Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Cat C-B

    “The “other” category in religious surveys is lazy and outmoded. It puts a
    thumb on the demographic scale in favor of Judeo-Christian traditions
    (and now, having no religion at all), and presents a skewed portrait.”

    Amen! Preach it, brother! (So to speak.)

    • cernowain greenman

      I wonder how the survey would change over all if “spiritual but not religious” was added. You might see declines in the religion categories for people who did not want to pick “other” and felt they had to fit in a religious category somewhere.

  • http://twitter.com/mistresspolly Mistress Polly

    Here in New Zealand we just had our census, it was delayed due to the Christchruch earthquakes.. however hopefully the religious stats will be avaiable soon.. will keep you posted if you are interested?

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      Of course!

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    The mechanical problem with giving more attention to “others” is that it demands a larger number of people in the survey in order to make accurate statements about small cohorts. This additional effort would produce little if any new information about the larger categories, and so runs into an adverse cost/benefit environment.
    I agree that surveys should be asking about practice as well as affiliation, because it could tell us things about the secret lives of the major-cohort adherents as well. ;-)
    I fear if we want to be well-surveyed we shall have to do it to ourselves (again).

  • Charles Cosimano

    The sheer costs involved in creating any sort of accurate survey based on practice as opposed to belief or affiliation are probaby almost insurmountable, so this is the methodology that is going to be used until someone can figure out a way to bring the cost down.

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

    Maybe the very idea of easily distinguishable, neatly separable “religions” is itself artificial. Back in the day, Pagans had Temples, festivals. initiations, mysteries, myths, rituals, songs, dances, and, of course, Goddesses and Gods out the wazoo. But if you asked someone what “religion” they “belonged” to, they would not understand what you were on about.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Times do change, though.

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

        Yes, and new ideas come along all the time. Some of these ideas are just pain lousy, like the idea of “rival” religions that people “join” like little clubs, or bowling teams with their own shirts.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Rather than seeing religions as rivals, they work well as together for the people, don’t they?

          What it appears, to me, is that, in antiquity, religious belief was a lot more cultural than it is today.

          Nowadays, societal culture in the West is not as distinct as it once was.

          • Cat C-B

            Though in urbane societies especially, like those of ancient Greece and Rome, cultures mixed and shared deities and Mysteries on a regular basis. Sometimes it made people nervous, but it was pretty commonplace.

            Culture was an important part of one’s religion… but cross-cultural influences and borrowings were not unusual, nor seen as “changing religions” in that sense of little clubs that Ap is talking about.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            WWhen in Rome…”

    • cernowain greenman

      The “religion” category came from modernism, the same place that “race” came from. In the postmodern world, many are discovering the lack of meaning behind the old terminologies.

    • Cat C-B

      Agreed. I think it’s a way of thinking that has been unconsciously influenced by the monotheisms that have dominated the West for so long. This is not how Pagans originally contemplated the spiritual world–far, far fewer neat pigeonholes.

  • Franklin Evans

    I recommend to all a close examination of the American Religious Identification Survey (latest 2008) at http://commons.trincoll.edu/aris/
    Their methodology is sound (and painstakingly spelled out).

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    Over here, in good old Blighty, I am convinced that the ‘nones’ here would best be described as ‘apatheists’. People with no opinion on religion.

    I have, personally, spoken to enough people who do not even consider any form of spirituality or lack of it. It simply is not a part of their world view. (At the extreme end, I’ve spoken to those who see no further forward in time than the weekend.)

  • Deborah Bender

    These surveys have a monotheistic category bias in that they only allow respondents to declare affiliation with a single religion. They are missing people who claim affiliation with both a familial religion and one adopted in adulthood, people who participate in the religious activities of a spouse without formally converting, people who practice both Buddhism and a theistic religion, initiated practitioners of both Wicca and an Afro-Diasporic religion, etc. Even when religions demand exclusivity, ordinary adherents often ignore those demands. The U.S. Census finally added a mixed race category. It’s time religious surveys started asking about people of mixed religions.

    • Ursyl

      That is a very good point. Just because the Abrahamic faiths require their adherents to be exclusive does not mean that all religions require that.

