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ablarc
May 21st, 2006, 07:49 PM
TYPICAL AMERICAN CULTURE

This was conceived as a little response in the “Layla” thread to a post that I considered (forgive me, ryan :) ) to be astonishingly bad advice to a first-time tourist from abroad --especially coming from a New Yorker with anti-establishment views. It grew until I realized it should really be a separate thread. Here’s what got it started:


Hi Layla-
Florida is a great place the US because you'll get a taste of typical American culture (New York is a bit different from the rest of the country).
As advice goes, this is almost in a league with telling a German tourist to spend Saturday night walking up and down 125th Street.

* * *


“AMERICAN CULTURE.” I know at least one well-known European intellectual who considers this an oxymoron. He’s wrong, but I can see where he’s coming from.

You don’t want to ask a native about it, because we Americans are uniquely subject to mythologizing ourselves with self-delusions.

Most Americans, for example, think that rugged individualism is an American trait, and perhaps it once was. But today’s average American is about as big a conformist as you’ll find on the planet. He’s just a collection of pre-digested views absorbed from advertising men and clergy.

“A nation of outdoorsmen and athletes,” trumpet the corpulent couch potatoes, Bud Light in hand and NFL on the tube.

“Devoted to tolerance and freedom, a nation of laws under God” thunders the preacher from his pulpit to a chorus of “Amens,” while the un-charged wretches in Gitmo’s limbo attempt their umpteenth mass suicide. (Put there by the elected representative and hero of all those justice-preaching freedom lovers.)

“Americans live better than anyone else.” Whoever believes this measures quality of life by the cubic feet of stuff he has in mini-storage. Tell that to a Frenchman with his five-week vacation, his health care, his walkable cities, his fresh food trucked in daily from the countryside (and maybe his mistress in Montparnasse). Tell it to a Swede who regards murder as an exotic event mostly made up by American screenwriters. Tell that to an average Andorran, who lives to be 86.

I bet every single member of this forum can add at least three fictions of his own to this list.

We’re addicted to mythologizing ourselves, and we’re really the only ones who believe the myth; and that makes us classic fools.

Here’s one many Americans believe: “Typical American culture is interesting.” The source of this misconception is something that is true: “American pop culture --as exemplified by action movies, popular music, fast food and casual clothing—fascinates the world.” The second statement is quite different from the first. And it has the virtue of being true.

Now all of us are entitled to our opinions, though if we’re wise we’ll change those opinions when we find out we’re wrong. John Kerry did that when he discovered he’d been fed falsehoods about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, so he “flip-flopped” on the Iraq war’s wisdom, while his steadfast adversary dug in his heels, damned the torpedoes and won the election.

What that is evidence of is yet another widespread myth only Americans believe about themselves: “Americans are well-informed and American public opinion has good judgment.” Tell this to a Spaniard.

* * *

From the dictionary:

cul•ture noun

1. The totality of socially transmitted behavior patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions, and all other products of human work and thought; these patterns, traits, and products considered as the expression of a particular period, class, community, or population: Edwardian culture; Japanese culture; the culture of poverty; these patterns, traits, and products considered with respect to a particular category, such as a field, subject, or mode of expression: religious culture in the Middle Ages; musical culture; oral culture; the predominating attitudes and behavior that characterize the functioning of a group or organization.

2. Intellectual and artistic activity and the works produced by it.

3. Development of the intellect through training or education; enlightenment resulting from such training or education.

4. A high degree of taste and refinement formed by aesthetic and intellectual training.


* * *

All groupings of people have culture by the first definition; in fact you’ll find it among social animals like chimps and wolves.

Most groupings of people have culture by the second definition; it’s a rare group that eschews art and philosophy entirely.

The third definition excludes quite a few groups of people. There are plenty of unenlightened groups and individuals. You can supply your own list; it probably will differ from your neighbor’s.

