01: A new major survey finds that 10.8 percent of Americans have no religious ties, challenging other studies that have placed the figure around 14 percent as a sign that secularization is growing. The researchers who conducted the new Baylor University survey argue that other studies didn’t ask the right questions Baylor asked respondents to choose their specific denomination and then, unlike in the other surveys, asked them to write in the name and address of their current place of worship. In answering the second question, 33 percent of the respondents were able to supply the name of their congregation.
Kevin Dougherty of Baylor explained that the rise of non-denominational churches, or churches that don‘t use their denomination in their names, may help explain why so many at first said they had no religion. The survey also found that while evangelical Protestants consistently supported conservative political causes, only eight percent (four percent of Americans in general) believe that God favors a political party. But the survey did find that 18.6 percent of Americans believe God favors the U.S., with 26 percent of evangelicals claiming so.
02: The disappearance of “blue laws” prohibiting shopping on Sundays may have led to a decline in churchgoing and an increase in such behavior as drug and alcohol use, according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The study, cited by the Washington Post(September 14), found that in states before the shopping ban was lifted, about 37 percent attended religious services at least weekly.
“After the laws are repealed it falls to 32 percent,” said Daniel Hungerman, who conducted the study with Jonathan Gruber. The study also found that church donations decreased while marijuana, cocaine and alcohol usage increased among churchgoers after the repeal. Hungerman speculates that businesses open on Sunday force some religious young people to work and go shopping which increases their exposure to sinful behavior. They conclude that these results do not seem to be driven by declines in religiosity prior to the law change, “nor do we see comparable declines in membership or giving to nonreligious organizations after a state repeals its laws.”
03: The growth and presence of evangelicals tends to have a “dampening effect on the presence of psychics, astrologers” and possibly other shops associated with the New Age movement, according to a recent study.
Writing in the Journal of Media and Religion(Vol. 5, No. 2), Christopher Bader and William Lockhart found that the presence and distribution of evangelicals and astrologers and psychics have a noticeable relationship. In states where evangelical Protestantism is strong, there will be less psychic and astrology shops and a greater presence of Christian bookstores, which provide goods–lifestyle items as well as books– that help sustain the evangelical subculture. States with a weak evangelical presence–the West Coast, Northeast and Florida– tend to attract, and provide a “greater opening for New Age services,“ write Bader and Lockhart.
These distribution patterns have less to do with demographics than with the “community religious context” or “religious economy,” the authors argue. But they are uncertain whether the “dampening effect” of evangelicals on New Age groups is related to “individual preferences met by strong churches or by social pressures exerted on the community by activist churches.” (Journal of Media and Religion, Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc., 10 Industrial Ave., Mahwah, NJ 07430-2262)
04: A follow up study on the changing attitudes in the American Catholic priesthood confirms the conservative shift that has taken place among priests in the last 15 years. The study conducted by sociologist Dean Hoge of Catholic University in America replicates an earlier survey he conducted 15 years ago.
The recent study shows that today’s Catholic priest is more ethnically diverse and older than was the case 15 years ago. The new survey confirms the shift in attitudes toward the priesthood toward a “cultic model,” holding the notion that the priest is set apart in providing the sacraments and leading an exemplary life. Pope John Paul II was seen as the most influential figure by 21 percent of today’s priests; in 1990 Pope John Paul was rated so only by three percent of priests, reports the National Catholic Register (September 24).
05: A study of 19 Western democracies found that Protestant nations are the most likely to guarantee cultural rights to religious minorities. The study, conducted by Michael Milkenberg of the University of Europe-Viadrina in Germany, detected a trend in countries with a Catholic background to be less inclusive of non-Christian minorities and their practices than Protestant countries.
Milkenberg presented preliminary findings from his study of 19 nations and the ways in which they have accommodated non-Christian minorities at a recent lecture at the New School for Social Research in New York, which was attended by RW. In 14 out of the 19 countries Islam is the third or even the second largest religious minority.
Milkenberg found a general shift from cultural monism to cultural pluralism in the European nations studied (Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK), as well as in non European ones such as Australia. Such pluralism entails the creation of policies of cultural integration that support non-Christian religious practices—including permitting the use of head scarves by Muslim girls and women, and the policy of giving religious lessons to children in the public schools.
— By Marisol Lopez Menendez, a doctoral student in Sociology at the New School for Social Research.