      When my Coming of Age students were learning about Confucianism, one of the things pointed out about the practice of religion in Asia is that many use different sets of beliefs and practices in different contexts: Confucian at work, Taoist on the weekends, Buddhist when burying family.

    • Deborah Bender

      I forgot to mention that First Nations/indigenous people sometimes practice both an ancestral religion and a missionary religion such as Mormonism. It’s not unheard of for someone to be the medicine person for their tribe or clan and also a churchgoer.

      The numbers of people to whom this applies may not be great, but I expect the mixed religion category in the U.S. to grow along with rising intermarriage rates, interest among young people in their ancestral cultures, and a general increase in religious open mindedness.

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

        Actually the numbers are pretty high when it comes to Native Americans, Africans (in Africa) and followers of Afro-Caribbean religious traditions. In Africa alone there are definitely tens of millions of people who fall into this category, according to data gathered by Pew and published in 2010.

        • Deborah Bender

          No argument there, but I was referring to the population of the United States, which is the group studied in the survey Jason is writing about.

          All the Native Americans, Native Alaskans and Native Hawai’ians taken together constitute less that 1.5 percent of the U.S. population, and the minority of them who follow their ancestral religions barely show up on a national survey.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            If we focus just on the US of A, then the place to look is among Latinos, where precisely this kind of syncretism is actually quite common.

  • Malaz

    Hey Jason,

    Just a thought: You’re in the media…and have lots of connections…why doesn’t WH do it’s own nationwide survey?

    That way you could ask the right questions and get a much more tangible response…

    • harmonyfb

      Yes, please! I would love to see the data from a WH survey. :)

  • Kilmrnock

    All quite valid points Jason and i agree with your suppositions . But as another poster here suggested due to excessive cost and general disinterest maybe we should do our own survey . This site is well recieved in our community , well respected . This would be a good place to do a survey into the specific beliefs of us pagans . I also believe the large pagan festivals Like P Con would also be a good venue to survey pagans on specific beliefs . Most of us , particularly if done anonamously aren’t bashful about our beliefs.I don’t think getting info from most pagans wouldn’t be that difficult . what do you think?, my freind . Kilm

  • http://www.facebook.com/mary.hellmann.1 Mary Hellmann

    why don’t they just ask: !.) do you follow a spiritual path and 2.) what is it.

    • Franklin Evans

      Mary, the ARIS survey suggests a reason: they have a “refused answer” category listed with all of the rest of the answers. I don’t know what the statistical validity impact it has, but I also know many Pagans who would be in that category for a variety of reasons. Shrug.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Response to (2) is hard to tabulate. Surveys don’t like essay questions.

  • kittylu

    I’m very curious to know more about this group as well. They sound pretty pagan to me. More than half say they often feel a
    deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more
    than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37%). Whatever they are it sounds nice.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    Not exactly relevant here, but I figure this is related to interfaith, so I will post it anyway:

    “He who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil. When we don’t proclaim Jesus Christ, we proclaim the worldliness of the devil, the worldliness of the demon.” -Pope Frankie

    When the head of one of the largest single religious denominations on the planet says this, what is an appropriate response?

    Bearing in mind that most responses should be through established interfaith organisations who may be more concerned about alienating Catholics than Pagans.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Responding through established interfaith organizations, one could reply, “We must agree to disagree about this.” Intramurally, Pagans might note yet another example of Christianity literally demonizing the gods of other paths (for ringing rhetoric to this point, call in our own Apuleius Platonicus).. In an academic setting one might cite this as an illustration of the varieties of theologies of creation.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        How would one respond through established interfaith organisations if ones own religious group is restricted from joining said organisations by the selfsame Catholics?

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          That would depend on how other members of the established interfaith organization react to the Catholics’ blackmail. If they knuckle under, you might deliver the intramural version above just as you leave. If they object, listen closely; you may want to pick any of the three replies, depending.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            It has already happened across the UK. The largest interfaith organisation rejected an application by a Druid organisation (it deals with organisations, not individuals, only) to join, out of concern of comments by Catholic names who stated that if any Pagan organisation (they refuse to acknowledge the Pagan faiths as actual religions) were to join, they would leave. This has had a knock on effect.