And I think we can agree that groups that fit the fourth definition are quite rare. Zen monks, auctioneers at Sotheby’s, wine connoisseurs, novelists and opera critics spring to mind, among others.

As you go down the list of the dictionary’s definition, culture grows rarer and more precisely defined.

I can name places a half-hour’s drive from my home where by the last definition you won’t find any culture at all –and one place where you’ll find a whole lot. The one place where I find a lot has enabled me to encounter the Royal Shakespeare Company, an arthritic Bob Dylan and I Musici –in surroundings that would have found Frederick Olmsted’s approval, along with Leonard Cohen’s.

I’m blessed; most of America is more than an hour’s drive from this kind of American culture. It’s common in all the places, like New York, that are “a bit different from the rest of the country”: SFO, BOS, WAS, NOL, Miami Beach, Charleston, Chapel Hill, Santa Fe… Those are also the places I’d advise a foreign tourist to seek out for a good time. The interesting places.

“Typical American culture” is present at its best on Thanksgiving Day. Weekdays it's Rush Limbaugh in the traffic jam, lunch at McDonald’s, exercise machines at the Y, reality television, a six-pack to unwind. Saturdays it’s shopping at the mall, little-league soccer, the “funky” bar’s country rock amplified to ear-splitting decibels to mask its musical bankruptcy. Sundays it’s political sermons masquerading as God’s word, chased down with a pizza and a Sprite. Above all, it's hours and hours in your car.

At various times in the past my job description included entertainer, tourguide, conversationalist-companion, debater and dinner escort to luminaries with familiar names bandied daily about these forums. Several of these superstars arrived directly from Europe. Being well-informed and traveled, they knew they were coming to one of the epicenters of “typical American Culture.” As much as Omaha, Atlanta, Memphis, Phoenix, Houston or Tampa, my city has a reputation for exemplifying the straight and narrow centerline of “American Culture;” in fact it’s often cited as an exemplar, even on this forum.

At other times, social connections made abroad and family ties to the old country found me hosting European guests across a broad spectrum of social classes and intellectual achievement –ranging from tattooed teens from Central Europe to an Italian self-characterized as a Roman “peasant” and cinema extra.

Whether they were intellectual superstars or plain folk, what these Europeans had in common was that they found “typical American culture” boring and vapid.

Empty and a little sad. Jack Kerouac, Tom Wolfe, Neil Young, Miles Davis, Mother Teresa, Allen Ginsberg, Richard Serra, Bono, Richard Pryor…I think you could count on them all to agree.

All that pointless materialism…all those empty moments…

“American Culture”: the European intellectual who thinks it’s an oxymoron is wrong. We have a culture –just like everybody else.

It’s past due for an overhaul.

.

ryan
May 21st, 2006, 11:39 PM
from urban dictionary (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=troll):

troll http://static.urbandictionary.com/thumbsup.gif (javascript:void(0)) 216 up, 21 down http://static.urbandictionary.com/thumbsdown.gif (javascript:void(0))
One who purposely and deliberately (that purpose usually being self-amusement) starts an argument in a manner which attacks others on a forum without in any way listening to the arguments proposed by his or her peers. He will spark of such an argument via the use of ad hominem attacks (i.e. 'you're nothing but a fanboy' is a popular phrase) with no substance or relevence to back them up as well as straw man arguments, which he uses to simply avoid addressing the essence of the issue.

stache
May 22nd, 2006, 02:41 AM
Amen to that.

Kris
May 22nd, 2006, 04:21 AM
Oh Ryan, come on.

Ninjahedge
May 22nd, 2006, 10:43 AM
from urban dictionary (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=troll):

troll http://static.urbandictionary.com/thumbsup.gif (javascript:void(0)) 216 up, 21 down http://static.urbandictionary.com/thumbsdown.gif (javascript:void(0))
One who purposely and deliberately (that purpose usually being self-amusement) starts an argument in a manner which attacks others on a forum without in any way listening to the arguments proposed by his or her peers. He will spark of such an argument via the use of ad hominem attacks (i.e. 'you're nothing but a fanboy' is a popular phrase) with no substance or relevence to back them up as well as straw man arguments, which he uses to simply avoid addressing the essence of the issue.

