Does Islam make people radical or is it peaceful?
Are religious people loving and nice or stern and interfering?
Does religion make people better or worse?
Lots of people offer answers to these questions, and probably even more people wonder what the answers are. However, it is hard to get hard data about religion with which to answer them.
To see why, consider the analogy with sex. Suppose I wanted to know about how my sex life is going and I scanned the t.v. offerings and found a show where people went on it and talked honestly about their sex lives. I could find the answers to questions like: how? with who? in what fashion? with what tempo? with what addition? with what subtraction? by dint of what? in sufferance of how? when? where? The different answers the participants of the show gave to these questions would be good and helpful data, wouldn’t it?
Because all these people would share a single peculiarity which makes them an unrepresentative sample. Whatever unusual peculiarities or quirks they are willing to talk about there is a single peculiarity that unites them that goes deeper than all the rest:
They are willing to go on a television show and talk about their sex lives.
If I decided to take their advice I would be taking advice that is actually pitched to a very particular fetishistic subculture of exhibitionists as something that applied to me.
One could say in a sense that the moment I watched the television show I was changing my sexuality into an exhibitionist/voyeuristic variety. In the effort to inform myself I would be changing myself.
Or perhaps even more accurately the moment I decided that sex was the sort of thing I needed to be informed about I would have taken the decisive step towards voyeurism.
I wager someone could make a similar argument about religion!