          • Deborah Bender

            When an affiliated body within an umbrella organization is able to exert this kind of pressure successfully, it means one of two things: the larger organization is dependent on the affiliate organization’s money, or the governing board of the larger organization is sympathetic to the reasons why the affiliate objects to the group it wishes to exclude.

            The first reason has to be tackled by changing funding sources and budgeting priorities. The second reason requires an educational campaign to get more members of the umbrella organization to understand that the reasons for excluding a group go against the values of the organization. Then the members of the organization will put pressure on its leadership to change course.

            Some American interfaith organizations have received similar ultimata from Orthodox churches. They told the Orthodox churches that if they wanted to pick and choose which faiths they were willing to do interfaith work with, they (the Orthodox) were free to leave the organization. Which they did. The organizations could survive financially without the Orthodox churches and were sufficiently steeped in interfaith values to reject the Orthodox churches’ position as unreasonable.

            The way this kind of thing is usually dealt with in the U.S. in any sort of organization is by grassroots activity among the affiliated organizations or local chapters, followed by campaigns within the organization to change the national policy, defiance of the national exclusionary rules, and when necessary, making a public stink about it. See: Boy Scouts of America.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Sometimes it is just a numbers game.

            Just look at my response to Baruch, below.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I take it the others knuckled under, and this also has had a knock on effect. I assume they include Jews and Muslims — absurd for any such organization in Western Europe to exclude the latter — so you getting the cold shoulder from the whole Abrahamic cohort.
            Very well, such institutions are not available as forums for response to Francis’s remark. Perhaps some public forum in which UK Pagans are strong: newspaper columns? blogosphere? social media? The intrumural and academic answers above are each a starting point for reasonable, critical commentary on the remark, or one could counterpoint the other.
            More I dasn’t say; I don’t know your situation.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Allow me to demonstrate some statistics from the 2011 England & Wales census:

            Christianity: 59.3% (33,243,175) (of which an estimated 5,200,000 are Catholic or roughly 9.99% of the total population)
            Islam: 4.8% (2,706,066)
            None/Not stated: 32.3% (18,135,261)
            Other: 0.4% (240,530) (This figure includes all forms of ‘Paganism’, as well as any other form of religion not significant enough to be mentioned individually.)


            Apparently, there were roughly 80,153 people in England and Wales who stated some form of Paganism (including Heathenry) as their religious persuasion.

            A study conducted by Ronald Hutton suggests a higher possible figure of 250,000 ‘Neo-pagan’ adherents, but that is based largely on conjecture.


            Even if the Hutton figure is the more accurate one, that is still only 0.75% of the total Christian population or 0.48% of the total population for England and Wales (52,041,916).

            That is such a small minority that it is easy to ignore and ridicule. Not to mention that it makes far more logical sense to offend the far smaller number of people.

            If you were organising an interfaith council, would you risk alienating a fringe collection of loosely affiliated individuals with little to no group cohesion or one of the most powerful religious organisations on the planet?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I would have no busiiness organizing an interfaith council.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            The question was hypothetical.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Hypothetically I would quietly, one-on-one, try to organize other members into standing up to the bully, for reasons Deborah has stated plainly and need no rehearsal here. But that’s entirely hypothetical, because I have no skills in that area.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Now, when said bully pitches a fit and leaves the organisation, you have traded a possible 5.2 million Catholics for 0.25 million (at best estimates) Pagans (of various stripes).

            If you are trying to have a national interfaith, do those maths bode well for your council?

            For my part, I can understand why Interfaith have sided with the Catholics. I just do not like that the Catholics have done it.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            It bodes ill for a council to violate the principles in whose pursuit it was founded.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            It does, but they are going to want to antagonise and alienate as few people as possible, are they not?

            Of course, it does bring up the question ‘what is the purpose of interfaith?’ Not to be asked on an individual basis, but on an organisational one.

            What doe each of the involved organisations seek to gain from interfaith dialogue and work? It would seem that certain models of Christianity seek more power and greater access to those they would like to convert.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            The purpose of interfaith activity is to let people who usually are aware only of their doctrinal differences to find meaningful common ground. Barring one faith cohort defeats the purpose ab initio.