When it Comes to Honesty and Ethics, Only a Third of Young People Trust Clergy Members December 17, 2013

When it Comes to Honesty and Ethics, Only a Third of Young People Trust Clergy Members

Gallup released a poll yesterday marking the differences in levels of trust when compared to one’s political party. For example, 68% of Republicans trusted police officers, while only 44% of Democrats said the same.

When it came to members of the clergy, there was a similar differential:

Not too surprising, really. The Religious Right is intertwined with the GOP, so you would expect there to be a higher level of trust for clergy members in that party.

But here’s where it got interesting. When you parsed the numbers by age, only a third of people 18-34 said they trusted the clergy:

This is the effect of the Nones: Not only is faith in faith fading fast, but faith in the leaders of faith is dropping.

And there’s more of a difference in perception between younger and older people when it comes to religious leaders than with any other profession.

It’s not very surprising at all. Religious leaders are the ones who have led the charge against marriage equality. They’re the ones who vote Republican. They’re the ones who think abstinence-only sex education makes sense when all the experts say otherwise. They’re the ones who don’t give a damn about science when it’s in conflict with their holy book. They’re the ones who raped little boys and tried to cover it up. They’re the hypocrites.

They’re the ones who never earned the trust their title usually bestows upon them. And they’re not doing anything to regain it, either.

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  • I’m not surprised that clergy are sinking faster. If you just think of which preachers get the widest publicity, Hagee, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, and Child-raping Priests. The run of the mill preacher or minister, who probably is as trustworthy as any other person, doesn’t get the same press.

    Also, apparently nurses rock and are very trustworthy.

  • Actually, I think the far more interesting point is that only 50% of those 55+ trust the clergy. Those are the people who would have grown up in far more religious times, and yet even they don’t really trust the clergy.

  • Fallulah

    Not surprised….most of them have probably been raped by the Clergy! As for the cops, how can ANYONE trust them? Must just be people who have never had to deal with them.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    Are you honestly saying that close to 30% of people 18-34 years old have been raped by clergy? Certainly, sexual abuse and coverups by clergy (or anyone else) is a problem, but this is ridiculous. There are plenty of areas where religion can be criticised without resorting to extremely exaggerated statistics that just make you look like you have an axe to grind.

  • WallofSleep

    “As for the cops, how can ANYONE trust them?”

    I think the problem stems from people being foolish enough to believe that they can trust any human other than themselves.

    Cop or not, I don’t fully trust anyone other than myself, and even that person isn’t always working in my best interests.

  • I’m with you. My brain has encouraged me to do a lot of stupid shit.

  • Malcolm McLean

    The real story is a bit different. Most Americans in the 1950s and into the 1960s were liberal Protestants. Christian leaders didn’t make big demands on them, in return, the older generation accepted the clergy as “something good”, Something to aspire to, to marry and to conduct funerals, maybe the odd charitable donation.

    That started to fall apart in the 1960s. By the end of the 1980s, liberal Protestantism had almost collapsed. What was left was hyper-liberal Protestantism which was just a branch of the Democratic party, and fundamentalism. Whilst quite a lot of young Americans identify as fundamentalists, it’s by no means the consensus. It’s a high demand model of Christianity, it’s hard to persuade yourself that you’re a member when you really aren’t. So it also attracts strong negative opinions.

  • Fallulah

    Yeah i’d say those numbers are pretty close. Besides…ANY number of child abuse and coverups by clergy should mean 0% should be trusted. Just a fact. It’s institutionalized.

  • Rain

    This is the effect of the Nones: Not only is faith in faith fading fast, but faith in the leaders of faith is dropping.

    I don’t blame them. Leaders of faith (pretend like they) think they are experts in everything in the universe. From talking to invisible pretend people. The internet exposes the “(pretend like they)” part pretty good. So presumably the drop in faith is related to the drop in google-fear and the increase in google-fu. They should do a poll on that one and find out.

