Monday, March 09, 2009

Reading Beyond the Headlines

More Americans say they have no religion

Americans rejecting God. All hell (if you believe in that sort of thing) about to break loose. Losing our faith... Blah blah blah.

It makes for a really good headline but I can give you another headline that is at least as accurate, probably more so...

Rate of Decline In Disbelief Slows Dramatically

Okay, so maybe it isn't as punchy. I admit that. It's more accurate however and not nearly as sensationalistic.

If you read the first couple of paragraphs of the story you find that 15% of Americans presently say that they have no religion. This is up from only 8.2% in 1990. However, it's only up by 0.8% since 2001. In other words, over 90% of that change happened between 1990 and 2001. While there has been continued decline it has slowed dramatically over the last 7 years. So dramatically, in fact, that one might suspect it has reversed itself.

That's not interesting though and writing headline is about getting people to read the article. I understand that. If you're going to sell soap you need to draw eyeballs. What bothers me is the extent to which many journalists would deny the role that salesmanship and sensationalism play in their trade.

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