Are you accusing him of this, or demonstrating how it can be done?

MidtownGuy
May 22nd, 2006, 10:46 AM
ablarc's no troll, he's a member of the family here.

ryan
May 22nd, 2006, 11:39 AM
The word can also be a verb.

Ninjahedge
May 22nd, 2006, 12:17 PM
The word can also be a verb.

As you so demonstrate.

I think we paid our fine ryan, lets cross this bridge before someone burns it, k?

ZippyTheChimp
May 22nd, 2006, 12:17 PM
I always thought the essential component of a troll is that he/she is a forum visitor, someone who "trolls around, fishing for an argument," disrupts the discussion, and moves on, leaving the forum in turmoil. As a fisherman, I saw the analogy that way, the Nordic troll a secondary characteristic.

Wikipedia on Internet Troll (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_troll)

Ninjahedge
May 22nd, 2006, 12:27 PM
I always thought the essential component of a troll is that he/she is a forum visitor, someone who "trolls around, fishing for an argument," disrupts the discussion, and moves on, leaving the forum in turmoil. As a fisherman, I saw the analogy that way, the Nordic troll a secondary characteristic.

Wikipedia on Internet Troll (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_troll)

I saw it the same way.

Actually, I think it has become a hybrid of the two, both as a mythical beast and a net-slinging cruiser.

But this thread isn't about trolls or trolling. At least, I hope it isn't.

Jasonik
May 22nd, 2006, 12:58 PM
At the risk of ad hominem attack (being called a troll), I have to side with ablarc on this one.

There is a 'typical New Yorker provincialism' implicit in the categorization of anything other than New York as "the rest of the country" and typifying "American Culture."

It is equal parts insensitive, insulting and ignorant to lump West-Texans and Cantabrigians into the same generic non-cosmopolitan stereotype.

While nothing in the US (or arguably the world) compares with New York, it is fallacious reasoning to conclude that all non-NYC places share anything resembling a common culture.

Azazello
May 22nd, 2006, 02:12 PM
Despite the fact that this topic is probably the result of bickering from another thread (I'm not sure, as it would be too boring to search for the originating thread), I'm gonna assume this is a serious discussion.

I'm not gonna wax noetic about the nature of "Culture" as I my feelings on the subject are ambivalent. I don't know what "Culture" is, nor will I pretend that I do. So I offer questions, of which I hope you will help me to better understand the concept.

Question:
Isn't a society's Culture an amalgamation of three components: traditional culture - a distinct collection of characteristics of how a society behaves, conceived from the society's origin and perpetuated throughout the life of the society; modern or current culture - the real, or perceived real, behaviors of the society in the Now, the Present; (and perhaps) a pop culture - effectively the stereotypical notions of how a society behaves, perceived by the society itself or by others (whether the notions are true or false is irrelevant)?

ablarc
May 22nd, 2006, 03:46 PM
Despite the fact that this topic is probably the result of bickering from another thread (I'm not sure, as it would be too boring to search for the originating thread), I'm gonna assume this is a serious discussion.
Thanks. It is. At least, most folks are treating it as such. I'm grateful for that.


I'm not gonna wax noetic about the nature of "Culture" as I my feelings on the subject are ambivalent. I don't know what "Culture" is, nor will I pretend that I do. So I offer questions, of which I hope you will help me to better understand the concept.
Check out the post for the dictionary's take, which is pretty informative.



Isn't a society's Culture an amalgamation of three components: traditional culture - a distinct collection of characteristics of how a society behaves, conceived from the society's origin and perpetuated throughout the life of the society; modern or current culture - the real, or perceived real, behaviors of the society in the Now, the Present; (and perhaps) a pop culture - effectively the stereotypical notions of how a society behaves, perceived by the society itself or by others (whether the notions are true or false is irrelevant)?
Seems reasonable.

