01: Religious belief and practice continues to be an important factor in accumulating wealth, according to a new study.
The study, conducted by Lisa Keister of Ohio State University, analyzes longitudinal data and finds that people who attend religious services regularly build more wealth than those who don’t. The study, published in the September issue ofSocial Forces, also found that Jews amassed the most wealth and conservative Protestants the least and mainline Protestants and Catholics somewhere in between. That finding appears to conflict with the first finding, since conservative Protestants attend services more than mainline and Jewish believers.
But Keister maintains that it is the distinctive teachings and the practices that influences how people generate wealth. Jewish teachings have less of an afterlife orientation than conservative Christians and stress wealth as a good in this life.. Thus Jews who attend synagogue would hear those teachings on a more regular basis. It is also the case that regularly attending any religious services may create social networks that can lead to jobs, investment tips and money to loan for a new business.
02: A majority of Americans support displaying Christian symbols on public property, although many hold that symbols of other religions should also be displayed, according to a new poll.
The survey, conducted by USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll, arrives in the middle of several church-state battles across the U.S. (the most well known case being in Alabama) over whether such symbols as the Ten Commandments on government buildings violate the separation of church and state. The poll finds that 70 percent of Americans say they approve of Ten Commandments monuments in public areas, ,but only 10 percent agree that it is acceptable to display only Christian symbols.
Fifty eight percent say it is acceptable to display Christian symbols as long as other religious symbols are also displayed. Respondents were generally tolerant of other, unspecified faiths–but less so of Islam. Though most approve Ten Commandment monuments, 64 percent oppose a monument to the Koran.
03: Those regularly attending religious services are more likely to engage in small acts of kindness than non-attendees, according to a study by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Council (NORC). There is already evidence that regular religious attenders are more likely to devote time and money to charitable causes, but the NORC survey found that those never attending services noted on average 96 acts of helping others in the year, while those attending noted 128 acts of kindness.
Respondents were asked to recall acts of kindness and empathy, prompting such memories by providing a list of 15 different kinds of altruistic activities. Other variables, such as age, location (cities or small towns) were overshadowed by religion in predicting altruistic acts, according to the e-newsletter Sightings (Sept. 22).
04: Although its results are contested and not too clear, a recent poll of the American Jewish community suggests a significant decrease in the numbers of Jews.
The National Jewish Population Survey concludes that the number of American Jews has decreased by five percent to 5.2 million in the past decade, largely due to rising levels of intermarriage and a continued low birth rate. The survey, conducted every 10 years, is two years late, due to sharp differences about its conclusions and methods among pollsters. Preliminary findings were released last year but then suddenly retracted after it was learned that some of the data was lost by the overseeing agency, the United Jewish Communities. An outside agency recently concluded that the survey, taken among 4,500 respondents, was sound.
The survey found that the growth in intermarriages increased from 43 percent in 1991 (which itself was recalibrated from 52 percent due to an overly broad definition of who is Jewish) to 47 percent from 1996-2001. While more children (29 percent) are attending a Jewish school full time, only one-third of children of interfaith couples are being raised Jewish. It was also found that only 40 percent of Jewish households belong to a synagogue
05: Has the rate of artistic achievement and technological progress declined in recent times due to the decrease of religion among creative elites?
That is the provocative conclusion of writer Charles Murray in a recent study he conducted on achievement and progress. In The American Enterprise magazine (October/November), Murray writes that in weighing the measures of artistic and scientific accomplishments by the size of populations, the “overall story is one of recent decline in high achievement in both the arts and sciences, usually starting sometime in the 1800s.” For instance, the population doubled in France between 1630 and 1930 with no related increase of important playwrights.
Murray acknowledges that there are only so many significant achievements that can be made in the finite world of scientific knowledge, but the declines in the accomplishment rate for the “visual arts, literature, and music are not so comfortably explained away.” The visual arts accomplishment decline rate [Murray doesn’t define the criteria for accomplishment] began in the 1600s while the rate of production in music started to ebb in the mid-1700s, hitting bottom in the 1900s.
Murray speculates that one–but not the only– important factor for this continual decline, which still continues today, is that many artists and musicians turned away from addressing “fundamental questions of existence” and a “well-articulated vision of the true, the beautiful, and the good.. Great accomplishment in the arts is anchored in pursuit of transcendental goals like truth and goodness.”
(American Enterprise, 1150 17th St., N.W., Washington, DC 20036)
06: Recent figures show that evangelicals in England represent one-third of churchgoers and that this segment of Christians is likely to grow in the future.
The book Religious Trends, published by the Christian Research Association, finds that evangelicals, charismatics and Pentecostals, which include Anglicans, make up this one-third segment of British Christians. Six percent of this group reject any centralized denominational authority.
The study notes that the evangelical tendency to have a greater proportion of growth from conversions — rather than from births — could create inroads into the mass of Britons who say they are Christians but who have only a rudimentary faith. Religious Trends uses figures from the last national census, which shows 72 percent of the population of the UK as saying they are Christians.
The recent census has received an unusual amount of attention because it was the first one that included religion in nearly 100 years and because it found more Christians than expected (at least as found in earlier surveys). In Quadrant (September), the newsletter of the Christian Research Association, sociologist Steve Bruce questions this 72 percent figure for nominal Christians. Since church attendance is higher in Scotland than in England and Wales, why did the census show a larger number of nominal Christian identifiers in the latter nations?
Bruce writes that the answer to this puzzle may have a lot to do with British anxiety about national identity. “The England and Wales census produced a higher than expected number of non-churchgoers identifying with Christianity at the same time as public opinion was much concerned with the growth and politicization of Islam . . . race riots in northern England towns, and disputes about asylum seekers.” The census’ method of asking respondents (the heads of households) to tick off their faith and ethnicity amidst a list of non-Christian religions and various ethnic groups highlighted “what is for many people a crucial issue: how much should Britain change to accommodate non-Christian religions imported in the last 50 years?”
Bruce adds that such concerns may help explain the fact that Christian activity is higher in Scotland than England yet only 65 percent of Scots (as compared with 72 percent of English) claimed a Christian identity. Since those of other faiths form less than two percent of Scot but six percent of the English, fewer Scots felt impelled to assert their nominal Christian identity.
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