01: There is a noteworthy shift of Catholicism in the U.S. to the Southwest, as well as a continuing growth of non-affiliated Americans, according to the third American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS).
In a survey conducted between February and November of 2008, ARIS questioned 54,461 adults, asking them to self-identify themselves religiously. The study, led by Trinity College researchers Barry Kosmin and Ariela Keysar, found that immigration and natural increases among Latino Catholics have given California a higher proportion of Catholics than New England—once the nation’s stronghold of Catholic residents.
The ARIS finding of 14 per cent unaffiliated Americans (or “nones”) in 2001 has now increased to 15 percent. Northern New England has replaced the Pacific Northwest as the most secular region, with Vermont leading all the other states for its share of “nones” by nine per cent (having a total of 34 per cent disaffiliated).
Only 1.6 per cent of Americans called themselves agnostics or atheists, although based on stated beliefs, 12 per cent fit into this category. The number of outright atheists has nearly doubled since 2001, from 900,000 to 1.6 million. The percentage of Christians continues to decline (though by just 0.7 per cent from 2001) to 76.7 per cent, according to the survey. What growth there is in the Christian sector comes from non-denominational evangelicals, who have increased from less than 200,000 in 1990, to 2.5 million in 2001, to over eight million today.
Also, the survey found that 38 per cent of mainline Protestants now also identify themselves as evangelicals or born again. Mark Silk, who is associated with the ARIS based at Trinity College, says that the study suggests that the “two-party system” made up of evangelicals and mainline Protestants is collapsing as a “generic form of evangelicalism is emerging as the normative form of non-Catholic Christianity in the United States.” The survey also found that Muslim proportion of the population continued to grow, from 0.3 per cent in 1990, to 0.5 per cent in 2001, to 0.6 per cent in 2008.
(The ARIS report can be downloaded at www.americanreligionsurveyaris.org)
02: Despite pressing economic considerations, faith-based voting played a significant part in the election of President Barack Obama, according to political scientist John C. Green.
In First Things magazine (March), Green writes that for the most part the voting patterns of the 2004 elections held steady—only more so. The religious coalition that helped elect Obama was “much like the Democratic vote in recent elections: strong support from minority religious groups, the Unaffiliated, and white modernist Christians.
In 2008, Obama expanded the level of support from religious minorities [especially non-white] and made some modest gains among other groups of white Christians. The latter gains were offset somewhat by lost ground among modernist Christians and Centrist Catholics.” Among evangelicals, there were no substantial changes, although there is some evidence that Obama did better among white evangelicals in battleground states, where competition was the most intense, where Democrats campaigned the hardest and where economic considerations were the most pressing.
Green adds that while the election showed no major shifts in the structure of the faith-based vote, Obama’s victory could reveal religious and demographic changes. For example, many of the religious minorities that supported Obama, along with the unaffiliated population, are growing in the U.S. Since young voters are found in these groups, for the near future at least, this could “shift the center of gravity of the faith-based vote toward the Democrats.”
(First Things, 156 Fifth Ave., Suite 400, New York, NY 10010)
03: American congregations have changed significantly in their ethnic makeup, ministries, and worship styles since 1998, according to a new National Congregations Study.
The first survey, conducted in 1998, found that 20 per cent of churchgoers reported attending a church that was all white and non-Hispanic. In the second round of the study, conducted in 2006–07, this figure had dropped to 14 per cent. The percentage of congregations with no Asians decreased during the same time period from 59 percent to 50 percent, while the percentage of those congregations with no Latino members declined from 43 percent to 36 percent.
Ethnic diversity also increased in the Catholic priesthood: 13 per cent of Catholic parishes were led by Hispanic or black priests, compared to one per cent in 1998. The Christian Century survey also found that the use of drums in church music increased by 14 per cent (to 34 percent) and that there was a 12 per cent increase of people raising their hands in praise in the charismatic style (to 57 percent).
(Christian Century, 407 S. Dearborn St., Chicago, IL 60605)
04: Mainline clergy remain active on public issues, although they do not often preach about politics from the pulpit.
This finding comes from the new Pew Research Center study, Clergy Voices: Findings from the 2008 Mainline Protestant Clergy Voices Survey. In his e-newsletter Sightings (March 9), Martin Marty writes that the study finds that these clergy have voices in public affairs, but rarely and mildly try to project or enforce social justice “dogma.”