Oh, and the bickering: http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=9261

.

ablarc
May 24th, 2006, 06:43 PM
Question:
Isn't a society's Culture an amalgamation of three components: traditional culture - a distinct collection of characteristics of how a society behaves, conceived from the society's origin and perpetuated throughout the life of the society; modern or current culture - the real, or perceived real, behaviors of the society in the Now, the Present; (and perhaps) a pop culture - effectively the stereotypical notions of how a society behaves, perceived by the society itself or by others (whether the notions are true or false is irrelevant)?
I guess you say this because you don't feel stereotypes have to be true, just interesting to somebody. That's fine until folks start drawing conclusions from the stereotypes.

.

Luca
June 2nd, 2006, 11:54 AM
Broadly, Ablarc's characterization of 'American' culture seems accurate and certainly it reflects what most non-US people think of it.

However, having had the opportunity to spend more time in the US than most furryners, I've found that there are many subtle and interesting aspects of Merkun life that transcend the vapidity of US mass culture.

I would also point out that other 'cultures' I am throroughly familiar with are in many ways no 'deeper' than US culture once you get past the "gee ain't it neat / exoticist" aspects.

Some uncommonly strong positives in US culture (some may disagree these are positive traits):
> Charity-giving and civic mindedness
> Prosperity so diffuse that any reasonably intelligent person can have a
tolerable material lifestyle without working much / conforming
> Attachment to 2nd amendment rights
> Endemic politeness
> A generally cheerful, practical, empirical outlook

Some bizarre things about Merkun culture that, no matter how much time I spend there, I'll never understand:
> General disinterest in other cultures
> Blatant hypocrisy on 'sin' issues (nudity, alcohol, etc.)
> Inability to differnetiate between quality and 'symbols' of quality in
commercial goods

ablarc
June 2nd, 2006, 05:09 PM
> Blatant hypocrisy on 'sin' issues (nudity, alcohol, etc.)
> Inability to differnetiate between quality and 'symbols' of quality in
commercial goods

...just a collection of pre-digested views absorbed from advertising men and clergy.

.

ablarc
June 24th, 2006, 08:13 AM
Some uncommonly strong positives in US culture (some may disagree these are positive traits):
> Attachment to 2nd amendment rights
The right to bear arms as an "uncommonly strong positive in US culture": Mayor Bloomberg and many others would disagree. Why do you think this is such a positive?

Luca
June 26th, 2006, 03:17 AM
The right to bear arms as an "uncommonly strong positive in US culture": Mayor Bloomberg and many others would disagree. Why do you think this is such a positive?

Partly because I think it is examplary of the individualistic (in the best sense), self-reliant, libertarian, conservative (again, in the best sense of the word), pugnacious streak in the American psyche that comes from beign a nation of strivers/immigrants.

But mostly, I think that disarmament of the citizenry is a sure sign of deep distrust of thw governing for the governed and maybe of a people in itself. Disarmament precludes the ability, whatever the legality, of challenging the state's monopoly on violence (including retributive or defensive violence), which I think is a mistake.

Most democratic nations have just rolled over on this one, while maybe getting very het up about soem minor stuff. I appreciate that the US has not. Notwithstanding that many people one reads about would be much better off without any firearms :eek:

ablarc
June 26th, 2006, 11:13 PM
To counteract inevitable accumulation of power in the government, Jefferson thought there should be a revolution every fifteen years --and an armed citizenry was the way to accomplish this.

Recently some Americans actually took this to heart and acted accordingly. They include the executed Timothy McVeigh and jailed Eric Rudolph.

Meanwhile, the government's power has grown as Jefferson foresaw.

The first Revolution took thirteen years to unfold. If we had one every fifteen years, we'd be in a more or less permanent state of revolution. Sort of like Iran, Cuba or Mao's China.

