God is none, but it does matter

By Razib Khan | April 28, 2010 4:53 am

I listened today to an interview with Stephen Prothero, which outlined the argument in his book God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World-and Why Their Differences Matter. Prothero is a professor in the Department of Religion at Boston University, and he certainly brings some heft to this argument. Not having read the book, but listening to his talking points in interview and discussion, he seems to have a problem as an empirical matter with the contention regularly made in interfaith circles that all religions fundamentally point to the same truth. The metaphor that Houston Smith used whereby religions are separate paths to the same mountain top is referred to repeatedly. Prothero suggests that this universalistic model denies the deep reality of sectarian difference in belief, practice and outlook, and tends to be favored by those of liberal bent at ease with multiculturalism. He also notes that the foundation of common unity can be traced back to the perennial philosophy. This philosophy lay at the heart of the Traditionalist School, of which Smith was arguably a member, as was Julius Evola. So the tendency that Prothero is putting into focus is not necessarily associated with liberalism, though in the American context it is because of the Right’s capture by low church anti-elitist elements.

An illustration of the problems which crop up when those of distinctive religions attempt to find common ground is that that commonality is often generated through an exclusion of an out group. Jews, Muslims and Christians all worship the God of Abraham. But of course Buddhists find the God of Abraham irrelevant to the central questions of religion. Prothero also observes that liberal universalism tends to put a premium on elite mysticism, a mode of religiosity which is notable for transcendence of sectarian distinctions. But the much more common mode of religious life is that of plain believers who take distinctive beliefs and practices rather seriously. Pragmatically this sort of consideration is critical when assessing whether a Sunni vs. Shia distinction will have any importance. At the level of Sufi mystics these distinctions may melt away, but the rest of humanity is still something one must consider if one is a more prosaic sort who does not expect to actively gain salvation before death.

And it is at the level of the rest of humanity that I think Prothero’s own methodological orientation may cause problems in interpreting the world as it is. From what I can tell he operates out of the framework of Religious Studies (which coincidentally in the United States was shaped by Mircea Eliade, who was strongly influenced by Traditionalism). Too often it seems to me that scholars out of this tradition operate as if religion is a concrete entity, distinct and unique, as opposed to being an emergent property of normal aspects of culture and cognition. It is scientists who start from a naturalistic perspective who I think can take a final step back, and see religion as but a piece of the painting. Prothero is correct obviously that adherents of different religions view themselves as distinct, as following different truths. Fundamentalist Christians are liable to dismiss Allah as an Arab pagan divinity, or even a demon, despite the widely held belief by many that Allah is simply a different name for the God of the Christians. But what if you don’t believe that gods exist except in the minds of believers? Then whether as a practical fact Allah and the Christian God Allah or Lord Buddha are distinct beings rests in large part on whether humans conceptualize them differently. It turns out that in general they do not. In other words religious believers tend to conceive of their supernatural agents very similarly, whose traits are rather interchangeable, with the main difference being semantic. The book Theological Incorrectness cites a wide range of literature in this area, with a particular reference to the religious landscape of Sri Lanka.

The disjunction between assertions and sincere beliefs of deep difference, and the reality that cognitively there’s little gap at all, shouldn’t be too surprising. Promiscuity of belief has been relatively normal for much of human history, as was evident in the pre-Christian Roman Empire, or is evident in Japan or China. The exclusive tribal aspect of Islam and Christianity combined with their universal ambitions are somewhat atypical, though this suite of characters has been highly successful in propagating itself. Additionally, religion is more than simply belief, it is about communal rituals and belonging, and the daily regularity of banal practices and customs. Prothero is correct that acknowledging the deep differences are important, but I believe to a great extent he is wrong as to what those differences are. That Buddhism emphasizes suffering while Christianity emphasizes sin is not particularly significant unless you’re a Buddhist or a Christian, and even then most Christians have no idea what soteriology means for example. Beliefs are shallow markers to group affiliations, not deeply held axioms which serve as starting lines for chains of inference. Religious elites construct many distinctive aspects of their brand, but it is the functional components which are essential in furthering community and human flourishing.

