My Old Kentucky Homesite

Who Created THESE Numbers?

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 12/28/2009

The High Holy Days are finally over. Once again, I’ve survived the Solstice Shopping Frenzy (thank you, Amazon!) and My Wife’s Birthday. So, in this half-week preceding the New Year, it’s my time for some serious rumination.

My philosophical odyssey started during our family Christmas dinner, when my niece was trying to describe her street in Lexington. “There’s a church on the corner,” she said.

“That’s no help,” I replied. “Every street in Lexington has a church on the corner.” That’s true, by the way, within acceptable limits of hyperbole. Driving in this city on a Sunday morning means hitting stop-and-go traffic at almost every block.

According to polling data conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Kentucky is the 10th most religious state in the union. (The question was “How important is religion in your life?”) The nine states ahead of us are also in the Ignorance Belt: Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Georgia.

Oddly, Kentucky is only 11th in “church attendance,” knocked out of the top ten by both Utah and Kansas. (Georgia, at 13th, was also displaced by them, and by Texas as well.) There’s no data on “number of churches per capita,” but I’d bet Kentucky is way up there. I suspect it would also be in the top fifth of the country if the poll had a “church to arts venue ratio.”

When it comes to “frequent prayer,” Kentucky jumps way up to 5th. My guess is that most of those numerous entreaties to the deity concern the fate of the Wildcats. But I would be surprised if there weren’t also a ton of requests for a glimmer of sun once in a while.

There seems to be some negative correlation between religion/church attendance/ frequent prayer, and kids’ scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Kentucky is 39th in the national assessment. Among those states ranking even closer to the bottom are some of our old friends from the fourth paragraph: Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Arkansas. The other five lower-rankers are New Mexico (29th in religion), West Virginia (15th in religion), Hawaii (23rd in religion), Nevada (34th in religion), and California (35th in religion). Eight of the bottom twelve in Educational Progress ranked above – most of them, well above – the national average for “religious.” By contrast, of the top twelve states in Educational Progress, only Nebraska polled above the national average for “religious.”

Statistics can lie, so there’s not necessarily any conclusion to be drawn from these numbers. But there does appear to be some evidence showing that the more you pray, the stupider your children will be.

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14 Responses to “Who Created THESE Numbers?”

  1. Well perhaps the religious kids are wasting time praying for good grades rather than working and studying in order to earn them. That doesn’t necessarily make them stupider, but it is a stupid choice.

    Btw, why don’t churchgoers seem to carpool to church?

  2. Philly:
    Consciously choosing to be ignorant is stupid; it’s about the stupidest thing one can do.

    As far as Lexington churchgoers carpooling, they’re probably taking their cue from the bible’s second book of Kings (chapter 9, verse 20):
    The driving is like the driving of Jehu, the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously.

  3. Pew-Pew Ziinnnnnnggggggg! (That was the warning shot from the local Holy Name Bible Praise Sweet Baby Jesus Church of the Lord King of Kings.)

    Love the conclusion, do more!

  4. Going:
    And here I thought the noise was merely the backfire from a car carrying someone on his way to Our Lady of Perpetual Basketball or the Church of the Sacred Horse.

  5. Evie said

    The Church of the Sacred Horse has High Holy Days during the first weekend of May. Take heart, though, Louisville is the Holy City for that pilgrimage.

  6. Evie:
    I hear that in Louisville, just as in any synagogue for the High Holy Days, there’s a lot of praying — and seats are fairly expensive.

  7. John Evo said

    While we in California aren’t particularly “religious” by your statistics, I can’t help but think we would have the fewest prayers per capita by simply removing my wife and her family from the equation. At least you don’t deal with that on a Sunday morning.

  8. Evo:
    I imagine that if your wife is praying for you, she’s got a lot to ask for.

    My wife, on the other hand, doesn’t bother with supplications to supernatural beings. She just tells me to my face what’s wrong with me. And not just on Sunday mornings.

  9. Catherwood said

    There’s nothing like starting off your morning with a good laugh. I sure had one here. I am surprised that Florida isn’t in that dubious line up somewhere though. We too have our quota of religious wackos anxious to shove prayer down the throats of school children. They wring their hands and wail at any mention of “secular humanism” or Harry Potter. The papers tell us we’re next to last in spending on schools. Having spent a lot of time with school kids of all ages over the past 14 years, teaching them bird identification in an environmental learning program, I can vouch for their almost total lack of interest in anything that doesn’t involve texting or video games.
    I’m glad to see that “Ex” has resurfaced and expect to see more of these rants. The stress of the approaching Armageddon (see any reference to 2012) is sure to bring out the polyester swathed preachers pleading for more and more money. They’ll be too tempting a target for “Ex” and his rapier wit.

  10. Catherwood:
    I’m afraid that everyplace in the world has its “quota of religious wackos.” The question is: What proportion of the local population falls into that category? I’d say that Kentucky ranks right up there with the Vatican, but falls somewhat shy of Jonestown, the Tora Bora Mountains, and the Wasilla Assembly of God. Florida, by contrast, is probably no worse than Tom Cruise’s house.

  11. John Evo said

    I think Miami may save Florida from falling into the bottom 10. Perhaps Orlando? I don’t know as much about them. I’m guessing Tampa and Jacksonville don’t help all that much…

  12. Evo:
    I think maybe DisneyWorld accounts for Florida’s higher rating on the Educational Progress chart. All those princesses and talking mice are over-achievers in school. And don’t forget: with only a few exceptions, cartoon characters are atheists.

  13. How can they be atheists when they’ve clearly been created by an intelligent designer?

  14. Philly:
    Good point, but I’ve always thought that Mickey Mouse was created by a not-so-bright watchmaker. And I’ve got the watch to prove it. Believe it or not, one of his arms is longer than the other.

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