Social Climate


/ 05:05 AM December 28, 2019

For some time now, Pasasalamat has been what Social Weather Stations calls its annual year-end party, ever since discovering that a staff member’s religion banned anything named for the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, like attending a Christmas party or accepting a Christmas gift. We simply renamed the party to make it inclusive. The annual pasasalamat is the SWS institutional thank-you to its people.

SWS was founded as strictly non-partisan, which includes non-sectarian. It follows the best academic practice of dating years by CE (common era) and BCE (before the common era) rather than AD (anno domini) and BC (before Christ). It detached all religious symbols and markings in the private residence it bought in 1999 and converted to the SWS office. It deals with priests as much as with politicians.


Religion is certainly one of the most divisive factors in the social environment. It is a very important, and very interesting, subject. In SWS’ many surveys about religion and religiosity, it ensures that survey research findings are not colored by personal religious preferences.

It was in 2002 that SWS started its annual practice of polling expectations about Christmas, when 82 percent looked forward to a happy one, 3 percent thought it would be a sad one, and 15 percent thought it would be neither. That starting 82 has turned out to be the highest percentage so far. It was in the 60s all through 2004-13, but has been in the 70s since 2014 (“Fourth Quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey: 79% of Pinoys expect a happy Christmas; 76% say it is better to give than to receive,” www.sws.org.ph, 12/24/19). The holiday season is contagious, and affects a fair number of non-Christians, too. How do Ramadan and Chinese New Year affect Christians? There should be a survey about it.


In my very first annual meeting of the International Social Survey Program (ISSP), in 1990 in Graz, Austria, part of the agenda was to finalize the questionnaire for the first ISSP survey on religion. The ISSP religion surveys (done in 1991, 1998, 2008 and 2018) have items on abortion, divorce, same-sex marriage and like items that are taboo for many Catholics.

At ISSP, I got to befriend the religion module’s main proponent, Fr. Andrew M. Greeley (1928-2013), sociologist of religion, survey expert and bestselling novelist. His thoroughly enjoyable, supposedly racy, books were decried by many clerics, yet surely kept many more Catholics in the Church than out of it.

Father Andrew openly favored optional marriage for the clergy; his “White Smoke” is about a once-married man who becomes a priest, a cardinal, and, eventually, the Pope. He not only proposed, but also helped to finance, cross-country opinion polls of Catholics about possible reforms in the Church. These polls find Catholic Filipinos as the most conservative, or pro-Vatican, in sentiment. Even Catholic Spaniards are far more liberal than we are!

In his autobiography, Father Andrew says he is simply a priest who tells stories, like Jesus did. He didn’t assign a gender to God, as far as I know, but every morning he wrote a prayer like this (from his prayer journal of 1/13/1992)—

O Lady Love,

You who preside over the sun and the clouds,

the cold and the warm,


and who has guided me

through the joys and sorrows of life,

help me to have confidence

in the warmth and the sun

as hints of the world to come

and also as suggestions

of Your curious but effective ways

of working in the world.

Help me never to lose hope

in Your love

and Your wisdom

and Your plans.

Happy New Year to All!

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TAGS: Christmas, Pasasalamat, Religion, survey, SWS
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