Some see their limits to be the result of lay reaction to leftism, but current members are not regularly offered “radical preachments and policies.” Almost 80 per cent of these clergy say they are strongly interested in politics, but most do not preach on specific legislative or candidacy themes. Marty adds that “Politicians who would organize and exploit them, as they do some other religious groups, would have difficulty doing so; constituencies vary too much by denomination, region, social class, and height of boundaries that might be used to keep members in and others out.
Their members may have strong social justice commitments, but they blend them with those in other religions or in the secular order.” Half of the clergy respondents call themselves “liberal,” while a third described themselves as “conservative.” Over half are Democrat “leaning” and one-third “claim a Republican affiliation.” The survey found that more than three-quarters want the federal government to have a greater role in alleviating social problems, especially concerning environmental and health care issues.
The clergy clearly are in the “church–state separation” camp, and “far more are worried about public officials who are too close to religious leaders than about those who are too far [from them],” Marty adds. Four out of five speak out on hunger and poverty issues, but only one-fourth “often discussed the issues of abortion and capital punishment.” They are strongly supportive of gay rights.
Ninety-three per cent of the clergy are white and 80 per cent male. Only 29 per cent believe in biblical inerrancy. The clergy and their church members work on causes other than strictly political ones and prefer broad-based works of mercy through voluntary associations in church and society. Most “are firmly opposed to the war in Iraq and most think Israel has to make greater concessions to achieve Middle East peace.”
(The full study can be downloaded at www.publicreligion.org/research/? id=167)
05: Evangelical beliefs that are internalized can serve as a basis for greater tolerance of “outgroups,” such as homosexuals, according to a study published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (March).
The study was conducted by Thomas Ford, Thomas Brignall, Thomas van Valey and Michael Macaluso. The researchers administered questionnaires and tests to 251 undergraduate students of different faiths. They found that when controlling for “right-wing” authoritarianism,” the endorsement of orthodox Christian beliefs led to more tolerance toward homosexuals, though not towards homosexuality as a behavior.
Although other studies have linked Christian orthodoxy to prejudicial attitudes to gays and other minorities, the researchers maintain that the claim of many conservative Christians that they are opposed to the “sin” of homosexuality while loving the “sinner” may not be far off the mark. They write that when orthodox Christian beliefs are internalized, they may become preconscious standards that overrule or suppress stereotypical attitudes that may spontaneously come to mind.
(Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 111 River St., Hoboken, NJ 07030-5774)
06: Americans of most faiths say that they prefer religiously diverse neighborhoods, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. The Cara Report (Winter) of Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research on the Apostolate cites the survey as showing that 59 percent of Americans say that they would prefer to live in a community where there are many people from different religions, while 25 percent say they would rather live mainly among people of the same faith.
“Some 40 percent of white evangelicals, 42 percent of Hispanic Catholics (but only 28 percent of all Catholics), 38 percent of those who attend religious services at least weekly, and 41 percent of conservative Republicans say they would rather live in communities filled with people who share their religion,” according to the Pew study. The study was based on a representative sample survey of 2,260 adults.
07: While the recent economic downturn has affected many religious and non-profit institutions, the negative impact on evangelical parachurch organizations has not been as great as feared, according to a recent survey by the Evangelical Churches for Financial Accountability.
The survey found that most evangelical parachurch ministries exceeded, met or came very close to their 2008 fourth-quarter contributions goals, despite the downturn. In the survey of over 300 ECFA members, 72 per cent of responding organizations reported that they exceeded, met or came within 10 per cent of their goals, while 28 per cent reported that they were more than 10 per cent below their goals.
Many of the parachurch ministries surveyed reporting small donations of $10 to $100 were relatively unaffected, and in some cases, donations in this category increased. Some ministries attributed steady or increased contributions to increased prayer and widespread humanitarian interest in supporting organizations that help the poor and disadvantaged. When asked what specific measures were taken to support fund-raising during the downturn, 53 per cent said they increased one-on-one contact with key donors.
Although most ministries exceeded, met or came close to fourth-quarter 2008 goals, 50 per cent reported that their investments lost 15–30 percent of their value. In addition, many have concerns about how the ongoing economic crisis may affect 2009 contributions. To navigate through the downturn and recoup or minimizes losses, some ministries implemented strategies to keep operating costs and spending down.
(The survey is available at http:// viewer.zmags.com/publication/ 7aefda69)
08: Muslims are more likely to see themselves as thriving than their counterparts in most other countries, although they were found to be the least content group in the U.S., according to a Gallup poll.
