Monday, December 12, 2005

Debunking the "Good Old Days"

Marvin Olasky writes (free registration may be required) in a recent issue of WORLD about common modern misconceptions about the spirituality or religiosity of 18th and 19th century America. Olasky summarizes his observations from two books by Rodney Stark, a Baylor University professor. According to Stark via Olasky, the "good old days" may just have been "old days" and not that "good" at all. Some of the statistics are pretty startling. Although the conclusions seem counterintuitive, passages like this one from Olasky's article make the thesis intriguing:
Mr. Stark notes that in early American seaports 'on any given Sunday morning there were at least as many people recovering from late Saturday nights in the taverns . . . as were in church.' Sure, we have in recent decades defined deviancy down, but the research I did while writing books on the pre-20th-century history of abortion in America leaves me unsurprised about this Stark conclusion: 'Single women in New England . . . were more likely to be sexually active than to belong to a church.'

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