Don't know what to think of any of that.

Luca
June 27th, 2006, 02:51 AM
To counteract inevitable accumulation of power in the government, Jefferson thought there should be a revolution every fifteen years --and an armed citizenry was the way to accomplish this.

Recently some Americans actually took this to heart and acted accordingly. They include the executed Timothy McVeigh and jailed Eric Rudolph.

Meanwhile, the government's power has grown as Jefferson foresaw.

The first Revolution took thirteen years to unfold. If we had one every fifteen years, we'd be in a more or less permanent state of revolution. Sort of like Iran, Cuba or Mao's China.

Don't know what to think of any of that.

Revolution every 15 years sounds like a provocation on the part of Jefferson, rather than a policy tenet. I think that aside from ‘militia’ types hardly anyone thinks there will be a military dictatorship in the US. I would guess that armed citizens are more protected from pettier threats but in general command a certain respect.

ZippyTheChimp
June 27th, 2006, 06:55 AM
Congress debated for a week over the title of the office of president, ranging from Your Highness, the President of the United States to Mr. President.

George Washington set the tone for the peaceful transition of power by, after reluctantly accepting a second term in office, retired to private life - unthinkable political philosophy in the 18th century.

The resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974 went smoothly; however, key military figures and bases were monitored.

I wonder who was watching the watchers.

Luca
June 27th, 2006, 08:00 AM
How are forum moderators afdressed?

"Your moderacy"?

ZippyTheChimp
June 27th, 2006, 08:24 AM
Your Assholiness.

Fabrizio
June 27th, 2006, 08:40 AM
Ah! So that´s where I went wrong.... I called the asshole a snot-nose.

ablarc
June 27th, 2006, 09:33 AM
^ Livin' on the edge.

ZippyTheChimp
June 27th, 2006, 09:42 AM
I wouldn't like to see my minor foray into self-deprecating humor become the spark for an argument.

Let's drop this.

ablarc
June 27th, 2006, 11:52 AM
^ "Moderacy."

ZippyTheChimp
June 28th, 2006, 07:46 AM
^ Livin' on the edge.Fallin' off the edge.

ablarc
June 28th, 2006, 08:15 AM
So, Zip, whaddya think of totin' guns?

ablarc
June 29th, 2006, 12:37 AM
Fallin' off the edge.
Oh, no!..he got himself banned again.

ZippyTheChimp
June 29th, 2006, 08:05 AM
So, Zip, whaddya think of totin' guns?
I'll ignore the actual totin', which is dumb.

Gun ownership may be symbolic of American culture, but not the lumped America that many of us think exists outside NYC. Regarding the establishment of the Republic in relation to the 2nd Amendment,

I]A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.[/I]
there was a deep distrust of the federal government, especially a standing army, so state militias were considered the defense forces of the country. This was more strongly felt in the South - Lee's command was the Army of Northern Virginia, not the Confederate Army.

To varying degrees, state populations considered themselves quasi-autonomous entities, and I think only during the last 3 decades has this state character become diluted.

The other symbolic aspect of gun ownership is rugged individualism, born out of necessity at a time when, along with a horse or mule, stealing a man's rifle was a hangable offense. Today, the physical representation of that is game hunting, reinforcing a distrust in the feds who would disarm the citizenry.

ablarc
June 29th, 2006, 03:53 PM
^ OK, but what do you think?

ZippyTheChimp
June 29th, 2006, 07:58 PM
About what?

1. Carrying or owning handguns? Like I said, dumb.

2. Luca's point that the right to bear arms is a strong positive in American culture? A lost concept in America today.

2. Having a formative role in the development of American culture? Yes.

ablarc
June 29th, 2006, 08:01 PM
Ok, that's pretty clear.

Also agrees with what I think, for what it's worth.

ZippyTheChimp
June 29th, 2006, 08:05 PM
Let's see what Luca has to say.