I think the Shia-Sunni split which Stephen Prothero gives as an example of the need to understand the depths of difference is a good case of how beliefs may be secondary. The division here began originally as a political dispute, whereby the partisans of Ali and his family dissented from the decisions of the Muslim majority in the succession to the position of Caliph. Over the centuries these partisans evolved into the Shia faction, while those who were not Shia or other assorted sectarians become Sunni. Some distinctions of practice and belief did arise across this divide, but in general those distinctions evolved after the original political division (because the Shia party was decentralized they have preserved more of the theological diversity of early Islam than the Sunnis).

On a deep level Huston Smith was right. Human psychology is universal, so human intuitions about supernatural aspects of the world exhibit deep commonality and intelligibility. But it really doesn’t matter, human tribalism is also a universal, and it co-opts these religious intuitions into its service. The fact that both tribes don tattoos does not elicit in them an appreciation of the universality of these sorts of markers, the importance of belonging. Rather, the markers often separate those who are your brothers, and those who you wish to kill. In other words, what you believe may matter less than what you believe about what you believe.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Religion
  • Katharine

    How strongly did Eliade shape religious studies in the US?

    One has to remember, of course, that he was a product of pre-WWII Romania, which was nothing if not very conservative – keep in mind that Romania’s Ion Antonescu was somewhat notorious for carrying out some of the larger pogroms outside Germany/Austria/Poland and carried out campaigns against Roma, of whom Romania has the largest population density – and something of a far-right weirdo whose politics bled into his scholarship. I would venture a guess that this affected the shaping of religious studies in the US, if he was so influential.

  • Roisin

    “Too often it seems to me that scholars out of this tradition operate as if religion is a concrete entity, distinct and unique, as opposed to being an emergent property of normal aspects of culture and cognition. It is scientists who start from a naturalistic perspective who I think can take a final step back, and see religion as but a piece of the painting.”

    I agree with you that you cannot separate religion from other aspects of human life but in my experience, scientists are far more inclined to reductionist thinking like this than theologians. Religious studies as a field of study that we know today (as distinct from theology) began post-Enlightenment as an attempt to look at religion in a scientific way.

    Where do you get the idea that scientists are better placed to “take a final step back”?
    Does this come from an a priori assumption that scientists’ attempts to measure the world empirically is the most true and accurate reality? Is it even possible to look at religion or culture objectively when every person can only look out from their own context?

  • ChH

    “believers tend to conceive of their supernatural agents very similarly, whose traits are rather interchangeable, with the main difference being semantic.”
    I disagree. Islam is about people trying to reach a vengeful Allah by doing good. Christianity is about a just but loving God reaching down to people because we are unable to do good without God’s help. The paradigms are quite different.

    Also, the Bible explicitly deals with the question of the usefulness of faith in God if, hypothetically, Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead (and by extension, if God does not exist):
    First Corinthians 15:12-22 “… if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we [Paul & the other apostles] are even found to be false witnesses of God … if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; … those also who have died have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. … But now Christ has been raised from the dead … so also in Christ all will be made alive.”

    So, if God does not exist, the Bible itself proclaims faith in Christ to be worthless. But if God does exist, the religions are mutually exclusive. Jesus said: “no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
    Paul wrote: “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all.”
    The other religions have similar exclusions.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    scientists are far more inclined to reductionist thinking like this than theologians.

    i think reductionist thinking is good.

    I disagree.

    who cares? the studies contradict you. though i guess you care rely on your omniscient fiat. do i have god reading this blog? oh my!

  • Roisin

    I don’t know you, but I am disappointed by your childish response.

    Reductionist thinking has led to a lot of significant and wonderful scientific breakthroughs. That does not make it a comprehensive way of viewing the world or mean that it is better than other ways of thinking in any and all contexts. Reductionism has limits – if you know of any studies that show otherwise, please do let me know! Complex systems and emergent phenomena can be very difficult to understand with reductionist thinking so maybe another, more holistic way of looking at things would be more useful.

  • Katharine

    Roisin, reductionism has its place. I do not think you know the full scope of it.

  • Katharine

    Consider the fact that humans are just as much animals as any other animal.

  • Tom

    “who cares? the studies contradict you. though i guess you care rely on your omniscient fiat. do i have god reading this blog? oh my!”

    You’re kind of a jack off, eh?

