01: Mormons, and evangelicals are the most likely groups to have large families, but such factors as the education of the mothers and the effect of “congregational cultures” also significantly affect the fertility rate, according to a paper presented at the meeting of the Association of the Sociology of Religion.
In his paper, Conrad Hackett of Princeton University found in his analysis of the Congregational Life Survey that high fertility is found in congregations affiliated with small denominations, whose members are not identified in standard demographic surveys. Hackett’s analysis is unique in studies of fertility since it isolates the various denominational affiliations. He found that the larger groups with the highest fertility ranged from Mormon (2.69 children born to women 20-44) and Mennonite (2.45) to Episcopal (1.84) and Unitarian (1.78).
In focusing on smaller denominations, the Church of God (Anderson, Ind.) showed a high 2.91 and the United Pentecostal Church showed a rate of 2.83. Although conservative Protestants scored among the highest, the liberal United Church of Christ scored a relatively high rate of 2.45. The level of education had some effect on fertility. In such a smaller denomination as the Church of the Nazarene, which had a fertility rate of 2.83, only 11 percent of the women had a B.A. degree. The Southern Baptists had a lower fertility rate of 1.96, but 30 percent of the women had a B.A. Hackett concluded that it was not so much the theology of the churches that had an effect on fertility as much as congregations that encouraged a “natalist culture.”
02: Those participating in the World Youth Days organized by the Vatican show higher levels of Catholic commitment than other young Catholics, according to a recent Australian study.
The millions of youth who have flocked to World Youth Days since they were inaugurated by Pope John Paul II have often been characterized as unchurched seekers drawn more to the collective spiritual enthusiasm and camaraderie of these events than to church teachings, but there has been little research on the topic. A paper presented at the recent meeting of the Association of the Sociology of Religion in Montreal by Australian sociologist Richard Rymarz, found that the Catholics participating in the event, both those under and over18 years of age, were quite different than their contemporaries in the church. In comparing a sample of 110 Australian pilgrims under 18 at the World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany in 2005 against a control group of young Catholics who didn‘t attend,
Rymarz found that 79 percent of the former went to Mass weekly, compared to 11 percent of the control group. Fifty one percent of the pilgrims were active in parish youth groups, compared to seven percent of the control group. The pilgrims over 18 were also far more involved in their parishes than the young Catholics surveyed in the recent Youth Study of Australia. Rymarz cautioned that his study represented only Australian pilgrims who tended to be younger than European pilgrims.
03: A new analysis by the Washington-based Pew Research Center suggests that French Muslims are embracing assimilation more eagerly than their counterparts in other European countries.
This finding flies in the face of the popular perception, especially after the riots in Parisian suburbs by mainly Muslim youths late last year, that Muslims show considerable disaffection toward French society. But Radio Free Europe(August 24) reports that the Pew Center’s survey data puts France’s treatment of Muslims in a more favorable light. “When we look at the riots last year in France, they appear to have been heavily economically driven rather than driven by religion — by the fact that there are very high rates of unemployment among French Muslims rather than by a zealous desire to convert or extinguish those of other faiths,” said Jodie Allen, a senior editor at Pew.
French Muslims, like Muslims in the rest of Europe, are concerned about unemployment. More than half of French Muslims are concerned about joblessness, according to survey data collected by Pew in April 2006. But unlike their coreligionists elsewhere, a substantial majority embraces the customs of their countrymen. “Nearly eight in 10 French Muslims generally say they want to adopt French customs,” Allen said. This high preference for assimilation contrasts with Muslims in Spain (who also tend to come from North Africa), where only 53 percent of Muslims say they want to adopt Spanish customs. Only 41 percent in Britain say the same about British customs. And nearly 30 percent in Germany also say that.
As with the Paris riots last fall, the arrests of British-born Muslims in London in connection with an alleged plot to blow up airliners have prompted speculation that ethnic discrimination and joblessness have made Islamic extremism attractive to British Muslims. But French Muslims also face such conditions; 37 percent of French Muslims reported negative experiences due to their race, ethnicity, or religion, compared to 28 percent among British Muslims.
Yet few French Muslims view a conflict between being a devout Muslim and living in French society. Some 72 percent of those surveyed see no conflict, compared with only 49 percent in Great Britain. Some of the difference between British and French Muslims may be due to ethnicity. French Muslims are predominantly from Morocco and Algeria, where they were already exposed to French culture.
Historically, French colonial policy emphasized the “civilizing effects” of the French language and culture, while the British Empire allowed its subjects more room to maintain their own cultures, discouraging integration. In 2004, the French government began expelling foreign clerics that it deemed to be preaching intolerance toward other religions. In addition, would-be imams studying in French mosques must demonstrate their proficiency in French.