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Friday, August 6, 2010
Atheists at happy hour and other thoughts
If you're young, smart, have a little money and don't believe in God, chances are you're looking forward to the start of your weekend and knocking back a few. In fact, chances are you don't wait for the weekend - according to the latest Gallup survey on drinking habits. Now, you could just follow that link and read the thing for yourself, but I recommend you pour yourself a fresh one and let me lay it all out for you, along with my sparkling observations of the meaning behind the data. Unlike Gallup, I have no science to back up my claims, but that's never stopped me before.
First, let's qualify that first sentence:
"Young" in this case means 54 or less (I like that definition of young) because the numbers are the same 18 to 54. In the 55+ range there are fewer drinkers, and I take that to mean at a certain age you either (a) lose your taste for the stuff, or (b) lose you ability to find your car keys so you can't get to the liquor store, or (c) lose your ability to have any aspirations that are then dashed, leading to the drowning of sorrows.
"Smart" in this case actually means "educated." The survey shows about 8 of 10 college graduates drink booze compared to about 6 of 10 who have a high-school-or-less education.Kind of counter-intuitive if you tend to think in stereotypes (and come on now, who doesn't?) but perhaps there is a direct relationship between going to college and becoming a drinker. Unless you're at BYU or some Bible College, social life during your higher education floats on rivers of beer and shots and beer and just shots of things you would have spit out if your mom gave it to you for a cold.
"Have a little money" means the more you make the more likely you are to drink. Less than half of people with incomes under $20,000 a year use alcohol, while 8 of 10 who make more than $75,000 do, and all the people in between fit neatly on the line between the two. The quick conclusion might be that you have disposable income, and habits require money, so poor people just don't have the money. But the opposite is true of other unnecessary behaviors like smoking and playing the lottery and buying "People" magazine and "Reader's Digest."
"Atheist" here means - well, people who don't believe in God. That category in the survey also wraps in agnostics (people who are afraid to say they're atheists, just in case there is a God and he/she is listening) and people who have "no religious identity" (people who are too drunk to care whether there's a God or not.) 8 of 10 non-believers drink, compared to less than 6 of 10 who fit the "Protestant/other non-Catholic Christian" moniker. Catholics hit the bottle at the same rate as atheists, by the way. (Which reminds me of a statement my mother made one time when I was a child, to the effect that "Catholics can do anything they want because they just go in and get forgiven now and then," which sent me a lasting message that our family religion came with permanent judgement. THAT really made me want to go to church.And speaking of going to church, if you do a lot of that you are much less likely to drink, because the only thing worse than sitting through a sermon sober is sitting through a sermon hungover.)
I come to this conclusion - free advice for people in the booze biz:
If you own a bar you should be targeting this "young, smart, affluent, atheist" demographic. Maybe instead of beer signs and sports heroes on the walls there should be shelves of the great books and portraits of Madeline Murray O'Hair. If your place if filling up at 5pm with people who think we're just soulless meat sacks and there is no God, it should be called "Hopeless Hour" instead of "Happy Hour."