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Given the evidence.

2/3rds IS GOOD

In July the Fist Amendment Center released it's "State of the First Amendment 2011," which asked whether the First Amendment requires a clear separation of church and state. 67% of respondents said yes (with 48% "strongly" agreeing). Only 28% disagreed (with just 17% saying they "strongly" disagree).



2/3rds NOT SO GOOD

The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) results released in May showed a decrease in civic knowledge among young adults. In 2010 a third of American high school students (40% of whom are of voting age) reported that they had no exposure to the Constitution in school, a 5% decrease since 2006.

In response to the downward trend, the Bill of Rights Institute has launched a campaign to reach 500,000 students with the words and ideas of America's Founders by the end of the 2012 school year. The institute is distributing classroom materials and offering professional development programs for teachers that emphasize primary source documents.



In a survey of liberal, moderate, and conservative U.S. voters released on July 21 by Public Policy Polling, only 52% approved of God's job performance. (However God still rates much higher than House Speaker John Boehner or Rupert Murdoch.) 50% approved of God's handling of natural disasters, and 71% approved of God's handling of the creation of the universe.

One wonders if respondents' answers were affected by the way the questions were posed, in each case beginning "If God exists ..." and applying the gender-neutral pronoun "it" ("If God exists, do you approve or disapprove of its performance?"). If this puts believers on the defensive, would it yield higher approval ratings then if a question were posed: "Do you approve of the way God has handled natural disasters?" And while we're on that doozy of a question, since when was God demoted from "creator" to "handler"?



In June millionaire scientist Henry Lonsdale announced that he would award $50,000 for the best proposal to study the origins of life and up to $2 million in potential funding to carry out the work. Lonsdale is an atheist who's had several unsuccessful runs for the U.S. Senate, and he has advocated for gay rights, campaign finance reform, and environmental protections. Now he's on a mission to accelerate the quest to explain how life originated:


A UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, Reno study published in Nature Biotechnology in June shows a majority of Americans approve of therapeutic cloning and growing stem cells for curing serious diseases. They do not approve of these methods for cosmetic purposes or to clone themselves or a deceased loved one, however. Interestingly, a majority of respondents trusted their own judgment most when deciding rather than looking to their church or other authorities, such as governmental ethics committees. Even those in the most disapproving demographic--churchgoing fundamentaist women--were, as a group, still more in favor of pursuing the advanced medical research than opposed.


A Gallup poll released in June found that 92% of Americans still say "yes" to the simple question, "Do you believe in God?"


It's the lowest rate of positive responses since Gallup began measuring Americans' belief in God in 1944 (until 1967 the rate varied between 96-98%). Only 84% of 18 to 29 year olds said they believed in God and 7% of all those surveyed said they didn't, up from 1% in 1944. Historically only about 1% of respondents ever pick the third option: "No opinion."


As part of the Miss USA contest in June, contestants were asked about teaching evolution in public schools. Miss California Alyssa Campanella said: "I was taught evolution in high school. I do believe in it. I'm a huge science geek ... I like to believe in the big bang theory and, you know, the evolution of humans throughout time."

Okay, so it's a beauty pageant and 90% of the contestants either opposed teaching evolution in public schools or advocated teaching "both sides." But guess who won the contest? That's right, the science geek.

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Title Annotation:surveys about the separation of church and state; data on the civic knowledge among young adults; survey on God's performance
Publication:The Humanist
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2011
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