Ninjahedge
June 29th, 2006, 08:33 PM
Let's see what Luca has to say.

She lives on the second floor.

Luca
June 30th, 2006, 03:00 AM
Let's see what Luca has to say.

I don't believe it is appropriate to prohibit, ex-ante, all private citizens from owning firearms. Reasonable regulation is warranted, as long as it is not confiscatory or discriminative.

The US is the only major advanced country (plus Switzerland) where this 'negative right' has not been largely eliminated. I think that is a positive though it obviously has considerable costs, like all freedoms (and benefits).

I would note in passing that the virtual prohibition of gun ownership by ordinary citizens (as opposed to registration / light regulation) is a largely 20th century and even post-war phenomenon. it is associated in time, and I would argue causally, with increasingly intrusive, bureaucratic, distrustful and inefficient government.

ablarc
June 30th, 2006, 06:51 AM
I would note in passing that the virtual prohibition of gun ownership by ordinary citizens (as opposed to registration / light regulation) is a largely 20th century and even post-war phenomenon. it is associated in time, and I would argue causally, with increasingly intrusive, bureaucratic, distrustful and inefficient government.
Sounds like something your compatriot Marksix would say (http://www.wirednewyork.com/forum/showthread.php?t=8868&page=5), but I bet he's against gun ownership. In the UK, distrust of government seems to come from the left; in the US it emanates from the right. You're the exception; you seem to have an American point of view.



Btw, we seem to have isolated a genuine component of typical American culture: gun ownership. This objectively distinguishes America from the rest of the pack of developed nations.

Another such trait is persistence of the death penalty. Are the two related? Are we now the culture of death?



Death by handgun. Death by execution. And of course...death by military action.

Maybe a trait that has come to distinguish us from others is a penchant for killing people as a way to accomplish a goal?


Just thinking out loud.

.

Jake
June 30th, 2006, 09:44 PM
Are we a culture of death? No, Cambodia is a culture of death. I think that the need for the death penalty comes from appreciation of life. Sure that may sound stupid but IMHO taking a criminal's life is the highest form of justice to someone who really treasures life. Justice doesn't mean REHABILITATION it means getting EVEN, and what is "even" for a murder-rape of a young child if not the death of the perpetrator?

Now I don't want mass executions of people but there are cases where there is NO DOUBT in anyone's mind that someone is guilty and I think the death penalty should be exercised in those cases. I think our current laws aren't scary at all and the prospect of life in prison doesn't scare me all that much as I enjoy reading and they'd probably feed me well.

Why is the Christian Hell such a powerful motivator for good? Because you will experience unimaginable pain. Perhaps that concept might scare some people onto the right track if it was instituted in our prisons.

ZippyTheChimp
June 30th, 2006, 11:38 PM
Another such trait is persistence of the death penalty. Are the two related? Are we now the culture of death?I think the death penalty persists because of another trait of Americans: we believe that everything in life should be fair, a level playing field, an eye for an eye.

This belief in fairness sometimes gets us involved in situations that we can't seem to think our way out of - like when a car bomb goes off in Iraq killing civilians, and we get blamed for it.

ablarc
July 1st, 2006, 12:42 AM
This belief in fairness sometimes gets us involved in situations that we can't seem to think our way out of - like when a car bomb goes off in Iraq killing civilians, and we get blamed for it.
This needs a little further explanation.

ZippyTheChimp
July 1st, 2006, 11:42 AM
^
Before I go off on a tangent, what aspect of it needs clarification?

ablarc
July 1st, 2006, 11:54 AM
^ Don't see how "belief in fairness" keeps us from thinking our way out of situations like "when a car bomb goes off in Iraq killing civilians, and we get blamed for it."

ZippyTheChimp
July 1st, 2006, 12:19 PM
The situation is the war itself.

ablarc
July 1st, 2006, 12:23 PM
The situation is the war itself.
And that's a reflection of our sense of fairness?

