01: Although Americans believe in the importance of religion, their ties to congregations are more shaky, according to a new study.
In mid-February, the MacArthur Foundation released the findings of a major new survey of religious life in the United States. In a survey of 3,302 Americans, over seven out of 10 said religion was important in their lives and spirituality was a part of their daily lives. Yet About fifty percent attended religious services less than once a month or never, according to an article in USA Today (Feb. 16).
The same article interviews several experts in American religious life who offered their capsule summaries of the research.
David Kinnaman of the Barna Research Group of California said “Spirituality in the United States is a mile wide and an inch deep.” He pointed to the new hybrid, “mix and Match” tendencies so popular among many today. Professor Nancy Ammerman of Hartford Seminary (Connecticut) pointed to another recent study showing that only 40 percent to 45 percent of Protestants in churches on a given Sunday were raised in that denomination.
The MacArthur statistics show that 12 percent attend religious services more than once a week, 25 percent attended once a week, 13 percent one to three times a month, 29 percent less than once a month, and 21 percent never. Asked how closely they identified with being a member of their religious group, 22 percent said very close, 49 percent said somewhat close, 21 percent said not very close, and eight percent said not at all close.
— By Erling Jorstad
02: There is a sharp increase of American workers accusing their employers of religious discrimination, according to a new survey.
The Futurist magazine (March) reports that the Chicago employment law group Goldberg, Kohn, Bell, Black, Rosenbloom and Moritz found that in 1991 there were 1,192 charges of religious discrimination filed with the Equal Opportunity Commission. In 1997, that figure jumped to 1,709, a 43 percent increase.
One factor in this trend is the globalization of the economy, pressuring companies to operate seven days a week, thereby upsetting the observances of Christians and other believers. Another reason may be the growing number of non-European immigrants in the U.S. workplace, according to Michael D. Karpeles, head of the Chicago firm.
(The Futurist, 7910 Woodmont Ave., Suite 450, Bathesda, MD 20814)
03: American Catholics defining themselves as “strong” in the faith are steadily dropping, according to a survey by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.
The survey found that the percentage of Americans calling themselves Catholic has remained the same at 26 percent over the past 30 years. But the Catholic magazine America (Feb. 13) reports that the center finds that in its 1998 General Social Survey, 37 percent said they were strong Catholics and 29 percent said they attended Mass each week. In the 1970s, 46 percent said they had a strong attachment to the church and 48 percent reported going to church.
(America, 106 W. 56th St., New York, NY 10019)
04: The many studies drawing strong connections between religious beliefs and practices and health are flawed both in methodology and conclusions, according to a new study.
Richard Sloan and other researchers write in the British medical journal The Lancet (Feb. 19) that even the best studies that attempt to show the health benefits connected with such practices as prayer and other forms of spirituality contain serious methodological problems. Sloan and his colleagues reviewed hundreds of studies and identified several dozen flaws that characterize much of the literature.
The web site Science Daily (Feb. 23) cites the journal as saying that many religion-health studies often involved small numbers of subjects and failed to control for other factors that could account for the findings, such as age and health behaviors and status. The researchers add that other studies failed to present the findings fully or failed to make appropriate statistical studies.
These studies, the authors claim, provide “no empirical justification for the introduction of religious activities into clinical medicine.” The article notes that many medical schools and doctors have recently called for religious interventions in medical practice.
(Science Daily: wysiwyg://272/ http://www.scienceda.com)
05: The growth rate of Christianity in Ethiopia may be the highest in the world and is tied to the persecution Christian believers have received in that country, reports Religion Today (Feb. 17), an on-line news service.
Evangelical believers have doubled from four million to eight million since 1984, according to AD 2000 and Beyond, the international evangelization network. Evangelicals make up 14 percent of the population, up from less than one percent in 1960.
Much of the growth was generated through small cell groups that spread throughout Ethiopia when churches were shut and Christians arrested during the 16-year rule of Marxist dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam. The report adds that there is also a growing evangelical movement in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, numbering about 200,000, although church leaders oppose this group.
(Religion Today, http://www. religionnewstoday.net)