Q[UESTION]: I find it puzzling how the recent atheist manifestos by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens have all turned into bestsellers in a country that’s overwhelmingly religious. According to various polls, half of all Americans believe the Bible is the literal truth. A recent Newsweek poll found that 91 percent believe in God. How do you explain the enormous popularity of these books?
PINKER: Part of it is that the people who buy books — at least that kind of highbrow trade book — are not a random sample of the population. The opinions sampled by these polls are probably soft. When people are asked a question, they don’t just turn a flashlight into their data bank of beliefs and read out what they see. When people say, “Yes, I believe in God and the Bible,” they’re kind of saying, “I’m a moral person. I have solidarity with the community of churchgoers that I was brought up in and that I currently belong to.” I think that if you were to probe a lot of people’s religious opinions, they would not be as religious as the numbers would suggest.
Posted by: Tobias | August 9, 2008
Steven Pinker is a much smarter man than I am
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