Monday, February 25, 2008

This intrigues me. Any opinions on this?

New York Times Article

February 25, 2008
Americans Change Faiths at Rising Rate, Report Finds

WASHINGTON — More than a quarter of adult Americans have left the faith of their childhood to join another religion or no religion, according to a new survey of religious affiliation by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The report, titled “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey,” depicts a highly fluid and diverse national religious life. If shifts among Protestant denominations are included, then it appears that 44 percent of Americans have switched religious affiliations.

For at least a generation, scholars have noted that more Americans are moving among faiths, as denominational loyalty erodes. But the survey, based on interviews with more than 35,000 Americans, offers one of the clearest views yet of that trend, scholars said. The United States Census does not track religious affiliation.

The report shows, for example, that every religion is losing and gaining members, but that the Roman Catholic Church “has experienced the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes.” The survey also indicates that the group that had the greatest net gain was the unaffiliated. More than 16 percent of American adults say they are not part of any organized faith, which makes the unaffiliated the country’s fourth largest “religious group.”

Detailing the nature of religious affiliation — who has the numbers, the education, the money — signals who could hold sway over the country’s political and cultural life, said John Green, an author of the report who is a senior fellow on religion and American politics at Pew.

Michael Lindsay, assistant director of the Center on Race, Religion and Urban Life at Rice University, echoed that view. “Religion is the single most important factor that drives American belief attitudes and behaviors,” said Mr. Lindsay, who had read the Pew report. “It is a powerful indicator of where America will end up on politics, culture, family life. If you want to understand America, you have to understand religion in America.”

In the 1980s, the General Social Survey by the National Opinion Research Center indicated that from 5 percent to 8 percent of the population described itself as unaffiliated with a particular religion.

In the Pew survey 7.3 percent of the adult population said they were unaffiliated with a faith as children. That segment increases to 16.1 percent of the population in adulthood, the survey found. The unaffiliated are largely under 50 and male. “Nearly one-in-five men say they have no formal religious affiliation, compared with roughly 13 percent of women,” the survey said.

The rise of the unaffiliated does not mean that Americans are becoming less religious, however. Contrary to assumptions that most of the unaffiliated are atheists or agnostics, most described their religion “as nothing in particular.” Pew researchers said that later projects would delve more deeply into the beliefs and practices of the unaffiliated and would try to determine if they remain so as they age.

While the unaffiliated have been growing, Protestantism has been declining, the survey found. In the 1970s, Protestants accounted for about two-thirds of the population. The Pew survey found they now make up about 51 percent. Evangelical Christians account for a slim majority of Protestants, and those who leave one evangelical denomination usually move to another, rather than to mainline churches.

To Prof. Stephen Prothero, large numbers of Americans leaving organized religion and large numbers still embracing the fervor of evangelical Christianity point to the same desires.

“The trend is toward more personal religion, and evangelicals offer that,” said Mr. Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University, who explained that evangelical churches tailor many of their activities for youth. “Those losing out are offering impersonal religion and those winning are offering a smaller scale: mega-churches succeed not because they are mega but because they have smaller ministries inside.”

The percentage of Catholics in the American population has held steady for decades at about 25 percent. But that masks a precipitous decline in native-born Catholics. The proportion has been bolstered by the large influx of Catholic immigrants, mostly from Latin America, the survey found.

The Catholic Church has lost more adherents than any other group: about one-third of respondents raised Catholic said they no longer identified as such. Based on the data, the survey showed, “this means that roughly 10 percent of all Americans are former Catholics.”

Immigration continues to influence American religion greatly, the survey found. The majority of immigrants are Christian, and almost half are Catholic. Muslims rival Mormons for having the largest families. And Hindus are the best-educated and among the richest religious groups, the survey found.

“I think politicians will be looking at this survey to see what groups they ought to target,” Professor Prothero said. “If the Hindu population is negligible, they won’t have to worry about it. But if it is wealthy, then they may have to pay attention.”

Experts said the wide-ranging variety of religious affiliation could set the stage for further conflicts over morality or politics, or new alliances on certain issues, as religious people have done on climate change or Jews and Hindus have done over relations between the United States, Israel and India.

“It sets up the potential for big arguments,” Mr. Green said, “but also for the possibility of all sorts of creative synthesis. Diversity cuts both ways.”