ZippyTheChimp
July 1st, 2006, 12:39 PM
We went into the country with the best of intentions. We invested considerable manpower and resourses to remove a repressive dictatorship. The insurgents are the bad guys. The Iraqi people should realize this and unite as one to help us get rid of them. Then they can have a nice democracy, and be happy. We will be rewarded with friendly relations.

It's only fair.

ablarc
July 1st, 2006, 01:19 PM
^ Your attribution to American opinion, not your own personal opinion...

...Right?

ZippyTheChimp
July 1st, 2006, 10:43 PM
Yes.

ablarc
July 2nd, 2006, 02:53 AM
Yes.
Glad to hear that. Jingoism gets everyone in trouble.

ablarc
July 26th, 2006, 09:14 PM
Justice doesn't mean REHABILITATION it means getting EVEN, and what is "even" for a murder-rape of a young child if not the death of the perpetrator?

...I think our current laws aren't scary at all and the prospect of life in prison doesn't scare me all that much as I enjoy reading and they'd probably feed me well.

Why is the Christian Hell such a powerful motivator for good? Because you will experience unimaginable pain. Perhaps that concept might scare some people onto the right track if it was instituted in our prisons.
A coherent and consistent view of punishment. That last paragraph suggests the possibility of substituting flogging for wasting time in prison. Might be more of a deterrent, and if you think about it, it might be more humane at the same time. What's more inhumane than forcing someone to waste a portion of his life in the company of criminals? Or maybe you could give them an alternative: 5 years or 40 lashes.

212
July 27th, 2006, 03:13 AM
Why is the Christian Hell such a powerful motivator for good? Because you will experience unimaginable pain.

*Is* the Christian hell a powerful motivator for good? Majority-Christian countries don't do especially well in worldwide rankings of murder rates ...

http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/cri_mur_percap-crime-murders-per-capita

... and within the United States, the "Bible Belt" states don't do especially well either.

http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/article.php?scid=12&did=169#MRord


That said, I do think that our strong belief in the Christian hell distinguishes the United States from the other wealthy democracies of the world.

ablarc
August 3rd, 2006, 08:08 AM
Interesting statistics, but hard to derive meaning from them. A quote from the statisticians:

"DEFINITION: Total recorded intentional homicides, completed. Crime statistics are often better indicators of prevalence of law enforcement and willingness to report crime, than actual prevalence."

Would the nearly 3,000 WTC deaths count as murders? If not, why not? Maybe they should be chalked up to some country besides the U.S. The internationalization of murder.

What about terrorist killings and bombings? If they were counted, wouldn't Saudi Arabia's figures be higher? And what about suicide bombers in Iraq, Israel, etc.?

212
August 3rd, 2006, 11:55 PM
Murder is the most clear-cut of crimes, for which it's toughest to fudge the numbers -- but yes, as you point out ^, even murder stats have some ambiguity.

Nevertheless, if the Christian hell were an especially powerful motivation for good, you'd expect the murder rates to be lowest in the most religiously Christian countries and states. Clearly that isn't the case.

The clearest pattern I can see from the murder stats is that countries with the worst rich-vs.-poor inequality tend to have bad murder rates. So *middle class values* may be a very powerful motivation for good.

(Usual disclaimers here: Correlation isn't causation, and there will be exceptions to the rule.)

ablarc
August 26th, 2006, 09:44 PM
Nevertheless, if the Christian hell were an especially powerful motivation for good, you'd expect the murder rates to be lowest in the most religiously Christian countries and states. Clearly that isn't the case.
Christianity offers salvation to the lost.

Religion appeals most to those with trouble in their lives.

Murder is a symptom of trouble in folks' lives.

You'd expect there to be more of both Christianity and murder where everyday life comes with trouble. That's the case with places like Louisiana and Mississippi.

Who can tell how many murders are prevented by a belief in hell?