01: The negative attitudes displayed by some evangelical leaders toward Islam since Sept. 11 seems to be shared by rank-and-file believers, according to a recent poll.
The poll, sponsored by Beliefnet and the Ethics and Public Policy Center, found that 77 percent of evangelicals had an overall unfavorable view of Islam. Seventy percent also agreed that Islam is a “religion of violence,” and 66 percent agree with the statement that Islam is dedicated to world domination. Eighty three percent agreed that it was very important to evangelize U.S. Muslims. Yet 93 percent said it was very important (52 percent) or of “some importance” (41 percent) to “welcome Muslims into the American community.”
Seventy nine percent said it was very important to “protect the rights of Muslims”
(The survey can be found at: the Beliefnet website: http://www.beliefnet.com/story/124/story_12447.html) .
02: The religious affiliations of the U.S. military personnel closely mirrors that of the U.S. population, according to recent figures by the Defense Manpower Data Center.
The Washington Times (April 28) notes that unlike the Census, which does not allow a religious question, the military polls its soldiers in order to provide chaplains to meet their religious needs Only about 0.1 percent of all American military declare themselves atheists while 44 and 24 percent claim the Protestant and Catholic labels, respectively. A recent Gallup Poll finds that 56 percent of all Americans are Protestant and 27 percent Catholic. Gallup only found eight percent of the public claiming no affiliation, while the military registered 27 percent with no such religious preference.
“There are differences between telling a pollster you have no religion and telling the military that you do not wish to specify a religion,” according to the article. Muslims and Jews are at 0.3 percent, though the former is more represented in the military on a per capita basis than the latter. Buddhists stand at 0.2 percent and Hindus, 0.1 percent in the military.
03: The recent British Census shows a larger Christian population than do other surveys, while confirming the gap between profession of faith and commitment to a congregation. Quadrant (May), the newsletter of the British Christian Research Association, reports that the Census — the first one to ask a question on religion in 150 years — finds that 72 percent of the population in England and Wales said they were Christians.
The number of people who selected the Christian designation was greater than found in past Christian Research estimations (63 percent), the British Social Attitudes Report (53 percent in 1998) and the European Values Study (66 percent). But at best, only a third are churchgoers, and half of these only come once a year. The six percent belonging to the other religions “emerged much as predicted–1.5 million Muslims, 600,000 Hindus, 300,000 Sikhs, 300,000 Jews, 150,000 Buddhists and 300,000 “others.”
(Quadrant, Vision Bldg., 4 Footscray Rd., Eltham, London SE9 2TZ)
04: France has long been a country with a comparatively low average level of religious beliefs and practices, but the trend downward may not have yet hit bottom, according to a survey released in April by CSA (http://www.csa-fr.com), a leading survey institute.
The survey is based on detailed questions asked to a representative sample of 1,000 people and offers comparisons with the results of a similar survey conducted in 1994. Interestingly, the skeptical attitude does not only apply to formal religious beliefs: for instance, there is a strong decline in beliefs in astrology (from 37 percent not believing in astrology in 1994 to 63 percent in 2003), which led some Catholic observers to suggest that alternative spiritual beliefs are actually much more affected than traditional religious beliefs by secular developments.
Thirty Seven percent consider religion as important in their lives and 25 percent claim to pray daily. Behind rationalism, secularization and decline in religious practice, interest in religion has not disappeared: more people today than ten years ago would describe themselves as believers, although this might indicate an inclination rather than a firm set of beliefs: for instance, while 39 percent claim there is nothing after death, only four percent believe in resurrection and six percent in reincarnation, plus 16 percent in immortality of the soul.
To the extent the survey results can be considered as reliable, they seem to indicate a strong tendency toward religious confusion, which probably goes along with a decline in religious knowledge — and with a relativization of religious boundaries. While it is not surprising that 88 percent of the Muslims in France believe that Muhammad was a prophet, it is more perplexing to discover that 34 percent of practicing French Roman Catholics claim to believe it too.
It might also be a sign that efforts toward interreligious dialogue and understanding other religions has left its mark among French Christians, since practicing Catholics show more willingness to believe it than non-practicing ones. But the impact of Eastern religions remain limited: only three percent express a strong interest toward Buddhism and one percent toward Hinduism.
— By Jean-François Mayer, RW Contributing Editor and founder of the website Religioscope (http://www.religioscope.com)
05: The percentage of Russians who consider themselves believers continues to rise, according to a recent survey by the Public Opinion fund.
This year, 69 percent of respondents said that they profess a religion, up seven percent since 1997. Rosbalt News Agency (April 28) reports that the study shows fifty nine percent identified themselves as Orthodox believers, eight percent as Muslims and two percent other religions. 30 percent of those questioned did not consider themselves religious, compared to 38 percent in 1997.
Most (83 percent) said they planned to celebrate Easter and there was a three percent growth of those observing Lent since 2000 (from six percent to nine percent).