01: Religion is becoming “deinstitutionalized” among America’s working class, according to a paper presented by Bradford Wilcox at the meeting of the ASA in Las Vegas in August.
In an analysis of the General Social Survey (GSS) and the National Survey of Family Growth, researchers found demographic, economic and cultural factors influential in the downturn of working-class participation in congregational life. The decline is most significant for white working-class people and is “part and parcel of the marginalization” of this class in American society. The rise of male unemployment among the working class may make some feel that they don’t belong in church if they don’t have a good job.
The demographic reality that working-class people are less likely to be living in intact families may be another factor in discouraging them from going to churches that stress the traditional family. The researchers found that members of the working class are less likely than in previous years to embrace traditional attitudes toward sex and divorce.
02: Since 1991, American women have become less likely to attend church and see their faith as important in their lives, and they also hold less orthodox Christian beliefs about God as creator and the Devil as a real person, according to a report on religious change in the U.S. by pollster George Barna.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Aug. 2) cites the study as showing that most women still believe in a personal God (70 percent) and personal Devil (56 percent), and claim that their faith is very important to them (63 percent). But all those rates have slid, according to Barna. However, 44 percent of American women—6 percent higher than 1991—report a spiritual change that remains important to them, an experience that Barna calls being born again. Women’s church attendance has decreased by 11 percent during this time, thus they are having religious experience outside of church or Sunday school.
03: Muslim apostates, i.e. those who leave Islam either for another religion or no religion, have varied reasons for leaving the fold, often depending on whether they are men or women, according to a paper presented at the Association for the Sociology of Religion (ASR) conference in Las Vegas.
The study, conducted by Sean Currie of the University of South Florida, examined 60 narratives of apostates from Pakistan, the U.S., Malaysia and India found on the websites ApostatesofIslam.com and Faithfreedom.org, two of the major sites collecting such testimonials. The most frequent themes of the apostasy narratives involved the apostates’ skepticism, concern for the truth, philosophical objections, and their views of Islam as being intolerant, oppressive, hypocritical, sexist, violent and exerting control over one’s life.
Men were most likely to leave the faith for philosophical and theological reasons, while women left for purposes of “liberation” and to regain control of their lives from what they believed was an intolerant and oppressive religion. Women experienced more cases of divorce and negative family relations over their apostasy than men, who tended to leave the religion earlier in their lives.
04: Heterodox and esoteric spirituality are practiced more widely in Russia than traditional Orthodox Christianity, according to a study in the journal Social Compass (September).
In the first large-scale survey on the extent of heterodox religion and spirituality in Russia, researcher Demyan Belyaev found that heterodox religiosity has become the “dominant form of religiousness and involves at least 45 percent of the population, compared with 40 percent for traditional (Christian) religiousness and 10 percent for scientific materialism.” The study defined heterodoxy as embracing alternative practice and teachings, such as astrology, ESP, reincarnation and magic.
The majority of people questioned agreed with 13 of the 18 elements of the heterodox worldviews on which they were queried. Women, young people and more educated people were more likely to hold esoteric beliefs than older and less educated Russians, although because old people are less likely to have received a higher education, it was difficult to draw a correlation among these factors. While there is a significant degree of mixing traditional with heterodox religiosity (27 percent of the respondents), Belyaev notes that more people are involved only in heterodox religiousness than those involved only in Christian religiousness.
(Social Compass, http://intlscp.sagepub.com)
05: Germans are more likely to have negative and intolerant views of religious minorities and be personally unacquainted with them compared to other Europeans, according to a study by University of Munster researchers.
The paper, presented at the ASR meeting, com-pared attitudes toward religious minorities in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Portugal through surveys of 1,000 residents in each country (allowing for East–West differences in Germany) in 2010. The researchers found that while the majority of French, Dutch and Danes think positively of Muslims (62 percent, 56 percent and 55 percent, respectively), only 34 percent Germans in the West and 26 percent of Germans in the East do so. The researchers found that the low level of contact Germans have with such religious minorities may be a key factor in such differences (40 percent of Germans in the West have such contact, compared with 66 percent of the French, who had the most favorable view of Muslims).
Germans were more likely to favor restrictions against religious minorities; only 49 percent think all religions should have the same rights, compared to 72 in Denmark, 82 percent in Holland, 86 percent in France and 89 percent in Portugal. Compared to other Europeans, Germans’ images of Hindus, Buddhists and Jews were also more negative.
06: In a new study of religious restrictions worldwide by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, it was found that there has been an increase of such restrictions in 23 of the world’s 198 countries (12 percent), a decrease in 12 countries (6 percent) and stability in 163 countries (83 percent). Among the 25 most populous countries, restrictions against religion between mid-2006 and mid-2009 increased in China, Nigeria, Russia, Thailand, the United Kingdom and Vietnam. These increases were mainly due to rising levels of social hostilities involving religion. In Egypt and France, the growth of restrictions was mainly the result of government restrictions. The rest of the 25 most populous countries did not experience substantial changes in either dimension of religious restrictions. The region that showed the greatest increase of religious restrictions was the Middle East, with one-third of its countries imposing greater restrictions. Social hostility to religion increased most in the European countries of Bulgaria, Denmark, Russia, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Social hostilities have also been rising in Asia, particularly in China, Thailand and Vietnam.
(For a copy of the report, visit: http://pewforum.org)
07: A study of religion on university campuses in England shows a higher proportion of Christians than in the general British population, but also less of an evangelical presence on campus than might be expected. The paper, presented at the August meeting of the ASR, was conducted by researchers Mathew Guest, Kristin Aune, Rob Warner and Sonya Sharma, who studied 14 universities and colleges and 4,500 respondents. The survey found that 23 percent of respondents considered themselves religious, 30 percent spiritual, 35 percent non-religious, and 12 percent were not sure.
Fifty-two percent of students identified with Christianity, compared to 44 percent in the general population. Thirty-six percent reported no religious affiliation, compared with 51 percent of “nones” in the general population.The Christian students were not pre-dominantly associated with evangelicalism—35 percent considered themselves “mainstream” Protestants, 29 percent Catholic, 19 percent evangelical and 19 percent Pentecostal. While evangelical churches and the evangelical campus ministry known as Christian Unions show the most growth on campuses, there is a “low level of affinity” with evangelicalism among Christian students, said Mathew Guest, one of the researchers. In fact, 50 percent of Christian students never go to church.
Any Christian commitment shown by these students is usually acquired in their pre-college years. It was found that 79 percent of Christians said that their religious commitments stayed the same over the course of their college education; in contrast, 34 percent of Muslim students said they have become more religious since attending university.