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Language of Flowers

You know what would be cool? To bring back the Victorian tradition of sending messages by flower bouquets. Every flower has a meaning: yellow roses= friendship, etc. So a really cool thing would be to have a flower shop that specializes in sending message bouquets.
Say I wanted to send a bouquet to a friend. I don't want to pick some flowers that mean heartache, jealousy, and vengeance do I? Well, maybe if you wanted to tell your friend you now hated them or something. But that's my point. It's so cliche to send a dozen red roses on Valentine's Day or just to say I'm sorry or something. We need something more creative I think. I mean, yeah, ok - sending her/him their favorite flower is saying I'm paying attention - but what if you could send a bouquet that says, Will you marry me? Just by the blooms you pick.

Just a thought.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Different Post

Well, I'm home from Missouri. It was fun girls! I had no idea how much I missed having time with my friends until just now - my whole life somehow seemed lighter and more fun. I need to make some friends here - though they could never be Sara and Kay - and maybe that feeling will keep. Sadly though, it's a lot harder than in kindergarten, when all you had to do was share a crayon. The weather here is awful. It's like zero all the time with a wind chill factor of -20. I wish spring would hurry up. I am disappointed that today we're expecting more snow. Not a lot, but more. Anyway, sorry for the boring post, but I just wanted to see something different up on my blog.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

A Rebuttal

Alright. So I promised to address WHY I think The Silent Scream is propaganda. When I first saw the film, back before I'd actually thought through the issue of abortion and just went along with the crowd I had always hung out with, and called myself anti-abortion, I was just as horrified as the makers wanted me to be. I, in fact, had to re-watch the film and find out the facts before my whole thinking the issue over was done.
That being said, once I stepped back, I could tell that it was made to 1) Hit that sensitive, emotional chord in all of us, and that made me suspicious, because I know that if all you have is emotion than there might not be anything to back it up. and 2) that led me to finding out the scientific facts about the film - I figured if they backed up the emotion than I was in for more deep thoughts.
But the scientific facts DIDN'T back up the emotion. An abortion is always sad to me; but it's because of the loss of potential and because I feel bad about some of the situations women find themselves in. I get that people don't agree.
So, I looked up what the experts said. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, teaching faculty from hospitals, etc. I tend to believe experts, they know what they're talking about.
So I looked stuff up: about 12-week old fetuses (actually, the fetus in the video was 11-weeks, but we'll just go with a week further in development, as that's what the scientists/doctors did)
The video claims:
1) The 12-week fetus experiences pain.
Facts: At that stage of pregnancy, the brain and nervous system are in the earliest stage of development. The beginnings of the brain stem, which includes a rudimentary thalamus and spinal cord, is being formed. Most brain cells aren't developed. WITHOUT A CEREBRAL CORTEX, PAIN IMPULSES CANNOT BE RECEIVED OR PERCEIVED.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists made a statement on pain of the fetus: "We know of no legitimate scientific information that supports the statement that a fetus experiences pain early in pregnancy. We do know that the cerebellum attains its final configuration in the seventh month and that mylenization (covering) of the spinal cord and the brain begins between the 20th and 40th weeks of pregnancy. These, as well as other neurological developments, would have to be in place for the fetus to receive pain. To feel pain, a fetus needs neurotransmitted hormones. In animals, these complex chemicals develop in the last third of gestation.
2) The 12-week fetus makes purposeful movements(e.g., agitated movement in an attempt to avoid suction cannula)
Facts: At this stage of prenancy, ALL FETAL MOVEMENT IS REFLEXIVE IN NATURE rather than purposeful, since the latter requires cognition, you can't perceive and know without a cortex - or a covered spinal cord and attached nerves. The same type of response ("frantic activity") would occur with any external stimulus. IN ADDITION, EXPERTS IN ULTRASONOGRAPHY AND FILM TECHNOLOGY HAVE CONCLUDED THAT THE VIDEOTAPE OF THE ABORTION WAS DELIBERATELY SLOWED DOWN AND SUBSEQUENTLY SPEEDED UP TO CREATE AN IMPRESSION OF HYPERACTIVITY. -I would like to add that THIS really made me feel that the video was propoganda!
3) The ultrasonogram depicts the open mouth of the fetus.
Facts: The mouth of the fetus cannot be identified in the ultrasound image with certainty. It COULD be the mouth though, I'll give them that. BUT
4) The fetus emits the "silent scream."
Facts: A SCREAM CANNOT OCCUR WITHOUT AIR IN THE LUNGS. Although primitive respiratory movements do occur in the later stages of gestation, crying, or screaming cannot occur even then. In fact, a child born prematurely at 26-27 weeks' gestation (24-25 weeks fetal age) cannot scream but occasionally emits weak cries. No scream- no film.
5) A fetus is indistinguishable from any of the rest of us.
Facts: A fetus at 12 weeks cannot in any way be compared to a fully formed functioning person. At this stage only rudiments of the organ systems are present. The fetus is unable to sustain life outside the woman's womb, it is incapable of conscious thought; it is incapable of essential breathing. It is instead an in utero fetus with the potential of becoming a child.
6. Fetal head at 12 weeks requires the use of "crushing instruments" for extraction.
Facts: At 12 weeks gestation (10 weeks fetal age) and eve 1-2 weeks beyond, instrumentation other than a suction cannula is not required when abortion is properly performed.
- "Brain waves have existed for six weeks" in the fetus displayed on the screen.
*Experts say that there are some electrical impulses recorded as early as 10 weeks gestation, but GENUINE BRAIN WAVES DO NOT OCCUR UNTIL THE THIRD TRIMESTER.
- "Fetal heart rate rose from 140 to 200, which is abnormally high and reflective of fetal response to "imminent mortal danger."
*Experts say that the heart rate of the fetus portrayed in the film didn't rise significantly, BUT, A fetal heart rate of 200 is within the normal range (180-200 beats per minute) for this stage. It is also unlikely (though not impossible) that the fetus even HAD a heart rate of 140 that rose to 200 because a rate of 140 is generally noted in the latter half of the pregnancy.
- The large, well,developed fetal model intermittently picked up and displayed during the narrative of the porcedure is representative of a 12-week fetus.
* Experts say that the fetal model displayed during the abortion procedure is MUCH LARGER than a fetus of a 12-weeks gestation model visualized by ultrasonography. The model compared in size to a fetus of 18 weeks gestation.
- "Many women who have an abortion suffer severe and lasting psychological damage.
* Experts say that serious emotional problems following abortion are uncommon. (Though that doesn't mean impossible either) Most women report a sense of relief, although some may experience temporary depression. Serious psychological disturbances after abortion occur less frequently than after childbirth (postpartum depression anyone?)
This is getting long, so I'll skip the stuff about the number of illegal abortions, the crime syndicate stuff, etc. If you want me to address them, I will. Just ask and I'll add it to my comments page.