  • miko

    “Islam is about people trying to reach a vengeful Allah by doing good. Christianity is about a just but loving God reaching down to people because we are unable to do good without God’s help. ”

    Ha! Razib, I think you’ve been linked from one of those jesus sites with blinking rainbow comic sans text. Nothing indicates an unwillingness to have a rational discussion of religion more than pretending that theological abstractions (to be kind) have anything to do with religions as they are practiced.

  • ChH

    Tom, we all know that the scientific consensus is always right, so it was perfectly rational to dismiss my dissenting opinion without addressing my supporting reasons.

    miko, I never said anything about how Christianity is commonly practised – I was talking about how it is prescribed in the New Testament. I agree with you that the vast majority of Christianity – both world-wide and in America – does not practise their religion as the Bible dictates.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    You’re kind of a jack off, eh?

    no, i’m definitely arrogant, and you may be a retard.

    Tom, we all know that the scientific consensus is always right, so it was perfectly rational to dismiss my dissenting opinion without addressing my supporting reasons

    if you’re not even wrong why should i address you? the beauty of science is that it is usually wrong. the problem with other domains which make claims toward generality is that they are never wrong.

    does not practise their religion as the Bible dictates.

    god speaks again! unfortunately mere mortals have a difficult time inferring the exact details of how religions are to be practiced from the holy book, though i suppose since you are the ultimate author you will deign to tell us.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    for the readers of this comment thread who aren’t God, i’m not ignorant of the importance of scripture for religious people, or the fact that most “higher religions” place texts at their center. many atheists who don’t have a familiarity with religion naturally look to the texts as a blueprint or some sort of genetic code. empirically i think this is wrong. texts are important to religious elites, and so they aren’t irrelevant. but i think it is illustrative that pro and anti slavery sides both appealed to the bible in the 19th century, and both pro and anti female circumcision muslims appeal to the koran and hadith. the aspects of religion which are the purview of elites, and in particular religious professionals, are not trivial, but they often get all the attention. from the perspective of irreligious atheists this makes sense because these are the religionists who you’ll often encounter in social or debate situations, as well as the fact that textual or formalized religious phenomena are very accessible from the “outside.”

    but i have come to believe that cognitive psychologists and anthropologists who study the intuitions which lead to “folk religion,” as well as economists and social psychologists who study religion as a communal phenomena, have a lot to offer. the particular dress of chasidic jews, which apparently derives from that of the 17th century polish aristocrats, can not be understood outside of a historical context, and rabbinical judaism (i ignore the distinction between chasidic and non-chasidic haredi here) is a very textual religion. by contrast, it is probably true that the vast majority of the world’s hindus are not functionally literate in their native language, let alone sanskrit.

    as i note above, scholars of religion will naturally focus on the lack of original sin in islam, the emphasis on resolving the problem of suffering in buddhism, or the prevalence of monism in hinduism. these are of scholarly interest, but from the perspective of the non-religious i do not think they teach much in terms of how we have to engage with the religious. specifically, the focus on theology and textual aspects of religion (a lot of religious texts are obviously not theological, but legalistic) misleads some atheists who think they can argue religionists out of their beliefs. i think this misses the dominant expression and utility of religious phenomena, as psychologically attractive on an individual scale, and compelling as an exercise in communal bonding.

  • Melykin

    An evidenced-based approach would suggest that which religion runs (or historically ran) a country matters a great deal. In Europe, for example, the historically Protestant countries tend to have the least corruption and the most social trust. The countries which were historically Orthodox Christian (such as Greece) seem to be the most corrupt in Europe, and the Catholic countries seem to be somewhere in between, with more corruption the farther south you go.

    It makes sense that the Protestant countries would be less corrupt since Protestantism was a movement to reform the corrupt Catholic Church. I wonder if Protestantism caused less corruption, maybe indirectly by influencing education. Could genetics play a roll in some countries being more corrupt? Or luck? Who knows. I hope to hell it is not genetics, because then there would be no way to fix it. Probably not genetics. Finland ranks 8th and Russia ranks 146th out of 180 on the Corruption perception index. They couldn’t be all that different genetically.

