Sunday, April 23, 2006

How to Tell a Convincing Lie.


Sunday morning. Flip through the TV channels and all you see are infomercials and Godfomercials. It’s bad enough when the Televangelists stick to the scriptures. Their mission has become increasingly about painting a lurid picture of what the world has become without their particular brand of Old-Time Religion (Patent pending. Spread it on your crops and watch ‘em grow!) This is not the problem. There is more religion around than there ever was in the “good old days”. Back in the days that the preachers are glorifying, the only religion in the house was what the parents brought in, a bible, a cross, some spooky disembodied praying hands perhaps. Now, I’ve got snake oil salesmen falling all over themselves to reach me through my television. Lots of them have toll free numbers where I can contribute to their pet charities, and the army of production staff, accountants and phone room slaves that keep the whole scam going.

How then, do the preachers make it look like lack of religious belief has anything to do with modern social problems? By telling half-truths and promoting erroneous conclusions of course! One of their favorite soap box speeches is a complaint about the divorce rate in which they kindly tell their audience what to conclude from it all. The first problem with this argument is that divorce statistics are a mess. For example, ask around, and you will be told that anywhere from 1 in 4, to 1 in 2 marriages end in divorce. The general belief is that this has been true for two decades at least. Compare that to statistics collected by the National Center for Health Statistics (NHCS) that state in 1988, the divorce rate in the Northeast was 3.5 per 1000 inhabitants. In order to reconcile these two figures, we would have to believe that a maximum of 14 people per 1000 were married for the first time that year. One also has the problem that a marriage can last 10-20 years and still end in divorce, therefore qualifying as an unsuccessful marriage. Then there are second, third, and fourth marriages to consider. Should we count the divorce rate of subsequent marriages in the same way as the first marriage? At least one of those partners found the institution (paradigm) of marriage unsuitable already, so are we double-counting their behavior pattern? Here is a broader study of the social issues affecting marriage and divorce. It is by no means complete, and it is also written in support of a pet theory, but it is much less simplistic than the picture painted by the Bible Belters.

The second problem is that the statistics themselves do not present a complete picture. The preacher will tell you that in 18-something, only 1 marriage in 300 ended in divorce. How many ended prematurely from disease and mortality in wars like the US Civil War? How many were held together for the sake of the children? How many were hell on earth, a partnership in name only, continued only because of a slavish devotion to public opinion that dictated that marriage was forever? How many husbands or wives left home without the courtesy of divorce? How many horrible marriages ended in murder instead of divorce? These numbers are unobtainable, but the scenarios need to be considered as part of the mix.

Third and last, divorce is not a problem. It is a solution to a problem. It might or might not be the best solution, but who am I to second-guess someone else’s decision? The attitudes of those who would pass moral judgment on someone else’s situation without knowing all the facts of that situation are prejudiced. The prejudice is created by those who would legislate a false morality. This has never worked, but the control freaks keep trying, and seem to have no trouble convincing large numbers of people that it could work.

9 Comments:

At 5:03 PM, Anonymous SH said...

And weren't marriages controlled almost exclusively by churches in 19th century and therefore were simply not an option or a very extreme option for people. Especially for women who were in a very difficult legal situation back then. Not to mention the social stigma attached to divorced women.

With that said, I've read that statistically "red" states in US, that tend to be more conservative and religious, have higher divorce rates. In addition to that, following study demonstrates that there is negative correlation between religiosity of the society and its divorce rates as well as other parameters of social health: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1798944,00.html.

 
At 8:04 AM, Blogger Darius said...

You've got that right. Maybe someday this will be known as the Salespersons Crusade. The degree of organization and utilization of sales and marketing strategies by the Christian far right is disconcerting.

Actually, what's really disconcerting is that so many people buy what they're selling.

 
At 9:30 AM, Blogger BEAST said...

The subject of divorces is a thorny one.

Often, social pressure dictates that divorce should be frowned upon, unless under the worst of circumstances.

The truth is, divorce is a necessary "evil". A marriage is simply a tripitate contract between you, your spouse and the state, and try as you might to romantize it and bring "Gawk" into the picture, the truth is, just like any other contracts, it can be terminated with mutual consent.

 
At 3:48 AM, Blogger Samuel Luke Johnston said...

YOu sinners may want to watch this:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-5479410612081345878

How do you fare on the bananana test?

 
At 11:58 AM, Blogger breakerslion said...

SH:

The US Government sponsored (funded) surveys that I have seen tend to agree with your "red state" comment. No surprise. A wise man once said, "Violence is the last resort of the incompetent." Since ignorance and incompetence go hand in hand, where would you expect to find a higher population of wife-beaters?

Darius:

I like that! "Salesperson's Crusade" has a nice ring to it. I am sure that the Christian tent shows were the blueprint for Amway, etc. (Rah, rah, rah. Testify brother!)I hope you'll join the fun in my next post.

Beast:

Is the divoorce an "evil", or is it the logical result of an evil set of rules?

SLJ:

I'll watch your video, and I'll raise you a "TV Funhouse". In other words, I wouldn't expect too much if I were you. Chick's been trying to scare me with his icky comics all my life! Your credibility suffers from your lack of proofreading.

 
At 2:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Breakerslion! You sure attract a strange assortment of detractors! You must be onto something!

ILD

I have a comment for the Bible thumper:
I watched that video. I nearly peed myself laughing. Say, one question: If the banana was such a success with it's creases, then how come the penis doesn't have the same creases? That would be a natural for the guys, especially those like you, SLJ, you pompous ass!! ;-)

 
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At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Umm...why is this titled "How to tell a convicing lie"? Maybe something to do with the actual content of the article? I'm just sayin'

 
At 6:08 AM, Blogger breakerslion said...

Anon:

Not some of my best work, I'll admit. The post was written in response to the usual bullshit claim that religious fanaticism has a mitigating effect on bad marriages. This of course was veiled in anti-divorce (as if that's the sole measure of a bad marriage) control-freak dogma, falsely attributed to the paper-mache godhead in the following manner:

1. Tell a half-truth
2. Present an unsupported conclusion using the techniques of mass hypnosis, thereby telling your audience what conclusion they are to draw from these cherry-picked facts.
3. Sprinkle with cherry-picked superstitious and/or religious bullshit as if that somehow substantiates your position.

Marriage is a civil contract. Religious overtones are vestigial, and exist because mother church wants a piece of the action. Religious groups attempt to maintain ownership of any life milestone and attempt to insinuate themselves into any public gathering. Their ownership is illusory, as can be demonstrated by the many flavors of religious organizations making similar claims. The rituals belong to the tribe, not the shamans.

Is that about as clear as mud now?

 

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