Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.
By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN
(CNN) – Nearly three centuries ago, in Colonial New England in the midst of a religious revival now remembered as the Great Awakening, settled ministers in local congregations complained bitterly about itinerant revivalists sweeping into town and whipping their parishioners into a frenzy.
They had reason to be worried.
Most ministers at the time wrote their endless sermons in Latinate language and read them from the pulpit in monotone, with little effort to entertain their congregations (which they did not regard as audiences). Revivalists such as the “Grand Itinerant” George Whitefield, by contrast, often preached extemporaneously, in the open air, and in the salty language of everyday affairs.
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
The First Great Awakening was a classic moment of what economist Joseph Schumpeter referred to as “creative destruction.” In this case, however, what was being laid to rest was not an old economic order but an old religious one.
Itinerant revivalists were threatening not only the income of the settled ministers (who relied economically on pew sales, for example) but also their exclusive authority to interpret the word of God. And guess who won?
Something similar is happening today in American politics. The revivalists in this case are “quants,” who, by introducing statistics into an arena previously ruled by hunches have already changed the way that baseball is played and stocks are traded.
And the new George Whitefield is Nate Silver, whose FiveThirtyEight blog at The New York Times has consistently predicted that President Barack Obama will likely be elected to a second term.
Over the past week, the punditocracy has pushed back, with what some are calling “the war on Nate Silver.”
Politico’s Dylan Byers, for example, called Silver a possible “one-term celebrity.” Sure, he correctly predicted how 49 of 50 states would go in the 2008 presidential election. But if he swings and misses in 2012, he may be sent back to the minor leagues.
David Brooks devoted a whole column to defending the proposition that “experts with fancy computer models are terrible at predicting human behavior.”
In the latest turn of the screw, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough went on an extended rant against Silver, arguing that both sides think it is a coin toss, adding that “anybody that thinks that this race is anything but a tossup right now is such an ideologue, they should be kept away from typewriters, computers, laptops and microphones for the next 10 days, because they're jokes."
This prompted Silver to challenge Scarborough to put his money where his mouth is. “If you think it’s a toss-up, let’s bet,” he tweeted to Scarborough. “If Obama wins, you donate $1,000 to the American Red Cross. If Romney wins, I do. Deal?”
Scarborough demurred, tweeting back, “Why don’t we both agree to donate $1,000 to the Red Cross right now? Americans need our help now.”
What is going on here?
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
What we are witnessing is in my view a major shift in American political life not unlike the shift in American religious life brought on by the First Great Awakening.
In this case, the lofty perch of pundits, who for generations have taken to radio, television and the Internet to prognosticate about politics, are being displaced by “quants” who claim to have a better mousetrap.
How this plays out will depend of course on the result of this election. It shouldn't, since even Silver admits that Mitt Romney now has a 1-in-4 chance of winning. But if Romney wins, "gut" will have won a major victory over "data." If Obama wins, well, score one for the new revivalists.
As for me, I believe in math. I also believe, to paraphrase Brooks, that television pundits “are terrible at predicting human behavior.” So I rather like the idea of the Church of Joe Scarborough bending its knee to the Church of Nate Silver.
I also know a good bet when I see one. But Silver's $1,000 wager doesn't seem sufficiently presidential to me. How about a more Romneyesque number? To quote a former Massachusetts governor, “10,000 bucks? $10,000 bet?”
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.
What happened to separation of church and state? Keep it about our country, not your God.
The more I see religious people and their guilt, the more I love my dog. God spelled backwards, I thank god everyday I'm an atheist.
Prayer changes things,
"Ronald Regonzo" who degenerates to:
"Salvatore" degenerates to:
"Douglas" degenerates to:
"truth be told" degenerates to:
"Thinker23" degenerates to:
"Atheism is not healthy ..." degenerates to:
"another repentant sinner" degenerates to:
"Dodney Rangerfield" degenerates to:
"tina" degenerates to:
"captain america" degenerates to:
"Atheist Hunter" degenerates to:
"Anybody know how to read? " degenerates to:
"just sayin" degenerates to:
"ImLook'nUp" degenerates to:
"Kindness" degenerates to:
"Chad" degenerates to
"Bob" degenerates to
"nope" degenerates to:
"2357" degenerates to:
"WOW" degenerates to:
"fred" degenerates to:
"!" degenerates to:
This troll is not a christian.
Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.
An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.
The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs.
I'm sorry, "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things", but your assertions regarding atheism and prayer are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module, the expression that best matches the degree to which your assertions may represent truths is: "TOTAL FAIL".