    Regarding the post about Greece from yesterday…would not most businesses in northern Europe have been family based at one time, too? Maybe the industrial revolution led to large companies–too large to be kept in the family. If corruption and nepotism is what is causing Greece to go under…I wonder what is in store for China. China is 8 notches worse than Greece on the corruption perception index.

    http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi/2009/cpi_2009_table

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    melkyn,

    1) i think you need to be really cautious about catholic vs. protestant generalizations because of the confounds which you point to. protestantism today is restricted to northern europe, while catholicism is not. i am generally convinced by evidence from the german-speaking world, where there’s a lot of variation and you can cross-many different scenarios that religion itself isn’t the main causal issue here. catholic bavaria is very wealthy, and the relative lower affluence of catholics in switzerland seems to disappear once you control for urban vs. rural.

    2) which goes to the point about conditionalities of who became protestant or catholic. in general during the reformation period protestantism was overloaded in the “lower upper” segment society, the lower nobility as well as the nascent “middle class.” because much of europe was homogenized by region in the 17th century it’s somewhat less evident now, but you can see the pattern in france and poland, for example. during that period. IOW, the protestant ethic one sees may have less to do with protestantism and more to do with who became a protestant (they already had the ethic, in particular the burghers).

    3) if there is a causal element, the aspect you point to is key. universal literacy in protestant societies is often pinned to their scriptural focus. this may be a way that protestantism as such is the causal, and not correlated, element.

    it would be interesting to focus on nations where you have regional splits. eastern hungary is dominated by protestants, who were protected from the counter-reformation by the ottomans. is eastern hungary characterized by more trust, and less corruption?

    finally, do note that as a historical matter catholicism also reformed and changed a lot during this period. partly in response to protestantism as a prod of course.

  • Melykin

    I tend to think there was something about Protestantism, besides just education, that encouraged a more functional society than Catholicism did. Maybe those uptight Calvinists swung the corruption pendulum so far the the ethical side that it never got all the way back again. Maybe somehow more ethical social norms took root.

    It seems to work in the New World, too. Quebec is by far the most corrupt part of Canada, also historically the most Catholic. In the US Louisiana is probably the most corrupt state, and it has a Catholic history.

    The Spanish colonies haven’t turned out very well in terms of social trust.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    I tend to think there was something about Protestantism, besides just education, that encouraged a more functional society than Catholicism did.

    ok. good point about the north american examples. though again you’re not accounting for the ethnic confounds. they’re both french. anyway, if you have some papers or books to cite i’d be game, but not too interested in this sort of speculation without detailed elaboration. webberian thinking has generally been a dead end IMO no matter what the revisionists say.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    Maybe those uptight Calvinists swung the corruption pendulum so far the the ethical side that it never got all the way back again.

    and here’s the issues with these arguments. earlier you talked about finland, and now you talk about calvinists. of course lutheran europe was excluded from the original webberian analysis for very important reasons, as it is a very different sort of protestantism than the reformed/calvinist tradition. pattern matching is pretty much reading tea leaves when your categories are woolly.

  • Taimyoboi

    Razib, how does identifying the communal phenomena of the mathematics community shed light on the claims that mathematicians make?

    That mathematicians may behave similarly is interesting, and the study should be pursued (as it should with religion), but that should not bear any weight on the underlying discussion of whether a mathematician’s theory is true.

    The same is also true of religion, specifically with regards to theological and moral truth-claims. To the extent the study of religion ignores the trees for the forest, that is when your preferred reductionism goes awry.

    I think non-religious individuals often have trouble recognizing this distinction. Since, by prior belief, they do not think that religious claims are true, they tend not to give them careful consideration (either the theological or moral ones)–opting instead to look at the so called “group phenomena” that distinguish religious from non-religious. Which, I might add, in some circles largely is a veiled way of reinforcing the view that non-religious people are “bright” while non-religious are, well, not.

  • Melykin

    I don’t know a lot of details about the history of Protestantism in different parts of Europe. However today’s Lutherans, for example, differ *very* little from today’s Presbyterians. The cultures in Northern Europe seem to be similar to each other in many ways. Whatever differences there may have been in the past seem to have merged to generally the same place.

