Vestments of the Devout

The phrase “devout Catholic” appears so often in the news bulletins recently that it has started to intrigue me. The words just seem to go together like, well, any phrase where two words almost always appear together.

It seemed worth seeing how many instances there were on the Internet. came up with about 353,000, modest by Google standards. “Devout Christian” has only 452,000, suggesting that the Catholic Church does indeed hold sway over the reportedly devout.

“Devout Muslim” has 237,000, catching up fast with the RC showing (and putting the residual 99,000 unspecified Christians well into the deist devotion also-ran camp.) Buddhists 65,500, Hindus 30,100, Jews 36,500.

(Doh. “Devout jews” with an s actually gets 37,200, whereas “devout Catholics” with an s only gets 96,000. Buddhists now have a whopping 96,600. What is Google playing at? Surely the s should bring up all the singular devotees and add some more? But wait “devout catholics” is now bringing up 96,600. I suspect Google is playing silly buggers and giving me whatever number it feels like.

Taking the quote strings off exposes even greater devotion. Devout Catholics are up to 1,750,000, with the singular devout Catholic at 1,730,000. I begin to suspect that Googling is not much of an exact science. Shouldn’t Google at least replicate its own results when you repeat a search less than a minute later?)

“Devout atheist” even brings up 30,200. Quite an impressive tally, especially for a phrase being used almost purely ironically. In your face, Rastafarians, with a mere 612, or Jains, with your miserly 434 devotees.

In fact has the top three (real-world – rather than Google) belief systems as:

# Christianity: 2.1 billion
# Islam: 1.5 billion
# Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion

(Mild W00t. Those Red-A t-shirt sales could be onto a winner after all.)

The BBC suggests that the Catholic Church claims 1,086 billion adherents. Its dominance of Googled Christian devotion is certainly disproportionate.

I am still no closer to understanding why Catholics are pretty well always said to be “devout.”

Maybe the “devout” word is disproportionately associated with Catholics and Muslims because these religions’ USP involves having a personal God who needs lots of sycophancy to stave off tendencies to random smiting?

Sometimes, of course, the phrase is used to portray any Catholic as incapable of doing wrong. This applies only in exact reverse to Islam. Devout Muslims tend to be seen as fanatics.

Naturally, this post can’t appear without at least one reference to the crimes of those Catholics so “devout” that they joined the priesthood. In case this is a surprise to anybody, see Catholic Action’s.

The numbers of victims are huge, according to Joan Smith, writing in the Independent, in January

Three years ago, a report commissioned by the American Catholic church admitted that more than 10,000 children, most boys, had been abused by priests.

I make that one for every 35 “devout Catholic” posts picked up by Google.

Of course, if it wasn’t for their families’ sincere “devotion” to the Church, these kids would never have been put in such a position and the priests would never have escaped unchallenged for decades.

5 thoughts on “Vestments of the Devout

  1. Another phrase which you sometimes see is, “they were regular church goers”. Often this phrase is used to try and make out the person being discussed as a more moral person, and is usually written, I assume, by the those who are not actually religious, but believe in belief.

    Of course, the most ironic place I’ve seen it used is in a story about an elderly man, who brutally murdered his wife. At the end of the article it had a short little “We’re so shocked” statement from the neighbours, before ending with, “they were regular church goers”. Now what are we to make of that?

  2. XanderG – Great point “usually written, I assume, by the those who are not actually religious, but believe in belief.” I agree completely.

    I was thinking about “regular churchgoers”. It would be refreshing to hear muderers’ neighbours expressing shock because the murderers were “regular darts players” or “keen ramblers.”

  3. I’m going to vote for lazy journalists grabbing at clichés. Although the question then becomes ‘Why are they clichés in the first place?”, I guess.

  4. Here’s a definition I found of devout–To give or apply (one’s time, attention, or self) entirely to a particular activity, pursuit, cause, or person. So should that give us at least 10,000 hits for ‘devout pedophile’?

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