01: Americans born in the 1960s and 1970s will probably be less likely to disaffiliate from religion as they grow older compared to those born in the 1940s and 1950s, according to an analysis by University of Nebraska sociologist Phillip Schwadel.
In the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (June), Schwadel analyzes data from the General Social Survey from 1973 to 2006 and notes that the percentage of Americans raised with no religious preference has risen among every birth cohort since 1950–54, increasing from five to six percent for the 1955–59 cohort to more than 14 percent for the 1980–84 cohort.
Yet Schwadel finds that the likelihood of reporting no religious preference tends to be higher for those born between 1945 and 1959 than for subsequent cohorts. Americans who matured in the 1960s are especially likely to report no religious preference. But while the probability of disaffiliation is relatively low for those born between 1960 and 1974. There appears to be a return to the pre-1945 cohort level of disaffiliation among the youngest cohorts,” Schwadel writes.
He concludes that a substantial portion of the growth of non-affiliates in recent years is due more to Americans being raised with no religious preference than solely due to an increase in disaffiliation among young adults.
(Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 111 River St., Hoboken, NJ 07030)
02: Jewish organizational life includes few young adult groups and is still largely based in New York, even though the state is no longer the Jewish population center it once was.
These are some of the findings of a new study using data from the Internal Revenue Service’s database on charitable organizations. The use of IRS data to understand Jewish organizational changes is unprecedented, but it allows the researcher to obtain a more complete picture of Jewish life than he would using other sources, writes Paul Burstein in the journal Contemporary Jewry (August).
Religious organizations were the most numerous, followed by educational groups; other surveys have found educational groups as the most numerous. Although New York now homes only 25 percent of the American Jewish population, the state has half of the religious organizations and 55 percent of the educational institutions. Burstein writes that this finding may be related to organizational inertia, as well as due to the link between population density and organization building.
Of the 742 organizations targeted at specific age groups, only six percent focused on young adults, and most of these were campus ministries. Although congregations are not required to register with the database, Burstein found that the IRS data shows that the number of synagogues rose from an official count of 37 in 1850 to a high close to 4,000 in 1990, with perhaps a small decline since then.
(Contemporary Jewry, 233 Spring St., New York, NY 10013)
03: Religious giving continues to outperform other charitable and philanthropic donations, although some question the accuracy of such financial figures, reports the Chronicle of Philanthropy (June 17).
Citing the annual report Giving USA for 2009, the newspaper reported that those causes drawing the biggest givers of over $1 million were down by 63.6 percent. Giving to colleges was down 17.8 percent, while the decline was 11 percent for hospitals. But among the 1,247 organizations in the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, it was found that giving decreased 3.7 percent. According to another monitoring agency, Empty Tomb, overall giving to religion, after inflation, was down only 0.3 percent.
04: North American Seventh Day Adventists are significantly more likely to be college educated and are taking a more relaxed attitude toward Sabbath observance in some segments of the population, according to a new study on Adventist families.
The study, entitled Adventist Families in North America and conducted by Monte Sahlin, finds that the proportion of Adventist college graduates has nearly doubled in the last 15 years (to 41 percent), while the proportion with higher degrees has more than doubled. The rate of college education only increased by one percent from 1974–75 to 1993–94.
The survey, conducted among 1,397 families, also finds that “Native-born church members seem to be practicing a more and more self-centered Sabbath experience, while immigrants retain a traditional notion of the Sabbath as a day of reaching out to others.”
(For more information on this study, visit: http://www.creative.org)
05: A recent major survey shows Australia experiencing significant rates of religious decline and disaffiliation in the past two decades.
The survey, conducted in late 2009 and part of the International Social Science Survey, is important since it repeats a number of questions on religion asked in 1993 and 1999, thus providing a picture of changes over time. The major finding was the sharp decline in religious attendance—from 23 percent to 16 percent of the population between 1993 and 2009. Pointers (June), the newsletter of the Christian Research Association, cites the survey as showing that belief in God fell from 61 percent to 46 percent over the same period.
Meanwhile, identification with a Christian denomination fell from 70 percent in 1993 to 50 percent of the population. There is a concurrent large increase in Australians claiming to have “no religion”—up from 27 percent in 1993 to 43 percent in 2009. But there was also little sign that the Australians are losing their spirituality: 23 percent considered themselves “spiritual but not religious.”
(Pointers, CRA, P.O. Box 26, Nunawading, LPO, VIC 3131, Australia)
06: Wales continues to have more congregations than other countries in the UK, although religious involvement is steadily declining, especially among young people, reports the newsletter Future First (June).
With one congregation for every 670 people, Wales stands out as an apparently highly churched country. But appearances may be deceiving, as a 2008 survey that allows observers to compare Welsh churchgoing over a 12-year period suggests. The survey, conducted by the Council of the Christian Voluntary Sector in Wales, found a significant drop in congregations, with the country losing approximately one per week. Since the last major survey was taken in 1995, Wales experienced a decline in the proportion of the population attending church every week, going from around 8.7 percent in 1995 to 6.7 percent in 2007.
While 6.2 percent of Welsh under 30 were estimated to attend church in 2005, only 3.5 were found to do so in 2007. While all of the major denominations reported that half of their congregations were over 65, the picture was different for the smaller evangelical churches. Total attendance was up by almost 40 percent in “newer denominations” since 1995. This is especially the case for Pentecostal and charismatic churches. Other denominations in this category, such as the Chinese Christian Church, the Iranian Fellowship and the Persian Church, suggest that immigration may also be a factor in such growth.
(Future First, The Old Post Office, 1 Thorpe Ave., Tonbridge, Kent, TN10 4PW UK)
07: The stability and continuing growth of Catholicism in Korea in comparison to the declining fortunes of other churches and faiths may be related to the positive image Korean Catholics have of their leadership, according to a study in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (June).
From 1995 to 2005, the Catholic population was the only one to increase among the other religious groups in Korea. In the previous period (1985–95), all the major religions—Protestant, Catholic and Buddhist—showed growth. Researchers Jibum Kim, Sang-Wook Kim and Jeong-Han Kang also find that compared to other religious leaders, Catholic leaders have the most positive image, both in the media and among Catholics themselves.
This positive public image is partly because Catholic leaders have avoided the corruption scandals that have beset Protestant and Buddhist clergy and monks. The researchers caution against making a correlation between the positive public image of the hierarchy and Catholic growth, although they suggest that it may be one factor in the church’s growth and popularity.