    It was when I saw the map of the Corruption Perception Index that it jumped out at me that the Protestant countries appear to be less corrupt than, well… than all the other countries. (There are a few exceptions, such as Singapore.) I’m not saying that it is necessarily Protestantism that is the cause, but the correlation is very striking. Since corruption and degree of social trust seem to be characteristics that are deeply rooted in a culture, and hard to change, it seems plausible that it would take something as substantial as the Protestant Reformation to influence a change. As you say, the Catholic church eventually reformed (to some degree) on its own, and began to teach everyone to read, etc. But it took them hundreds of years to catch up to the Protestants in this regard. The Orthodox church seems very primitive compared to other forms of Christianity. It’s practices are probably closest to how the original church was. Then during communism it went underground, and that would have set it back again. Communism itself was a form of religion, and evidently a very nasty and destructive religion, judging my the sorry state of the those parts of the world.

    Amongst the new atheists today it is popular to dismiss ALL religions as primitive superstitions that have never had ANY beneficial effects. However, if you take a pragmatic and dispassionate look at history you would have to admit that religions did yield some benefits, especially in regard to literacy and education. Even today there may be benefits of belonging to a religion, even if only because people seem to do better when they belong to groups and socialize with one another. Religious people have been shown to live longer, for example. I know–correlation isn’t necessarily causation, and there are lurking variables, etc. etc. But correlation isn’t necessarily NOT causation either, just because the atheists don’t want it to be.

    I’m sure many people must have noticed that the Protestant parts of Europe (and its colonies) seem to be somewhat more functional than the Catholic. But Protestantism is extremely…um…uncool. It is just not stylish to say good things about Protestantism. Most people think about Bible-thumping creationists when they think of Protestantism. But this style of Protestantism only took hold in about the 1920’s. The old main-line Protestant churches are very different from Southern Baptist, at least in Canada. But the main-line churches have small, aging congregations, and are literally dying out. Most people outside of Christianity (and many inside it) don’t even know they exist. If all people know about Protestantism is the crazy preachers shouting on tv, no wonder it is hard to believe that Protestantism could ever have been a force for good.

    With regards to the differences between Quebec and English Canada, it would be difficult to find statistics showing Quebec is more corrupt than the rest of Canada, because it is *extremely* politically incorrect to draw attention to Quebec’s shortcomings. Whatever federal government is in power has to kowtow to Quebec if they every hope to get re-elected. The corruption spreads all through the government in Quebec. Roads and bridges and other infrastructures are not as well constructed in Quebec because of the corruption in giving out contracts. The medical system in Quebec is the worst in Canada. In fact if Quebec wasn’t constantly being bailed out by the rest of the country it would be more like Mexico.

    You won’t likely find any papers published by Canadian academics about this, any more than you will likely find papers published in the US saying there is a genetic reason for the black/white “gap”. It just not polite or expedient to discuss these sorts of things, especially if you want a federal grant for your research, and want to get tenure, etc.

    I just Google “corruption in Quebec ” and found this:

    http://harveyoberfeld.ca/blog/quebec-corruption-je-me-souviens/

    The article (and the comments) linked to above are startling. Apparently things in Quebec are even worse than I thought. I wish to goodness they *would* separate. If they want to leave Canada I’ll drive them to the bus.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    thanks for the elaboration. i might poke into the literature myself. one point though:

    But it took them hundreds of years to catch up to the Protestants in this regard. The Orthodox church seems very primitive compared to other forms of Christianity. It’s practices are probably closest to how the original church was.

    this is just false. probably the original church was much more like the radical decentralized protestant groups. these sects actually aim to be “primitive” in terms of returning to the roots of the church. in fact protestantism to a great extent (perhaps excluding anglo-catholicism, if you can call that protestantism) initially made an ostentatious show of shedding the later institutional and philosophical accretions which christianity took up after its assimilation of, and into, romanitas (different denominations followed through to different extents, which forms of anglicanism at one end, and radical baptists and the like at the other).

    p.s. there have been flirtations for several generations now between protestants, especially more liturgical groups such as anglicans, and the eastern orthodox.

