Monday, March 21, 2005


It's Holy Week

It being Holy Week, la Semana Santa and all, you may expect to get your fill of religious news from the media. If we're lucky, the image of the Blessèd Virgin will appear in some unlikely place,1 and Univision, the largest U.S. Spanish-language cable network, will try to be there as the news breaks. NBC intends to stay out front of the English-speaking pack by featuring a weeklong series called "Faith in America."

So that it will have something to talk about, NBC decided to create some news and has commissioned a poll on "religion and American life", the results of which are conveniently and miraculously just out. [This link may take you to an online poll that you must pass through to see the poll results. I'm not sure.] The poll is based on telephone interviews of 800 adults conducted by Peter D. Hart Research between March 8 and 10.

I took the survey to see how I might measure up with my more affiliated brethren. Some questions left me confused—

How often do you watch or listen to religious programming on TV or radio?

Some days it seems that is all that's on the tube, depending upon how you define "religious programming." For instance (and speaking of tubes), is the endless headline coverage of the Terri Schiavo case "religious programming," or the hormone crisis in baseball? I'm not sure how I answered. I think I put "All the time."

Do your religious beliefs play a major role, a minor role, or no role at all in determining who to support in an election?

I believe rather religiously that George Bush should not be attacking other countries willy-nilly, so does that mean my religious beliefs play a major role in determining who to support in an election? I don't know. It seems to me that I would have thought the same in any case.

Do your religious beliefs play a major role, a minor role, or no role at all in making decisions at work?

My religious beliefs played a major role in my decision to work as little as possible. So how should I answer?

Of course, you may find the questions more in accord with your mode of thought. But my point is that the poll itself rather quickly leads you down a garden path so that by the time you've reached the end of it, you can think of nothing but religion. Insidiously clever. But it worked. I am devoting this week to religion, with perhaps an occasional look into its soulmate, moral turpitude.

Be forewarned.

Correction: "Terry Schiavo" has been corrected to "Terri Schiavo."


1 The appearances of the Virgin in a tortilla in Texas and in the window of a former bank building in Clearwater, Florida, are well documented. Her repeated appearances to Georgia homemaker Nancy Fowler, which at one point drew up to 100,000 people, are less so—

Some of the faithful said their cameras caught images of Mary along with strange colors and shapes emanating from the sun.

"I come because of all the miracles I have experienced," said Angie Moogalin of Chester, Va., clutching a Polaroid of Mrs. Fowler's house with another shape she claims is a door above the house. "I've seen different lights and different images. There's just a feeling of holiness here."


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