01: More Americans than might be expected are impacted by the growing religious diversity in the U.S., although interfaith acceptance is not necessarily a byproduct of this reality, according to a recent survey.
At the conference of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Princeton University sociologist Robert Wuthnow presented findings from his new Diversity Survey, noting that even a relatively small proportion of non-Christian religious adherents may exert a large presence in society. The survey, conducted among 2,910 people, found that 48 percent of the public claimed to have had at least some personal contact with Muslims; 35 percent, with Hindus; and 34 percent with Buddhists. Eight percent of the public claims to have attended a Muslim mosque, ten percent at Buddhist center or temple, and six percent at a Hindu temple.
Wuthnow notes that these figures are considerably larger than the percentages of Americans in the 1970s who experimented with Eastern new religions. “In short, there is a kind of cultural awareness, undoubtedly forged as much by television and motion pictures and by international travel and cultural mixing as by recent trends in immigration, which far exceeds and transcends the actual numbers of Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist adherents,” Wuthnow says.
The impact of such diversity may be evident in the finding that 54 percent of the American public thinks all religions are equally true, though in the same survey, 58 percent also agreed that “Christianity is the best way to understand God.” More problematic was the view of 47 percent of respondents who said that the word “fanatical” applied to the religion of Islam and 40 percent said the word “violent” did. Nearly one quarter (23 percent) said they favored making it illegal for Muslim groups to meet in the U.S. for worship. While perceptions of Hindus and Buddhists were more favorable (only about one-quarter of respondents regarded these two faiths as fanatical), one person in five still favored making it illegal for these groups to meet.
02: Religion served as an important resource for Americans, particularly in volunteering, directly after September 11, according to a new study presented at the conference of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.
The survey, conducted by Kraig Beyerlein of the University of North Carolina and Dan Myers of the University of Notre Dame, found that 27 percent used their congregation as a special gathering place during the tragedy. Those attending a religious prayer service were one and a half times more likely to donate to some cause surrounding Sept. 11.
Church attendance was found to be a significant predictor for volunteer work. Such high attending groups as white evangelicals were 3.5 times more likely to be involved in volunteer work and blacks were six times more likely to be involved.
03: Hispanic Catholics are less likely to leave the church than white Catholics, according to a recent study. In a survey of 982 Catholic adults, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University found that 81 percent of Hispanics remained Catholic in contrast to 72 percent of whites.
But cradle Catholic Hispanics who do leave the church are more likely to convert to another faith while white dropouts tend to remain unattached to any faith.
04: Demographic trends will deeply transform the geopolitical landscape over the next 50 years, a trend having consequences in the religious field, predicts French demographers Jean-Claude Chasteland and Jean-Claude Chesnais in the October issue ofFuturibles, a French journal of future studies.
World population is unlikely to pass the threshold of 10 billion, in contrast to prospects of 12 to 15 billion often mentioned in the 1970s. Aging will become increasingly significant not only for Western countries, but in many other parts of the world as well: there will be on the planet three times more people over 60 by 2050. Asia will continue to be the most densely populated continent, but China will no longer have the largest population in the world: around 2035-2040, India is expected to take first place and might have more than 1.5 billion inhabitants in 2050.
The U.S.should remain number three in terms of population, and this will contribute to an increase in their supremacy compared to aging Europe, Russia and Japan.
For the West in general, however, there might be a more important development than the growth of Hinduism in India. In around 2020, for the first time in history, there will be more Muslims than Christians; moreover, in average, Muslims will be significantly younger than Christians. In 2050, there will be more inhabitants in Iraq or Saudi Arabia than in Italy. Chasteland and Chesnais suggest that this will pose serious problems in terms of peaceful coexistence in areas such as Southern Russia, the Mediterranean and large European cities, especially since migrations can only be expected to increase toward richer areas experiencing a demographic decline.
Regarding the Jewish population, the two French demographers estimate that it will continue to grow in Israel, but continue to decline (and possibly experience an accelerated decline) in countries such as the United States and France, a development which could also have strategic consequences.
— By Jean-François Mayer (Futuribles, 55 rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris, France – Website:http://www.futuribles.com)
05: An economic study of education and fertility in five nations suggests that Indonesia and parts of India show high rates of Islamic radicalism.
At the recent SSSR meeting, economists Eli Berman of the University of California at San Diego and Ara Stephanyan of Rice University found that there is a connection between rates of fertility,education and religious radicalism in the five countries they studied: Indonesia, Bangladesh, India, Cote d’Ivoire and Pakistan.
For families sending their children to Islamic schools, the secular value of their educations is lower than other kinds of schooling while their fertility rate is higher. This pattern, as in the case of ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel, may lead to government subsidies for this population, intensifying radicalism and challenging secular governments.
Using fertility and Islamic schooling rates as variables, Berman and Stephanyan estimate the prevalence of radical Islamic groups to be as low as two to three percent in Pakistan and rural Bangladesh to a fairly high 14-16 percent in Indonesia and in the India states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.