  • Melykin

    Yes, I agree with what you say about the Orthodox church. When I said it was more like the original church, I was thinking of the actual practices during the service, and such like. My sister, who used to be an Anglican, in recent years has joined an Orthodox church because she didn’t like the left-wing politics of the Anglican church. I have been to a couple of services with her, and it seemed sort of medieval. They don’t use musical instruments, for example. The congragation doesn’t sing. The only music was a few people chanting in a balcony at the back. Instead of having just a table at the front of the Church (the vestige of an alter) they have a closed off room at the front, and the priests go in there and do a lot of chanting and so forth by themselves, then come out and walk around in a procession. It made me think of the “Holy of Holies”–the inner sanctuary of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem that is described in the Bible where the priests went to sacrificed animals on the alter. Must have been a nasty business–thank goodness that it went out of style!

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    The same is also true of religion, specifically with regards to theological and moral truth-claims. To the extent the study of religion ignores the trees for the forest, that is when your preferred reductionism goes awry.

    no it’s not. math != theology. math exhibits clear and distinct inferences. theology does not, though it claims to have them. i don’t care about the truth value of religion because i don’t believe in it. i don’t care if you study abstruse boring stuff (and look, i’ve read a fair amount of theology, more than most religionists, because you people would always jabber at me about your beliefs when i was younger), but don’t try to browbeat others into doing so.

  • http://www.hustonsmith.org Jon Monday

    It seems to me that Stephen Prothero bases much of his academic writing on misrepresenting the words and works of Joseph Campbell, Aldous Huxley, and Huston Smith. I’m not sure why he needs to do this. If his premise is correct, it should be able to stand on its own.

    I work closely with Huston Smith and created and maintain his official website. I think Stephen Prothero grossly misrepresents Smith’s statements and position on this subject.

    Neither Huston, Huxley, nor Campbell have said that “all religions are the same” or anything like that. What they say is that there is one underlying Reality (call it God, Creator, Self, Ground of Reality, etc.) that the different religions, in their distinctive ways, refer to.

    To suggest otherwise is say there is no God, or to ignore the very definition of God, or believe that there is more than one God, or claim that only one religion has it right, and the others have it wrong. Which is it that Prothero advocates?

    Prothero says that the one God idea was, “a defense mechanism developed by Hindus to reject 19th Century Christian missionaries and fostered by the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago in 1893.” The realty is that the idea reaches back to the ancient Vedas which declared, “Truth is one; sages call it by various names.” This cannot be translated as “all the religions are the same”. The Vedantic version of this idea was expressed by Swami Vivekananda at the 1893 gathering, but it was well established by the Transcendentalist in the US well before then, and is also expressed in the mystical branches of the other religions.

    When pinned on these facts, Prothero admits he’s talking more about how he, as a college student, and perhaps others have mistakenly interpreted the Perennial Philosophy as “all religions are the same”.

    Prothero attributes Huxley, Smith, and Campbell as saying the differences between the religions are, “accidental.” I am not aware of any of these three, or any Perennial Philosopher, saying anything of the sort. In fact, they have each addressed the differences as being very real and important to the practice of each faith.

    Prothero says, “People don’t lump communism and democracy as the same, just slightly different. Why should they do it with religions?”

    Again, no serious religious scholar but Prothero is saying the various religions are the same, but in any case, Communism and democracy ARE the same in that they are different means to govern people – religions ARE the same in that they are different means to connect one’s Self with its Source. It’s a matter of defining what the underlying subject matter is.

    The ONLY way that Huxley, Smith, and Campbell say that the different religions are the same, is that they are all religions.

  • https://bluetenlese.wordpress.com M. Möhling

    > catholic bavaria is very wealthy
    Minor: B was piss poor til the 50ies (3. col, from red to green=donor), even though much less impacted by WWII. It profited from post-war federal equalization payments spreading the wealth around länderwise, a new feature in German politics–they put it to good use, though. Almost the same goes for equally (mostly) catholic Baden-Württemberg (2. col); from dismal to supersized donor. Else, mixed North Rhine-Westphalia (cath/prot 40/30, Nordrhein-Westfalen, 10. col) has erratic results, dunno why. Tiny Saarland, mostly cath., sucks (off of the others), 45/31 cath/prot Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz) doesn’t do very well whereas elsewhere cath. & prot. Dutch do–about equally, IIRC. So yes, seems inconclusive, but southern cheese wasn’t always big, FWIW.

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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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