I have always had a genial contempt for those who shop for their religion, comparing costs and benefits and opting for a faith that promises bliss without stress. As an atheist, I take the stern view that one ought to cleave to one's ancestral faith even if it offers nothing more than predestination and eternal damnation. But as this interminable election winds down toward its conclusion, now only a week away, I am embarrassed to find myself exhibiting a secular version of the behavior I have so long contemned. A word of explanation.
Some long while ago, I stumbled on Nate Silver's blog, fivethirtyeight.com, which had an extraordinary record of success in predicting the 2008 election, right down to the state level. In that cycle, his only miss in fifty state predictions was Indiana, which he calculated would go for McCain but in fact was won by Obama by one percent. Silver got his start as a sabermetrician [which is to say, someone who analyses baseball using objective data and statistics], and that quite naturally biases me in his favor. It reveals a seriousness of purpose and a strength of character that most political commentators lack.
Silver has been predicting Obama's victory for quite some time now, with a percentage of confidence that swelled from the low sixties to the high eighties during the long Summer and early Fall of Romney's stumbling performance. But after the disastrous first debate, the Obama line in his graph plummeted and the Romney line soared, striking into my heart and that of many others a terror that in prior ages was reserved for intimations of hellfire.
Just three days ago, I stumbled on a new guru -- Drew Linzer, an Assistant Professor at Emory University. Linzer runs a blog called Votamatic, and his predictions for Obama are much rosier than Silver's [even though Silver's Obama line has now clawed its way back to roughly 75%.] If Linzer is to be believed, Obama's chances are in the 90's, and his probable electoral vote count is north of 330. Linzer is a quite respectable academic, for all his youth [he earned his doctorate only four years ago], with a fine list of publications on his cv.
Now, I am a serious person. I would not forsake the Baptist persuasion for Baha'i or Scientology. But despite the minatory warnings of an ever-vigilant conscience, I find myself slipping away from Silver and migrating to Linzer. I hope the election comes before I have consigned myself to what passes for Hell in rational atheist circles.