I frequently notice the difference between New Zealand media and the media in the United States. There’s plenty of lying for Jesus here, but the media is largely free of it. On the whole, our media don’t deliberately lie to push a certain point of view. We’re lucky to have a media that is largely genuinely fair and balanced. We don’t have outlets like Fox News, MSNBC, Breitbart, or the Huffington Post.
Thus, I am often struck by how outrageous some of the things I see in US media are. A few days ago another story attracted my attention. It isn’t a biggie, but someone has to speak up for the atheists and minority (in the United States) religious!
It’s from Breitbart on 16 December:
I’m sure most of you would immediately question at least the accuracy of a headline like this. Many would wonder at its veracity too, and you’d be right to do so. However, I bet most of Breitbart’s target audience accepted it at face value. The headline though is misleading, pure and simple, and it’s obviously deliberate. That makes it a lie.
And all in all, it’s a pretty pathetic one too.
The lie is especially egregious because Breitbart insists their story is a correction of one in the New York Times that’s biased against US Christians. There’s nothing like a bit of victim-hood to get a good right-winger going. In that, they’re no different from those on the far left despite their insistence otherwise. I guess it’s all about who’s doing the judging.
The story in the New York Times, ‘Christians in U.S. Are Less Educated Than Religious Minorities, Report Says’ is, in fact, an extremely fair and accurate summary of the Pew report.
To start with, let’s get the facts. Breitbart provides this graphic (right) from the Pew Research Center report. A good graph from a reputable source is always useful in bolstering your case, after all. Except this one doesn’t. You will have already noticed that what Breitbart refers to as “atheists”, Pew refers to as “unaffiliated”. They’re not the same thing, but how many of Breitbart‘s readers will notice that, especially those for whom it bolsters a worldview?
A person who is “unaffiliated” may believe in God, just not be a regular church-goer. That’s not the same as coming to the conscious realization that there is no God, gods, or any other supernatural entities. That there’s “… no hell below us, above us only sky,” so to speak. (John Lennon, Imagine.)
Breitbart writes (my emphasis):
A new study by the Pew Research Center found that worldwide, Jews have the most years of formal education, followed by Christians, with atheists, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus trailing behind.
It actually looks to me like everyone is “trailing behind” Jews. Further, the bar for “Unaffiliated” is closer to the one for “Christians” than the one for Buddhists. Hardly “trailing behind”.
Breitbart notes that Jews are way ahead of all other religions. They repeat Pew’s explanation for the phenomenon: most Jews live in the United States or Israel – “two especially developed countries with high levels of education.” They conveniently stop there.
The Facts from the Pew Report
This is the full comment from Pew:
These gaps in educational attainment are partly a function of where religious groups are concentrated throughout the world. For instance, the vast majority of the world’s Jews live in the United States and Israel – two economically developed countries with high levels of education overall. And low levels of attainment among Hindus reflect the fact that 98% of Hindu adults live in the developing countries of India, Nepal and Bangladesh.
Breitbart used the graph above that applies to the whole survey, conducted in 155 countries. It would have been more honest to use the one to the right. It shows the truth: that in the US all religious groups are better educated than Christians.
The Pew report points out that for Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhists, this is likely the result of immigration policies that selects immigrants based on the needs of the country. Thus, while most Hindus worldwide are poorly educated, those who qualify to immigrate to the US are well educated.
Breitbart thus deliberately used a graph that would give their readers a reason to look down on their fellow countrymen in other religions if they were so inclined.
Of course looking down on someone because they’re less educated than you are is a pretty revolting way to behave. I was taught as a child that it wasn’t the Christian way to behave. Now, as an atheist, I believe it’s not a human way to behave.
The tenor of the Breitbart post is that Christians and Jews are better than everyone else. They use words like “accomplishments” to describe the education of Christians. The call the US “especially” developed rather than “economically” developed. Further, they make a point of singling out negative comments about Muslim educational attainment, but provide little or no explanation.
Pew on Atheists’ Education Level
As reported in the story referred to by Breitbart, the lead researcher for the report from Pew, Conrad Hackett, told the New York Times:
The higher the level of education in a country, the larger the share of people with no religion tends to be. Atheists and agnostics, or people with no religion in particular, have higher education levels than the religiously affiliated do in the U.S.
In other words, Breitbart lied. The went out of their way to elevate the perception that US Christians are more highly educated than all other religious groups in their country except Jews.
This seems to me to be a deliberate attempt to elevate themselves above those of most other religions. In the eyes of the religious far right Jews are okay of course because they will become Christians when Jesus returns.
To me, this is part of the constant attempt in parts of the right to normalize bigotry since the election of Donald Trump. It disgusts me.
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