was either British or was already working here legally and had just been home for Christmas. There was a fair amount or ridicule of those who had been trying to stir up negative opinion about immigrants.

          One could write a book about the BBC and the effect it has on British media, but generally I think it ensures media coverage, especially on TV is very balanced and factual, not sensationalised. It is extremely self-critical and government has no control over it, despite it being state financed. I'm not sure whether the US has anything similar, publicly or privately funded, that sets the bar so high for everyone else to be compared to.

          As for phone hacking, Rupert Murdock would appear to have a lot to answer for. He closed the newspaper involved initially and prosecutions seem to be ongoing. Will anyone in the NSA be prosecuted?
      • thumb
        Jan 15 2014: Yes, there are public television channels everywhere, as part of general television service with that purpose, just as in the UK. It is called PBS. The government does not control it.

        Fox News is one of many news stations available on the cable networks.Maybe you have heard too of CNN, MSNBC, and others that are available only on Cable. In regular television service (that everyone gets without fee) there are three national networks (meaning available everywhere rather than run by government) that offer local, national, and international news as well as other local networks with news affiliates. The news stations on regular networks are called ABC, CBS, and NBC.

        The US also has big urban newspapers, like, say, the New York Times, the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the Boston Globe... that people can subscribe to in paper versions, even if they do not live in that city, or online and there are tabloids that draw a different reading audience, as in the UK

        In terms of prosecutions, in the US as in the UK, the way legal action works is different for private parties, such as a Rupert Murdock, in their business dealings than for a public agency.

        Again, I assume you ask these questions in good faith.

        In terms of mental illness, it is not a matter of being grateful. I am sure that there are people living elsewhere (Random Chance lives, I believe, in Hamburg) who make various assumptions about the number of people who are mentally ill or have other issues in other countries, I responded only to your request for actual reliable data from a source that might be deemed informed on the matter, the NIMH, with a link provided for your own verification.

        It is 1 in 4 in the UK as well:

        It is 31%, so a little higher, in Germany.
      • Jan 15 2014: I)ave.
        There is a survey called the Comorbidity Replication Survey that is put together by
        the Department of Mental Health in America. I cannot remember the exact name of the
        agency nor whether or not is is Federal (I believe it is), and it is done fairly regularly,
        perhaps every five years. This is the study or survey I was referring to or referencing
        and since this one has had follow-ups, it is possible the beginning of mental illness now falls
        below the age of eleven. I read this survey report about 5 or six years ago.
        I would have to search through my many files to find more exact info for and about it, as I
        do use it as reference in some of my writing. (not ted writing)
        Personally, I gauge the idea somewhat on what Americans themselves believe, what they say,
        how they act and their lack of real response to what is going in their country, the acceptance
        of hearsay as evidence and other factors. All through and from Americans I know.
        They certainly do exhibit tons of neurosis and in many areas of their lives.
        Anyway, many cultures have unlucky numbers that they avoid and react in funny ways to.
        This does not make Americans different regarding the 13th floor, but it is neurotic and it is
        right-out-front denial of what is true and a clear example of people choosing neurosis over
        fact, reality and truth.
        This is what I see a lot of with Americans. They choose lies over truth and this is also very
        true in just about all countries. It 's crazy, dangerous crazy, especially when people say things like
        the problem lies with the moral degradation in their country and they are referring to the populace
        rather than where it has occurred the most and with the greatest repercussions: their leaders in all areas, agencies and institutions in their societies, communities and institutions.
        Divided isn't something they are. Divided is something that has been purposely done to them and now they wallow in it.
        • Jan 15 2014: Fritzie/Random

          It's been an interesting little aside to take a wander through the topics of media and mental health in America, but I'm not sure as it's either that relevant or helpful, however amusing.

          Whilst I think the media has a lot to answer for, I don't think that it can be held account for everything that's bad in America (I'm generalising here!). Mental health also doesn't appear to be to blame either, as levels of mental illness are not significantly different to most other countries (again, in general) and some of the differences might be down to differences in diagnosis from country to country.

          I've decided to post a new, supplementary comment to see if I can explain myself better and get the discussion back on track, but thank you both for all the effort you've put in to making this discussion what it's been so far!

          And Random Chance, is the capital 'd' broken on your keyboard? You seem to have difficulty with spelling my name correctly!
  • Jan 14 2014: Whether its America or Asia , The people belonging to first group secretly believes in the concepts of the people belonging to the Second Group , and the second group also takes the help of the concepts followed by the first group to prove their beliefs.

    Ask American Scientists to Stay in Room Number 13 , and then see the Magic.
    • Jan 14 2014: I'm not sure you can say that in general, even, those who believe in scientific rather than religious principles secretly believe in the merits of religion, though there are scientists, and others who express some religious beliefs. I'm pretty sure, for instance, that Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and many others don't secretly believe in any religions. However, if you have evidence to the contrary, I for one would love to see it!

      It's true that everyone as a whole, in general, benefits from science and scientific progress.

      I'm not sure how religious people use science to 'prove their beliefs'. The religious seem to still have a long way to go. For a start, their religions are generally mutually exclusive of one another, and they can't all be right. No one religion seems to have convinced the others that it alone has the answers.

      As for Room Number 13, I'm guessing that you're referring to the film? Are you suggesting that scientists wouldn't stay in a room number 13 at a hotel because of superstition? You might find a few, I suppose, but probably fewer as a percentage than in the wider, general (more superstitious) population.

      Maybe you'd like to respond and add some information whilst clarifying your points?
  • thumb

    R H

    • 0
    Jan 14 2014: That's funny, I heard most Americans think the Asians are really just large ants, and that Australians are born from kangaroo pouches. Am I close?... Oh, brother.