Questions and Other Problems
Q: Does a first-trimester abortion take so long to perform - it seemed to go on for a very extended period of time?
A: no, an uncomplicated first-trimester abortion usually takes less than ten minutes to perform

Q: Is it appropriate to refer to a fetus as unborn child, with the same rights as other human beings?
A: No. Constitutionally, a fetus has no rights of personhood. most legal precedent in English law attributes personhood with a live birth.

Q: What about the woman who needs an abortion? She is conspicuously absent from the film.
A: The film ignored the plight of the woman seeking abortion and tries to shift focus to the fetus. Women WANT abortions - even before Roe v. Wade, why? (that's just my own little aside - are all women really morally defunct as the anti-abortion people apparently think, throughout all these centuries, when it was legal, and then illegal. Legality makes no difference except in deaths of women's lives.

Q: What about the dead fetuses in the disposal containers?
A. Most of these fetuses are so large and in such a state of deterioration that THEY ARE ACTUALLY STILLBORNS rather than aborted fetuses. It is possible that some were the result of late-term abortions but it would be rare - late-term abortions constitute less than 1 percent of all abortions and are the result of fetal abnormalities that can only be diagnosed later in pregnancy or other extreme hardship cases (why don't anti-abortion people acknowledge the small number of these. Do they not understand the law they're trying to abolish or what?)

So, I've answered why I think the Silent Scream is pure propaganda. I realize that people will read this and just snort in disbelief and derision, but I thought it through, I went to people I believed would know (medical experts) and found answers to MY questions. That doesn't mean I expect anti-abortion people to agree, just that I have the right to my opinion, obviously.
Also, I know the film was made by an anti-abortion doctor. I think that skews his credibility and also - why would someone SO anti-abortion actually FILM an abortion HE WAS PERFORMING? That seems to be rather hypocritical since he believes that abortion is murdering an unborn person, but I guess he also believes that the ends (showing propaganda to hurt women in my opinion) justifies the means (performing a procedure he says is a murder). Just a thought.