Monday, October 04, 2010

Religion and finding fault

One of the tenets of my religion that I like is self-criticism. It checks the human tendency to focus on the faults of others by saying, "Okay, but what about you, pal?" In the last post, I railed against extreme liberals for their dirtiness, but then looked around and had to admit my place wasn't looking so hot. My impulse is to vanquish enemies, but the message is always in my head that the world that needs fixing is inside. Self-esteem is thought to be so important nowadays, but the attitude of "I'm a sinner--wise up" does me a lot of good.

The General Social Survey asked respondents if they tend to find fault in others. Answers ranged from "strongly disagree" (1) to "strongly agree" (5).  Here are the means by religion (sample size = 1,505):

Mean "finding fault" score

Protestant 2.50*
Catholic 2.58*
Jewish 2.88
No religion 2.76

*significantly lower than those with no religion

Christians are significantly less likely than people with no religion to see themselves as tending to find fault in others. The Jewish sample size is very small which works against reaching statistical significance, but the phrase that popped into my head at seeing the high mean was "culture of critique."  I should mention the usual caveats that the numbers do not identify cause and effect, nor do we know the validity of the measure.


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