  • Pofarmer

    I blame it on Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, et al. They were determined to intertwine religion into politics, and I think that was a big mistake. I think that the fundamentalists and the evangelicals thrive on telling you that “You must believe X” and people get rather tired of that. I was born in 1970, brought up in small rural churchs, and war really always taught that religion was basically a moral guide, at least in that mode. It informed us to make our own decisions. That type of religion seems to be fading for the fire and brimstone fundamentalist kind.

  • OhioAtheist

    I blame the internet.

  • If we’re realistic, we’ll recognize there is more than one thing involved in “trustworthiness”. It isn’t just basic integrity. The word has different definitions, depending on who’s in power.

    Most of the groups in the above lists have quiet burdens which supersede behaving honorably with the rest of us. They aren’t moral obligations, but some of those people think of them that way.

    Have you ever been shocked when a doctor, teacher, banker or someone else sells you out in favor of protecting a colleague? When I was young, that was one of the things that wiped out my idealism and forced me into the real world.

    There were many times when supposedly decent people left me with two handfuls of, uh, something I didn’t want on my hands. When they had to choose between carrying out their professional obligations to patients, students, customers, et al, they defended colleagues who were in the wrong.

    Standing up to one’s professional colleagues takes courage, and the consequences can be serious. If you don’t believe that, rent the movie “Serpico”. It’s fact-based.

  • LesterBallard

    For me, I’m thinking one third, of one percent.

  • I believe most people who go to nursing school have the best intentions. However, some of the things that happen when a nurse is burning out can be scary.

    There’s also a problem of workplace politics. I once asked a clinic nurse for the name of a bad doctor who had behaved violently with me (needless to say, the doctor didn’t identify himself). The nurse said nothing. She just looked at me with one of those disturbing facial expressions which said she wasn’t going to risk trouble by giving me information I could use to file a complaint.

    Taking sides with a patient against a doctor could have cost that nurse her job, and could have also made trouble for her if she tried to go to work in another medical facility.

  • Gehennah

    I doubt it is 30% honestly, but they have every right to not trust them since the Catholic Church has failed on every part to do anything to stop the abuse.

  • I’ve read that American Protestantism may have a bigger abuse problem than Catholicism. The thing is, a lot of independent churches have no oversight, and so covering things up is much easier for those in charge. They even encourage members to deal with these issues internally and not to involve law enforcement. I can fully believe this to be the case, and if the victims manage to escape their faith and report what’s happened, there may be a huge scandal to come in the next few years.

  • WillBell

    Not only that, but why do they have less trust than 35-54? I find that curious.

  • WillBell

    Not arguing that they should be trusted, but that is super unlikely… the largest percent that has been Catholic in the US is 28%, and I’m betting many of those have rarely gone to church. The clergy are not all rapists – it just doesn’t work that way, we’d have heard about it a long time ago if they were. Saying that a whole-number percent of Americans have been raped by the clergy even is stretching it.

  • Malcolm McLean

    Jimmy Carter was and is a highly religious man. But the fundamentalists weighed in on Reagan’s side. To be fair, Carter’s brand of Christianity had lost most of its credibility. That was the beginnings of a big divide, in which religion has played an increasing role.

  • Justin Tanaka

    No scientists included in the list of professions?

  • adibese

    Christianity started being shoved down people’s throats during the Communist witch hunts. The people less than 55 were raised in an “In god we trust” world.

  • Guest

    You’ve completely missed the point I was making.

  • adibese

    No I did not.

  • adibese

    No I did not.

  • WalterWhite007

    A third? Sounds about a third too high. What do they trust them with exactly?
    Truth? Reason? Babysitting?

  • I suspect a lot of the little independent preachers rape/molest girls and women more often than boys, too, given the way purity and submission are woven into those particular faiths. And we, as a society, just don’t get as horrified by the rape of women and girls as we do boys- it’s normalized, to an extent.

