Thursday, October 07, 2010

Richard Land bullshits about abortion and divorce rates

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Dr. Richard Land
Dr. Richard Land

There seems to be a correlation between the nature of one’s arguments and their propensity for spewing complete nonsense. Nowhere is this more prevalent than with Christianists, who almost seem to have a fetish for falsifying numbers and twisting the truth hard enough to wring any veracity out of it like a worn rag. Here’s one such example, from the disgraced Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (a public policy agency of the Southern Baptist Convention), pontificating about how America needs to be “restored” in order to curb the social evils of failing marriages and killing of unborn babies abortion:

“One in every two and one-half marriages end in divorce,” he said. “Seven out of 10 marriages that end in divorce only one partner wants the divorce. In the past five years, 55 million unborn babies were killed because they are inconvenient. That is more babies killed than soldiers in all the wars in America’s history.

“Marriage is a Holy institution,” said Land. In a study of homes where the husband and wife pray together every day the divorce rate is 0.3 percent, according to Land.

Wow! These are some very interesting statistics. Interesting, in that they seem to have been conjured right out of thin air (or, less congenially put, pulled out of some rear-facing bodily orifice). If there truly were 55 million abortions being carried out in the US over a span of five years, that evens out to just over 30,000 terminated pregnancies every single day. If you feel such a number is ludicrously high, that means you have your head on correctly.

Now, let’s look at some real numbers. According to Planned Parenthood [PDF, 110 KB], more than 45 million legal abortions occurred from 1973 to 2005. That’s lower than Land’s figure by a full 10 million – over the course of more than three decades, more than six times the timespan given by Land. In addition, only 1.2 million abortions were reported in 2005 alone, which, if multiplied by five to fit Land’s five-year window, would only give us 6 million abortions – 9% of Land’s figure.

Incidentally, various sources estimate the total number of American soldiers killed in US history to hover just over one million, though again, there are no clear statistics on this matter. Just wanted to point out that the number really isn’t as high as one might think, at least at first, so using it in such a context is distinctly unimpressive.

Regarding divorce rates, Land claims that only a third of a percent of married couples who “pray together every day” – ie. heavily religious couples – end up separating. This number is also intriguing, especially in how it contrasts quite sharply against actual statistics gathered by researchers (including a prominent study done by the Barna Research Group, itself an evangelical Christian organisation) which show that divorce rates are actually distinctly higher in religious households. A correlation even seems to indicate that the more religious the area, the higher the divorce rates climb. That’s a far cry from “0.3 percent”.

Of course, the remarkable thing about numbers like these is not only how they brazenly fly in the face of logic and common sense (seriously – 30,000 abortions a day?) – but especially how they have absolutely no basis in reality. But, of course, don’t think such things as accuracy and honesty will stop religious-conservatives from harping on that bunk, especially when they have an audience to convince about how Christian America is under attack and that the only way to get back to purer roots is to crank the religiosity ever higher.

(via Right Wing Watch)