Monday, March 22, 2010

Adjectives Get Religion

Which adjective best describes your religious activity—devout, observant, practicing, fervent, militant (or none of the above)? Certain adjectives seem to attach themselves with greater regularity to some religious faiths than to others.  A highly scientific (I kept notes) Google search reveals the following interesting facts.

Among religionists who are devout (“warmly sincere, pious”), Catholics seem to have it over everyone else.  Google shows 289,000 references to “devout Catholic,” compared with 169,000 Muslims, 105,000 Jews, and 100,000 Mormons.  Among the most “devout” adherents, oddly, are Atheists, for whom Google lists 129,000 hits.

When it comes to being observant (“mindful of or careful in following rites, laws, and customs”), Jews take the cake, or maybe it’s the rugelach. Google finds 75,000 references to “observant Jew,” compared with 57,000 Muslims, 15,000 Catholics, and only 7 Unitarians, who, after all, don’t have much to be observant about.  Even Atheists do better than Unitarians, with 717 Google hits for being observant.

Catholics win again for practicing (“actively engaged in a specified way of life”) with 128,000 citations, followed very closely by Jews with 124,000 and Muslims with 59,000. Atheists hold their own with 14,000 references to those who “practice” their non-religion, as opposed to only 7,200 practicing Lutherans, 7,100 Baptists, 5,200 Episcopalians, 3,700 Unitarians, and a mere 2,900 Evangelicals.

Being fervent (“marked by great intensity of feeling”) is one area in which you might expect Evangelicals to score high—but, according to Google, with 9,900 citations for fervent Evangelicals, they trail Catholics, who have 37,000, but outdo the 6,200 Muslims, 1,700 Lutherans, 1,700 Jews, 1,100 Baptists, and a measly 104 Unitarians who are fervent in their religious lives.

Apparently there is a militant (“aggressively active, as in a cause”) Atheist lurking behind every tree and ranting on every street corner.  The non-believers win hands down for militancy—46,000 such Atheist references, compared with 38,000 Muslims, 20,000 Catholics, 3,100 Jews, 2,200 Mormons—and only 2 Episcopalian references as “militant.”  Even the Unitarians, with 356 citations, seem to be more militant than Episcopalians.

Caught in a posture that was far from militant, and certainly not fervent, devout, or observant—torpid might be the best description—the Bard of Buffalo Bayou offered this humble orison:

            I pray that, when I meet a fellow human being
            Who holds beliefs with which I'm strongly disagreeing,
            Who has ideas that I find lacking in validity,
            Whose actions seem to me to show extreme stupidity,
            Whose looks and dress and manners strike me as barbarity--
            I have the grace to treat that stupid jerk with charity.

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