The New York Times (March 2) cites the poll as showing that the only countries where Muslims are more likely to see themselves as thriving are Saudi Arabia and Germany. The Gallup study is significant because it is the first to examine a randomly selected sample of American Muslims. Three hundred thousand people were interviewed by telephone in 2008 when Gallup conducted broader polls, and then it focused on 946 who identified themselves as Muslims. (The margin of sampling error is approximately four percentage points.)
The researchers say that the high levels of discontent may be because the largest segment of American Muslims are African-Americans (35 per cent, including first-generation immigrants), who usually report lower levels of income, education, employment and well-being than other Americans. In contrast, AsianAmerican Muslims (from such countries as India and Pakistan) have more income and education and are more likely to be thriving than other American Muslims.
The poll actually found that their quality of life indicators are higher than for most other Americans, except for American Jews. “We discovered how diverse Muslim Americans are,” said Dalia Mogahed, executive director and senior analyst of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, which financed the poll. “Ethnically, politically and economically, they are in every way a cross-section of the nation. They are the only religious community without a majority race.” Contrary to stereotypes, American Muslim women are more likely than American Muslim men to have college and postgraduate degrees. As with Muslims in general, the women are more highly educated than women in every other religious group except Jews.
American Muslim women also report incomes more nearly equal to men, compared with women and men of other faiths. Muslim women in the U.S. attend mosque as frequently as Muslim men—in contrast with many Muslim countries where mosques are primarily for men (and only men are required to attend Friday prayers at the mosque). American Muslims are generally very religious, saying that religion is an important part of their daily lives (80 percent), i.e. more than any other group except Mormons (85 percent). The figure for Americans in general is 65 percent, according to the survey.
09: The Czech Republic has been considered one of the most secularized countries in Europe, if not the world, but there are early signs that this situation may be changing.
Quadrant (January), the newsletter of the Christian Research Society, notes that the Czech Republic’s atheism rate of 59 per cent is among the highest in the world. Darrell Jackson adds, “Some commentators suggest, however, that atheism, in company with traditional Christian belief, is in decline.
The most perceptible shift is towards a middle ground of spirituality with increasing numbers [no figures are provided] of Czechs taking the view that life continues after death whilst simultaneously refraining from practicing any form of religious observance. This shift can be set against the low rate of 5.5 percent of Czechs being churchgoers.”
(Quadrant, Christian Research Society, Trinity Business Centre, Stonehill Green, Westlea, Swindon, UK SN5 7DG)
10: Religious intolerance is now seen to be a bigger problem in British society than racism, according to a recent survey.
The survey, conducted for the government by the Ipsos MORI research organization, found that 60 per cent of respondents believe that religion has replaced race as a more divisive issue facing the country; this figure climbed to 66 per cent among Muslim respondents, according to a report in the Christian Century (Feb. 24).
11: In 2007 the Church of England registered the largest growth of ordained clergy since 2000.
Quadrant (January), the newsletter of the Christian Research Society, notes that overall, 262 women and 290 men were ordained. The weekly giving rate of Church of England parishioners also increased (by six percent), suggesting to the editors “more verification of the changing patterns of church attendance.”
12: Along with the debate about the political influence of the Muslim-based JDP party in Turkey, there is renewed attention to the process of neighborhood pressure exerted against secularists and religious dissidents.
The concept of neighborhood pressure in Turkey is well known, but has received new attention in a recent study by political scientist Binnaz Toprak. Footnotes (February), the newsletter of the American Sociological Association, reports that Toprak conducted fieldwork in 12 Anatolian towns and two Istanbul neighborhoods, interviewing those of minority or excluded identities, such as Christians, Alevis (considered heretics by orthodox Muslims), Roma, women and leftists.
Toprak found that many Alevis reported that they were regularly excluded from commercial relations, denied employment in the private and public sectors, and subjected to insults by their Sunni neighbors. University students were threatened with violence for not fasting during Ramadan. Female students who did not wear veils and unmarried men were refused apartments by conservative landlords, particularly in some Anatolian towns.
The study also found that discrimination against individuals with secular identities was often reinforced by local government agencies controlled by the JDP. The local institutions and networks of the Gülen community, an influential Muslim organization in Turkey, contributed to the exclusion of outsiders.
(Footnotes, American Sociological Association, K Street, NW, Ste. 600, Washington, DC 20005)