I see that you repeat these unfounded statements with high frequency. Perhaps the following book can help you:
I'm Told I Have Dementia: What You Can Do... Who You Can Turn to...
by the Alzheimer's Disease Society
'Give a man a fish, he eats for a day.
Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.
Give a man religion, and he will die praying for a fish!!'
Get real and get your head into the 21st Century – Admit it, the scientific revolution DID happen, and your religious rhetoric always fails to save you when you really think you need it most. Many of you will say I'm crazy because I don't seek counsel from some fantasy-land, celestial being that you believe in, that of course, looks just like you do. It's okay, I promise you can still keep your santa claus, tooth fairy and easter bunny... ...and yeah, you can even keep your loser candidate, Mitt Wromney.)
Remember what Pres. Obama said in his FIRST inaugural address to this nation – that part of what makes America great is not only freedom of religion, but also freedom FROM religion. Hey, maybe he'll remind the Wromney voters that they don't have to pretend to be scared of an invisible man in the sky, at his SECOND inaugural address!!
I am a Christian and support Mitt. I separate religion from politics for the most part. Injecting religion into it I'd rather vote Mormon than muslim. I'd rather vote patriot than traitor. I'd rather vote capitalist than socialist. I'd rather see BHO impeached and behing bars where he belongs.
Gary, you sound like a real Christian. That's why so many people are flocking away from religion.
I don't know why religious Christians keep lying at every opportunity. Don't you realise that it is against one of the Ten Commandments tto call Obama a Muslim when he's not to defame him. If he was a Muslim he would hate contraception let alone abortion and would barely tolerate gays let alone allow them to marry. SHAME ON YOU.
I agree 100% Gary.This kook is an Obama loser.
Renee you sound like a typical Oloser lemming. I feel sorry for you.One day you might grow up and get a brain.
If you think Obama is a muslim you are a nut job.
Nate Silver may be right but he is still a Kos Koolaid Kid and radical liberal.
Nate Silber is a blithering idiot and a Obama Lemming
My 2 cents on Christian compromising beliefs by voting for Romney ... ONE – They are not compromising, they are voting for the best choice available ... Obama tries to hide his Anti-Religion Leaning ... he is religious for the cameras only and for the sake of his campaign politics "ONLY". The Responsibility of a Christian is to participate ... that means Vote, abstension is a Vote in itself .. and not a responsible action. God is alive .. and it does not matter if you believe it our not, it does not change the Truth. Our country is in dire straights ... Obama is running it into the gound as fast as he can ... a second term will or would mean ... more suffering for all Americans and likely the financial colaspe of this nations. If he wins a 2nd term- God Help us, if he loses .. We have an opportunity to move forward and have a brighter future .. and God is still in charge and we will still need his help ... not because of Romeny and Ryan .. but as always .. God is always needed by all .. even the one's who deny him .. and them even more ... I thank God for the Grace and Mercies he showers each of us with ... even those who do not believe in God, receive his Grace .. they just refuse to acknowledge it ..
I am a Christian and anti-religious. I hate Christians who lie about others to get ahead in politics. I hate Christians who will readily have abortions for their girlfriends and daughters unless TV cameras get there first. I hate Christians who hate gays and can't leave non-Christians alone. I hate Christians who advocate killing of innocent babies in Syria and cry about abortion. For what? collateral damage and abortion are both murder of innocents. I will always remain a spiritual but not religious Christian.
Yor are so right. Couldn't have said it better.
Prayer changes things .
I'm not saying Silver is wrong, but his track record only goes back to 2008. Everybody saw that landslide coming.
This is what libtards don't get. Without God the world gets Obamas and it's ObamaNations. Those who know God know America has been running off the rails for many years if not decades. Mostly because the recent past teachings in schools have been Godless. You may think Islamic votes may well save Obama now, but whether Romney wins or not, unless the teaching of Godly principles to our children, and teaching political "in"correctness stops, our unique nation will die.
Poor leadership is Gods curse on a nation. But know this a vote for a Mormon is a vote for an anti- Christ.
the GOP isn't God either.
This is true Post, The GOP is not God, we just believe in Him, unlike Oloser and his blind lemming followers.
How's that belief in fairy tales and mythology going for ya?
@Ubin Bushwhacked........................................... ohhh! "libtards" did you think that one up on your own?...
Islamic votes?... I think someone bushwacked your brain.....
Keep your mythology and fairy tales out of government.
