01: A recent Barna poll finds that four out of 10 adults discuss religious matters during a typical week.
The 42 percent of Americans most likely to be discussing religious matters are women, baby boomers, upscale individuals, blacks, residents of the South, Republicans, conservatives and those attending churches of over 100 adults. Hispanics and Asians, residents of California, those without a party and political moderates are among those least likely to talk about matters of faith.
Evangelicals are twice as likely as non-evangelicals (58 percent versus 33 percent) to engage in such conversation. “Unexpectedly, the research found that one out of every three atheists and agnostics (32 percent) talks about faith-related matters during a typical week.”
02: One finding from Canada’s recent census [see May RW] that received less attention is a surprising decline in Pentecostalism in that nation.
In the e-newsletter Sightings (May 29), John Stackhouse writes that evangelical groups such as the Baptists have maintained their proportion of the population by growing about 10 percent (as Canada itself did). He adds that “At the same time, the Pentecostals have actually declined by 15 percent. In a global framework of exploding Pentecostal/charismatic Christianity, a decline of Pentecostalism is like a `decline of Starbucks.’”
Stackhouse speculates that as the nation’s main Pentecostal body, the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, has “cooled off” and become more “generically `evangelical,’ it is no longer as attractive to `hotter’ Christians who then migrate to the Vineyard or to non-denominational Pentecostal/charismatic churches.”
03: Women leaving the churches is one of the main sources in the decline of religion in Scotland, according to the recent Scottish Church Census.
Quadrant (July), the newsletter of the British Christian Research Association reports that of the 120,000 fewer churchgoers on Sunday in Scotland in 2002 compared with 1994, two-thirds were women. Half of these women — one-third of all dropouts — were between ages 20 and 44 — a key attender group in many congregations.
Focus groups which were held as part of the Census research found that the main reason more women were leaving the church was because of working full-time and having to work on Sunday. One finding that may apply to churches in other countries as well was that the smaller the leadership team, the greater the likelhood a church would grow.
A small number of decision-makers are more strategic in leadership than “many who may have a pastoral or administrative interest,” according to the newsletter.
(Quadrant, Christian Research, Vision Bldg., 4 Footscray Rd., Eltham, London SE9 2TZ, UK)
04: The same issue of Quadrant reports that the 2001 census in Nothern Ireland shows a sharp rise of those claiming no religion, growing by 37 percent since 1991.
Yet the census finds that Catholics also increased by nine percent (against a seven percent growth in the population).
05: Nature religions are the fastest growing group of religions in Australia, according to recent figures by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Pointers (June), the newsletter of the Christian Research Association of Australia, cites the statistics as showing a 130 percent increase between the 1991 and 2001 censuses and a 140 percent rise between 1996 and 2001. Nature religions attracted an additional 20,000 people in the decade, bringing their numbers to a total of 24,156. [The Pentecostals attracted more than twice that number — about 45,000].
Among the nature religions group, paganism is the largest and fastest-growing (representing 44 percent of all nature religions, followed by Wicca or goddess worship (representing 36 percent); Australian traditional indigenous religions were not included in these figures. Nature religions had the youngest age profile of all major religious groups in the 2001 census.
Although involving veneration of nature, 64 percent of these practitioners live in major cities. “Generally agricultural communities are more likely to identify with mainline Christian denominations,” according to the newsletter.
(Pointers, CRA, Locked Bag 23, Kew, 3101, Australia)
06: A study of Muslims in Norway suggests that they are not integrating into society largely due to distinctive marriage practices.
The study, carried out by the Oslo-based group Human Rights Service and based on statistical analysis, finds that members of most of Norway’s non-Western immigrant groups are not just avoiding intermarriage but are marrying spouses–often their own cousins–from their countries of origin. These marriages are usually arranged and forced and intend to provide the foreign spouse with Norwegian residency while “injecting into the European branch of the family . . . a hostility to pluralism, tolerance, democracy and sexual equality,” writes Bruce Bawer in the Herald-Tribune newspaper (June 27).
While Norwegian Muslims of both sexes have arranged marriages, the women are married off very young and their imported husbands often expect a subservient attitude among wives, even if they were raised in the more open environment of the West. Among immigrant Muslim groups, the prevalence in Norway of this practice of `fetching marriages’ increased between 1996 and 2001. Bauer adds that although the study was carried out in Norway, this situation may be prevalent in other European countries.