01: Americans are strongly divided on age, as well as income and other demographics regarding their belief in Christ’s second coming, according to an analysis of recent surveys.
There is likely to be a flurry of polls on end-time subjects as the new millennium draws near, but the Public Perspective (February/March), the journal of the Roper Center, finds that recent survey results already point to some noteworthy patterns on millennial beliefs. Most polls find a significant percentage of Americans believe in the second coming of Christ and even that it may not be far off.
In three separate polls conducted between 1992 and January, 1999 by Yankelovich, Clancy, Shulman, and Yankelovich Partners, 27 percent to 36 percent of Americans said they believed the second coming was likely to occur sometime during the 21st century (a smaller minority of 20 percent believe this will take place around the year 2000). More Americans believe in the world’s imminent end if the survey question specifies a religious causation.
For instance, a 1998 Peter D. Hart poll found that 25 percent of Americans believed there was a greater than 50-50 likelihood that during the next 30 years the Judgment Day would come, bringing the world to an end. But a 1998 Gallup poll showed that nearly four in ten Americans thought it was very or somewhat likely that the world would end because of a religious event in the next century.
Demographic differences are significant in most surveys. Women, minorities and Southerners are more likely to expect the end of the world, just as they rate higher in religious beliefs than others. But the big surprise is that younger Americans are consistently more likely to have strong end-time beliefs; 28 percent of those 18-29 believe the second coming will be around 2000, compared to 14 percent of those over 65.
It’s a surprise because young adults are less religious or about equally religious as their elders. Writers John Benson and Melissa Herrmann conclude that popular culture (such as TV shows like Millennium) is filled with these themes, and young adults’ interest in them may have little to do with actual religious belief.
(Public Perspective, Roper Center, University of Connecticut, Stoors, CT 06268)
02: A Georgetown University research team recently reported a noticeable increase in the number of men entering Catholic seminaries with the intention of ordination and parish service.
The report notes some 3,386 men are enrolled in post-graduate theology, a four to six year program that leads to ordination. USA Today ( April 12) reports that this is an increase of 7 percent over the l997-98 academic year, and the largest enrollment since 3,416 were enrolled in 1993-94. The report, however, also notes the total number of priests projected to be active by 2005 will be 40 percent lower than figures of the mid-1960s.
The recent increase is attributed to the growing number of men in mid-careers, from 30 to to 50 years of age, enrolling in preparation for the priesthood.
— By Erling Jorstad
03: A decade ago libertarians were highly irreligious, both in affiliation and practice, but that seems to be changing, according to a recent poll.
The libertarian magazine Liberty (April) compares polls it conducted among libertarians — those believing in freedom from government in most areas of life — in 1988 and then in 1998 and found a good deal of change. In almost every way libertarians varied from the American norm in 1988 — in religion, age, marital status, and education — but there was less variation in 1998.
Twenty three percent said they were a follower of a religion in 1988, while 29 percent said so in 1998. Only two percent said they attended church in the last week in the 1988 survey, while 13 percent said they did so in 1998. Seven percent said they never attended church a decade ago, while two percent said they never did in 1998.
(Liberty, 1018 Water St., #201, Port Townsend, WA 98368)
04: The popular practice of yoga appears to have a positive effect on sex offenders, according to a recent small-scale study in Utah.
The study, conducted by the University of Utah’s School of Social Work, was composed of 14 teenage boys treated for repeated sex offenses, such as rape. The youths practiced “meditation, relaxation and controlled breathing” techniques, which effectively “stemmed deviant impulses” in the study group, says researcher David Derezotes.
The study is cited in the online newsletter Fearless News (April 5) and is to be published in the upcoming issue of Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal. Although the study took place in the university’s “yoga clinic,” there was an attempt to use content “sensitive to the diversity of all religions…It worked well with a mixture of kids and was adaptive to various faith systems,” Derezotes said.
(Fearless News, http://www.fearlessbooks.com)