Prothero is probably the most ignorant Biblical scholar I have ever had the misfortune to read. Thank God I could only stomach about 30 secs. of his inane prattle but , nevertheless, it is a half minute of my life I will never get back. It is fortunate that CNN only has about twelve viewers, so the chances of Prothero,( descendant of Othello?) influencing very many young minds with his scurrilous and dubious "opinions is pretty slim.
"Bible scholars" ............. sounds like an oxymoron.
Stephen , I guess you know it is a sin to gamble. Should take better care of your money. I don't gamble but, I can tell that's a losers bet.
Could you cite a Bible verse that says gambling is a sin?
Dude, if it was a sin to gamble, then all my fundie coworkers are definately going to hell.
They absolutely LOVE to gamble (and go to strip clubs).
The three horsemen in the fundie world are casinos, strip clubs and guns.
Chance (gambling) is not a principle of God's teachings. To God nothing happens by chance. I'm not scholarly enough in bible verse to find the verse, but I can assure you there are explanations that clearly define chance as against God's domain.
To find a verse use a concordance, please show me one that says gambling is a sin.
Gambling isn't addressed in the Bible. However, it has been discouraged because it leads to sinful behavior.
1. Covetousness. When we covet, we desire things that we haven't earned or worked for.
2. Greed. Setting our hearts on riches over God.
3. Belief in luck over work ethic. Building a strong work ethic is important to our souls and to God. The Bible tells us to earn our living by the sweat of our brow, and "If a man does not work, he shall not eat."
4. It hurts families. A gambling mindset is detrimental to families. The odds are stacked by the house against the bettor. People get gambling addictions that take away financial resources from those we should be taking care of.
That's my take, from a Mormon living in California.
proverbs 16:33 -
"The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD."
proverbs 18:18 -
"Casting the lot settles disputes and keeps strong opponents apart."
"casting lots" is equivalent to rolling dice or drawing straws – a.k.a. gambling. it's not sin. what is sin is to let this become an idol – to give it a place in your life above God.
the soldiers at the cross cast lots to decide who got Christ's robe. was that sin? no. in fact it fulfilled prophecy. was it a tragic case of missing the point? probably, yes.
let's try not to miss the point here.
Two days later a truth emerges... gambling is not a sin. Nowhere in the Bible is gambling referred to as a sin. Where are all the Bible scholars on this?
A sin to gamble?
How about buying stock?
Ah yes the bible! the good old book of pick-n-choose with one contradiction after another.
Since when dont religion and politics mix. If we leave our Christian teaching at the door and do not take it out into the world with us, we are worthless hypocrites. A true Christian (one that acts Christ like) will not lie, murder, cheat,or steal. They will work,help those in need, and love everyone. If I have Christ like love it means I do not want you to stay in your sin but help you over come your sin.
Re: "If we leave our Christian teaching at the door and do not take it out into the world with us, we are worthless hypocrites."
You'd also be hypocrites if you were to use the power of the state to force your Christianity on others. Pity the poor Christian ... a hypocrite no matter what!
PSICOP apparently you don't understand christianity. It is all about free will and unlike the democratic party that seems to want to usher in a nanny state and tell us how we should think. Enjoy your freedom of speach while you can.
PsiCop, we are not hypocrites to bring our beliefs into politics. The reality is that political decisions are determined by somebody's values. If we don't bring ours to the political table, then somebody else's values will determine governmental policy that will govern over our lives.
where did we get the idea that it's OK to believe whatever you want as long as you don't act on it?
@Nonnyinpa............... "you don't understand christianity. It is all about free will "
It's all about denying the rights of others.
"In Greed We Trust"
In 1994, Bain invested $27 million as part of a deal with other firms to acquire Dade International, a medical-diagnostics-equipment firm, from its parent company, Baxter International. Bain ultimately made nearly 10 times its money, getting back $230 million. But Dade wound up laying off more than 1,600 people and filed for bankruptcy protection in 2002, amid crushing debt and rising interest rates. The company, with Bain in charge, had borrowed heavily to do acquisitions, accumulating $1.6 billion in debt by 2000. The company cut benefits for some workers at the acquired firms and laid off others. When it merged with Behring Diagnostics, a German company, Dade shut down three U.S. plants. At the same time, Dade paid out $421 million to Bain Capital’s investors and investing partners.
