01: A new survey finds that a majority of college students say religion and spirituality are important in their lives but they also show a sharp drop-off of religious involvements as they move through their college years.
The survey, conducted by UCLA among 3,680 students at 46 colleges and universities, found that 73 percent say their religious or spiritual beliefs helped develop their identity. Seventy seven percent say they pray and 71 percent say they find religion to be helpful in their lives. The survey confirmed previous findings showing a drop-off of church attendance as students progressed toward graduation–52 percent reported frequent attendance before entering college and only 29 percent did the same by their junior year.
The percentage of students saying it is “very important” or “essential” to integrate spirituality into their lives climbed from 51 percent in the 2000 poll to 58 percent this year. Over half of the respondents said neither professors nor the classroom encouraged or discussed their spiritual development.
02: The Catholic Church is the only growing religious body in the U.S. with a declining number of clergy, according to a study conducted by Purdue University sociologist James D. Davidson.
In testing the assertion that many denominations are experiencing a decreasing number of clergy, Davidson reviewed the Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches for 1983, 1993 and 2003. He selected seven mainline Protestant bodies and three conservative churches. These churches were further divided into those whose membership has increased or decreased over the 20-year period.
The CARA Report (Fall) notes that Davidson found that the Catholic Church is the only growing body with a declining number of clergy (showing a 22 percent decline). He adds that “This fact suggests that sources of the priest shortage are more likely to be found in the Church itself than in societal conditions adversely affecting churches in general.”
03: One of the first scientific polls of Iraqi public opinion finds less devotion to Islam than expected and a majority against the idea of an Islamic theocracy. The poll, conducted by Zogby International and published in The American Enterprise magazine (December), was conducted last August among 600 respondents.
The survey finds that 43 percent of respondents said they “never” attended Islam’s Friday prayer services over the previous month. Only one-third of respondents said they favored an Islamic government, with 60 percent saying “no” to such a possibility. A noteworthy finding was that Shiite Muslims–who are often reported to be the most fervent Muslims in Iraq — are least receptive to the idea of an Islamic government, saying “no” by 66 versus 27 percent. It is only among the Sunnis that there is interest in such a prospect, and they are about evenly split on the question.
(The American Enterprise, 1150 17th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036)
04: According to a survey conducted in Spring 2003 in Germany, the number of Muslims has slightly declined, down to 3.1 million, with many claiming liberal and unorthodox forms of the faith.
The decrease is due to a number of war refugees from the Balkan returning home. Included in the total number of Muslims in Germany are more than 400,000 Alevis from Turkey (which hardly can be considered as “orthodox” Muslims in the usual meaning of the word) and 50,000 members of the Ahmadiyya movement, a group born in the late 19th century and rejected by mainstream Muslims due to the messianic claims of its late founder, reports the German magazine Materialdienst der EZW (October).
The survey, conducted by the Islam-Archiv-Deutschland, makes it clear that most Muslims in Germany don’t belong to organized Islam. Less than 10 percent of the Muslims in Germany are affiliated with any of the six largest Muslim organizations/federations active in that country. Interestingly, while authorities are mostly in touch with organized groups, a large segment of the remaining 90 percent are reported to tend toward a “modern Islam”, perceiving itself “as a part of secular society.” Sixty three percent consider the German Constitution as compatible with the Quran, while 16 percent see it as a problem; 732,000 Muslims hold German citizenship, but only 12,400 are of German descent.
Sixty two percent of the Muslims in Germany sympathize with the Social Democratic Party, 17 percent with the Green Party, and 10 percent with the Christian Democrats. Many Muslims still meet in prayer places which are built for worhsip; there 2,380 such places in Germany. However, increasingly, mosques are being built and will come to dot the German landscape beside churches: there are already 141 “classical” mosques, and 154 more currently under construction.
(Materialdienst der EZW, Evangelische Zentralstelle für Weltanschauungsfragen, Auguststrasse 80, 10117 Berlin, Germany; website: http://www.ezw-berlin.de)
— By Jean-Francois Mayer