01: Eight out of 10 professors consider themselves spiritual, while 64 percent say they are religious, according to recent UCLA study. The study, the most recent in a series on religion and academia, did not ask professors specific religious preferences, and found that the term “spirituality” was often referred to in a generic way that involved making sense out of life.
The study found that women were more likely to describe themselves as spiritual (87 percent of women compared to 78 percent of men). The survey, including 40,670 faculty members, found that while more than half believe it is important to enhance the moral development of students, only 30 percent think colleges should concern themselves with students’ spiritual development. The Chronicle of Higher Education (March 10) reports that a related UCLA pilot study carried out among juniors found a gap between what professors believe and what they discuss in class.
The majority of juniors (62 percent) said their professors never encouraged discussion of religion or spirituality in class and 56 percent said their professors never provided opportunities to discuss the meaning of life The gap may mean professors are worried about being seen as proselytizing or having bias in the classroom, says Alexander Astin, who led the study.
02: Even when not shopping for traditional religious items, purchasers may be motivated by “spiritual” interests, according to new marketing research. The New York Times Magazine (March 19) reports that University of Nebraska marketing professors Dwayne Ball and Ronald Hampton find a difference between “doctrine centered” and “other-centered” or “spiritual” purchasing behaviors.
Doctrine-centered purchasing would include explicitly religious shopping, such as Orthodox Jews buying kosher foods. Other-centered purchasing is based more on “faith development” that involves moving beyond the self and seeking to “act in the world in a way that increases the total well-being of the rest of the world,“ according to Ball.
Exemplifying this kind of purchasing–and marketing–is the Mennonite retailer Ten Thousand Villages. The 100-store chain sells crafts to first-world consumers from artisans in impoverished Third World countries. In its own marketing research, Ten Thousand Villages has found that many of its customers are female, ages 30 to 50, well educated and interested in international issues and culture. They may not speak of spirituality per se, but repeat customers tend to operate on an “other-directed” basis, believing they are helping others by their purchases.
03: Although the children of divorce are far less religious than their peers who grew up with married parents, they are more likely to view God as a parent figure and tend to embrace evangelical Christianity to a greater extent, according to a recent study.
The study, conducted by Elizabeth Marquardt and Norval Glenn and found in their book Between Two Worlds, surveyed 1,500 young adults who were among the first generation to grow up with widespread divorce. In an interview with Christianity Today (March), Marquardt said that children of divorces are 14 percent less likely to be a member of a congregation and also about 14 percent less likely to say they are fairly or very religious. Yet they valued spirituality just as much as their peers from intact families.
Thirty eight percent of the grown children of divorce agreed that God became the “father or parent” they never had in real life, compared with 22 percent of grown children of non-divorced parents. Grown children of divorce are five percent more likely than the others (42 compared to 37 percent) to identify as evangelical Protestant. Marquardt thinks this is due to the evangelical emphasis on the role of a personal relationship with Christ and God as father, as well as the evangelical tendency to reach out to divorced children.
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04: British Christian attitudes toward Muslims did not change substantially after the London bombings of 2005, according to a recent survey.
Survey research since 9/11 has shown a gradual growth in negative attitudes toward Islam in the U.S., especially among conservative Christians Quadrant (March), the newsletter of the Christian Research Association, cites a BBC Faith Survey showing that 73 percent of Christians and 74 percent of Muslims in England said the London bombings had made no difference in their attitude towards Islam. Christians were four to one in saying it made them more negative toward Islam while Muslims were two to one. Thirty three percent of Christians said they felt positive overall about the Islamic faith, compared to 75 percent of Muslims.
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05: Australian youth tend to view God as a “divine butler” that can be called on to solve personal problems — a view similar to their American counterparts.
The survey, conducted by the Christian Research Association (CRA) of Australia, found that while many teens were aware of the moral obligations of religion, the idea that God could be petitioned to fulfill wants fits in closely in with their consumerist mindset. CRA’s newsletter Pointers (March) reports that its findings are similar to those of Christian Smith (and associates) who studied American teens in his book Soul Searching.
In building on the Smith study, the CRA found that while most Australian teens believe in God they show a taken-for-granted largely indifferent attitude toward organized religion. Forty percent of U.S. teens attend church weekly compared to only 15 percent of Australians. Smith’s concept that American teens espouse a “moralistic therapeutic deism” that stresses a God that makes one feel good was also found in Australia, though those in church schools took more traditional views. But on the whole, Australian young people were more likely to accept religious alternatives, with nearly one-third accepting the idea of reincarnation.
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