For 15 years, Romney had been in the business of creative destruction and wealth creation. But what about his claims of job creation? Though Bain Capital surely helped expand some companies that had created jobs, the layoffs and closures at other firms would lead Romney’s political opponents to say that he had amassed a fortune in part by putting people out of work. The lucrative deals that made Romney wealthy could exact a cost. Maximizing financial return to investors could mean slashing jobs, closing plants, and moving production overseas. It could also mean clashing with union workers, serving on the board of a company that ran afoul of federal laws, and loading up already struggling companies with debt.
Marc Wolpow, a former Bain partner who worked with Romney on many deals, said the discussion at buyout companies typically does not focus on whether jobs will be created. “It’s the opposite—what jobs we can cut,” Wolpow said. “Because you had to document how you were going to create value. Eliminating redundancy, or the elimination of people, is a very valid way."
A couple of examples (it's pretty easy to find more):
Bain closed GST Steel plant in 2001 laying off 750 workers.
Controlling share owner Bain Capital closes BRP plant (Southern Illinois) so the 340 jobs there could be outsourced to Mexico.
Also, this is disconcerting:
Numbnuts, Romney wast with bain at that time, He left a few years earlied. Tell the DNC your talking points are a lie like all the crap coming from the Oloser camp.
Here it is in black and white: http://jesusisinvolvedinpolitics.com/
why are religious males almost always dorky and ugly
You must be a democrat, you're name calling in place of logic....
lol that pretty much applies to republicans and democrats too buddy.
doesn't your post convict you of the same thing you're accusing?
You forgot stupid.
You mean like Aikin and Mourdock?
I don't know.
It's a huge mystery how those items managed to reproduce.
So fat uglies like you will have someone at least willing to look at them.
Rosethorne, she was talking about Obama lemmings.
You are right PeggySue. It's pretty obvious. There gravitate towards the rigid dorkiness that religous institutions represent.
Sounds like Stevies been into the wacky tobacky again.....
Only for the new members of this blog:
Not more "prof" Stevie P? Boston U should pink slip this guy since apparently he not teaching these days. And if he is showing up at all, he definitely is not prepared.
And add Nate Silver to other wacky predictors like 7-11 coffee drinkers, Washington Redskin home victories, on-line gamblers, elementary school kids, the stars, world series winners, nut eating squirrels, cookie recipes, and the tallest guy always wins.
If there is a contest for the dumbest comment of the day, you win.
Obviously, some here have not kept up with the ramblings of "Prof" P. And some don't know how to use search engines to find all the weird presidentail wacky prediction methods.
I'm going with the nut eating squirrels. At least there is no harmful religion affecting their decision.
Prayer changes things.
Player changes thongs
There is a wonderful joy in prayer known to quite a few, this very day with humble heart that joy can be with you. God bless
Prayer does change how a believer feels about whatever they prayed about
So, have you ever threatened YOUR children with eternal dam nation? I haven't, but I'll bet you have!
Prayer changes nothing.
I challenge you to take the George Carlin Prayer Test. Pray to your imaginary god friend for a month, then pray to Joe Pesci for a month. You'll find the percentage of prayers answered by god, and those by Mr Pesci, will be about the same (50/50).
"There ain't no jesus gonna come from the sky.
Now that I found out, I know I can cry." – John Lennon
Do two dead second rate entertainment guys do ALL your thinking for you? My children are acquainted with the Love of God not eternal damnation. Those who do not know God always run to lies, hate and preconceived prejudice. Separation from God will be your choice, not His.
Well, you depend on imaginative but ignorant dead men from the Middle East for your beliefs:
Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, David, Solomon, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul of Tarsus, etc., etc. – All Dead Guys.
Good come-back. Chrissie isn't terribly bright; he walked right into that one.
I laugh at your puny predictive modeling.
Predictive modeling is not flawless, but it beats the hell out of drawing a conclusion without reviewing data.
Gone with the wind, hindu's, deniers of truth absolute, out to hind, fool every one in to following of hindu Lucifer, criminal atheist, denier of truth absolute, PROVE YOUR hINDUISM, DENIAL OF TRUTH ABSOLUTE GOD IN PUBLIC, OR VANISH FOR GOOD, HUMANITY TO LIVE IN PEACE, ISLAM.
Need to up your meds and tighten the straps on that tinfoil hat.
The dragonfly camel overrode virtuous yikes jeepers beside honey goodness one mutely balked less arguable but that boundless amid far understandable hey ceaselessly one other more upon by fabulous alas pointed.
The oh consolingly concentric far the nutria jeez went disagreed imitatively misunderstood kiwi sniffled this certain a virtuously far where timid and much yikes jeepers this cried instead one.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.