    Now, part of that is pretending it doesn’t happen to boys at all, which is no good. But once it is shown to have occurred the condemnation of the abuser(s) is swift and harsh. Men who have been shown to have raped girls and women are treated much more ambivalently, and their victims are blamed in the standard rape culture ways even when the girls are only 10 and 11 years old.

  • JaniceInToronto

    Wow. Go Nurses, Go!

  • “Religious leaders are the ones who have led the charge against marriage equality. They’re the ones who vote Republican.”

    Except for, y’know, the many religious leaders who don’t vote Republican. Such as those who are also part of an ethnic minority. Or those who are Catholic. Or those who don’t believe in a literal Bible. Or those who are, uh, Jewish.

  • randomfactor

    Even Republicans trust Congressmembers less than car salesmen…

  • smrnda

    In those cases, the problem of shuffling around the serial offender is taken care of by the decentralized nature of the denomination, which requires no cooperation from higher ups because they don’t exist.

  • smrnda

    Another thing is that within those subcultures, it’s considered reasonable to assume that young girls are somehow behaving in an way that means they’re asking for it. The guy who runs the gulag for girls in Indiana called Hephzipah house has some kind of teaching about some girls having a ‘jezebel spirit’ which, pretty much, means they’re to blame for all the abuse and can’t even be fixed. He teaches this nonsense to girls who have been sexually abused as well.

    Blame to the parents too, who think that this type of place is where you send a girl who has been abused or raped.

  • I’ve read about the Hephzibah House. That’s just … wrong. I can’t believe anyone would send their children to such a place, or that the state would fund it! For fuck’s sake, the last thing you want to do to an abused child is abuse her more!

  • Robster

    I wonder if clergy actually trust other clergy. Every time I’ve been near a gaggle of clerics, they spend all their time reinforcing each others silly beliefs, they all seem strangely insecure about it and keen to hear others back it up. A large percentage of clergy must know it’s a pile of steaming horsesh*t, but as has been revealed by the clergy project, many are stuck in the rut as it’s all they can do, they are totally unprepared for life in the real world and the thought of paying tax! Oh mama. Research here in Australia this week suggests that 60% of clergy are stressed by their work. It’s not hard to figure out why, they can’t answer the deep questions honestly because they really don’t know the answer, short of what they’ve been taught to say. Many would be aware that their entire working like is a huge waste of time, spent telling lots of people untruths, that would be hard to live with.

  • Gehennah

    I understand it isn’t a Catholic only thing, but 30% is still far too high of a statistic there.

  • Randay

    The question wasn’t about “trustworthyness”, but about “honesty and ethical standards”. I noticed that the younger 18-34 had a higher “very high/high” regard for grade school teachers than their elders. I also noticed that they had lower regard for the police than their elders, which was also 20% lower than that of Republicans.

    It is curious that the +55 also had lower regard for the police than the 35-54 group.

  • Old hippies, who remember incidents like the Chicago Democratic convention?

  • Randay

    You got me pegged. That’s me alright. Ah, for the good ole days of Jerry Rubin’s “Do It”, Abby Hoffman’s “Revolution for the Hell of it”, underground comics with R. Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, S. Clay Wilson, and so many others.

  • Joss Field

    Bit worried that less than 80% of people don’t trust doctors! Then again, many Christians say ‘PUT YOUR FAITH IN THA LORDY’ and then go to the doctors and claim God made them better I mean ‘fgs’ guys.
    And only 5% of republicans trust members of Congress! If they bothered to get off of their asses and vote, they could have who they want in office. Then again, creationists.
    I think Matt Dillahunty would make a good Texan representative, most secular Atheists — or people with a half decent education would vote for him.
    As a final not, does anyone know what this font’s called? It’s nice.

  • I’m in a younger cohort, but encountered Martin Jezer’s biography “Abbie Hoffman: American Rebel” when it was published, and have read a bit of history. I suspect that many current young budding activist atheists might find Jezer’s book illuminating of both creative opportunities — and hazards.

  • Randay

    Welcome aboard the good ship Mischief Maker.

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