01: In a nationwide survey on the spiritual life of students in various fields, it is those in the fine arts who have the greatest spiritual interest while sociology majors have the least.
The survey of 3,680 students, conducted by researchers at UCLA, found that 62 percent of fine arts majors rated high on “spiritual commitment,” compared to 52 percent of journalism majors, 44 percent of business majors, 43 percent of biology majors and computer science majors, 41 percent of political science majors and 37 percent of sociology majors.
It was found that fine arts and humanities majors were twice as likely to experience “spiritual distress” (over religious questions and doubts) and resulting psychological stress as business and computer science majors But students scoring high on measures of spiritual commitment were also found to be generally healthier, happier and earn higher grades.
02: American evangelicals prefer that the issue of gay marriage be outlawed through state laws rather than through a constitutional amendment, according to a new poll. The survey, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research among 1,610 evangelicals, found that 35 percent of them agreed with the Bush administration that a constitutional amendment is needed to outlaw gay marriages, while 57 percent said state laws alone should do the job.
03: A recent survey of Muslims find that they are more religious and politically active than in previous years, particularly since 9/11. The e-newsletter Sightings (April 12) reports that a survey of Detroit-area Muslims from the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding finds mosque attendance has risen, with up to 54 percent claiming to worship weekly [no comparison figures are given, but U.S. mosque attendance has generally been reported to be between 10 to 20 percent].
Only eight percent favor hard-line (“Salafi”) approaches, while over 50 percent follow the “classical school,” and 38 percent favor a contextual approach which tries to make Islam compatible with modern times. Yet outside of the U.S., many of the respondents (no figures given) say Islamic law should play a greater role in Muslim countries. The younger Muslims tended to see their mosques as social centers as well as places of worship.
04: In a nationwide opinion poll, the majority of Russians, 57 percent, agree that faith plays an important role in their life, while 40 percent of respondents don’t think much about such matters.
The survey, conducted by ROMIR Monitoring, polled 1,600 Russian nationals in 107 cities and villages in mid March. Three percent of respondents said they attend church services every week (six percent once a month) while 53 percent do not to church at all. Another survey cited by the Russian Information Agency Novosti (April 12) asked 1,600 Russians in 40 regions on the eve of Easter whether they planned to celebrate that holiday.
The poll, conducted by Yury Levada’s Analytical Centre, found that 80 percent answered in the affirmative. Interestingly enough, 57 percent who described themselves as atheist and 31 percent as Muslim also planned to celebrate a Christian Easter (though most likely in their homes rather than in a church).
05: Ranked first in a recent religious profile of the Netherlands are those people without a religious affiliation: they made up 53 percent of the population in 1996, and there are estimates that, by 2010, two-thirds of the Dutch population between the ages of 20 and 71 will be without a religious affiliation.
Those are some of the figures reported by the Dutch bishops in a report they prepared during their recent five-yearly visit to the Vatican, reports Zenit News Agency (March 20).
Catholics and Protestants now make up similar percentages of the Dutch population: slightly more than 20 percent each. Challenges for the Catholic Church as well as for other religions are considerable. Since the young generation mostly has had no religious upbringing, they can “scarcely remember a religious mode of living,” the bishops reported. Those who are interested in religion are not inclined toward institutions and want “to remain in control” in their religious life as well.
Since the number of Roman Catholics in the Netherlands has decreased by more than 50,000 annually since 1995, it is not surprising that the number of baptisms, first communions, church weddings and even church funerals is also on the decrease. Regarding priests, the number of active ones have decreased by 30 percent over the past seven years.
There is also a drop in male and female religious orders as well as in the number of seminary students, while there is a slight increase in the number of deacons in training (who can be married). The only positive statistical development has been the increase in the number of Catholic immigrants. The decline in numbers has also financial consequences for the Church. While the bishops claim to see “signs of hope,” they also admit that the turning point has not yet been reached.
— By Jean-Francois Mayer, RW Contributing Editor and founder of the website Religioscope (http://www.religioscope.com)