01: The Millennial generation’s movement away from organized religion has recently accelerated, writes political scientist Robert Putnam in the journal Foreign Affairs (March/April).
Between 2006 and 2011, the fraction of non-affiliates as a whole rose from 17 percent to 19 percent. Among younger Americans, however, the fraction increased approximately five times as much, according to the 2011 Faith Matters survey. Over the same five-year period, the fraction of Americans who reported never attending religious services rose by a negligible two percentage points among Americans over the age of 60, but tripled among those aged 18–29.
Putnam writes that young people’s (and other “nones” who reject affiliation with any particular religious tradition) disenchantment with religious institutions may be due to the “melding of religion and party politics.” In fact, a wide range of Americans—both religious and secular, conservative and liberal—are lowering their own estimates of religion’s role in American life.Putnam told RW (in an e-mail ex-change) that the 2011 survey findings do “suggest that the Millennial disaffiliation from religion that we and others have reported in previous work may now be hardening into a rejection of religion per se, and not merely of organized religion.”
He added that between 2005 and 2011 “our national Faith Matters surveys found that among 18–29 year olds, the ‘nones’ rose from 25 percent to 33 percent, while the number of atheists and agnostics (those who say they do not believe in God or are not sure about God’s existence) rose from 15 percent to 24 percent.
Among older cohorts the comparable shift toward atheism/agnosticism was from about 9 percent to about 12 per-cent.” (Foreign Affairs, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/137100/david-e-campbell-and-robert-d-putnam/god-and-caesar-in-america)
02: American young people raised with no religious faith are more likely to maintain a secular stance in later life and raise a non-religious family than those of previous generations, according to a study in the new online journal Secularism & Nonreligion (Vol. 1, Issue 1).
Stephen Merino of Penn State University writes that despite their growing numbers, individuals raised with no religion have received little attention from scholars. Merino analyzes data from the General Social Surveys between 1974 and 2010 and finds that more recent birth cohorts (starting with the 1944, but especially those born between 1971 and 1992) who were raised with no religion hold more secular beliefs; 15–20 percent of those in the 1944–1955 and 1956 and 1970 cohorts are atheist or agnostic, while 24 percent of the 1974–2010 cohort are atheist or agnostic.
This pattern may be due to the less religious period of the lifecycle for the still-young 1974–2010 cohort, but Merino argues that there is a higher percentage of non-religious young people with non-religious upbringings than in previous cohorts. That marriage may encourage a switch to a religious preference may be less true today than in the past as the growing number of unaffiliated young adults provides a pool for marriage partners of similar backgrounds.
Members of the younger cohort also show differences from older ones in their higher rates of political liberalism and lack of confidence in religious organizations and political liberalism. Because political liberalism and lack of trust in organized religion are associated with decreased odds of a switch to religion, the younger cohort may be the carrier of a long-ranging secular trend.
(Secularism & Nonreligion, http://secularismandnonreligion.org/index.php/snr/issue/view/1)
03: While religious concerns are prominent in the Republican primary elections, the majority of Americans are less interested in whether a presidential candidate shares their religious views, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll.
Six in 10 Americans expressed disinterest in whether a presidential candidate shared their religious views; six in 10 also say political leaders should not rely on their religious beliefs in making policy decisions. In comparison, available Republican primary exit poll data shows 64 percent of Republicans saying it matters that their candidate shares their religious beliefs.
04: A majority of American congregations have experienced giving increases because of a better economy, higher attendance and more church teaching on giving.
The survey, called the annual “State of the Plate” constituency survey, polled more than 1,360 congregations across the denominational spectrum and found that 51 percent of churches saw giving increase in 2011, up from 43 percent in 2010 and 36 percent in 2009. The survey showed higher budgets, which brought more church spending on staff salaries, missions, facilities and benevolence. Trends also included greater attention to fiscal transparency and board governance, and a rise in electronic giving through technological tools, such as cell phone applications and automatic bank withdrawals.
The survey was a collaborative research project sponsored by MAXIMUM Generosity, Christianity Today, and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability.
05: The number of mosques in the U.S. has increased significantly, while American Muslims are less likely to see America as “hostile” to Islam, according to researcher Ihsan Bagby of the University of Kentucky.
The study, which was conducted with researchers from Hartford Seminary and the Hartford Institute for Religious Research, counted 2,106 mosques in the U.S., showing an increase of 900 new Islamic centers being established since 2000. Since that time, many new mosques have been established by immigrants outside of the predominant South Asian diaspora, such as Somalis, Iraqis, West Africans and Bosnians.
Many Muslim groups that do not have public spaces, such as mosques on college campuses, were not counted in the survey.The study also found that the majority (56 percent) said they took a flexible approach to their faith and interpreting their scriptures, with 21 percent reporting a more conservative stance; 6 percent said they belonged to the conservative Salafi tradition.
Bagby, who conducted a similar survey in 2000, found that a majority of mosque leaders had earlier thought that America was hostile toward Islam; today only a quarter of such leaders feel that way.
06: Mormons are distinctive in their approach to immigration and other controversial moral issues; while they are more Republican than other religious groups, they show more pro-immigrant attitudes than any other believers aside from Jews, according to a new survey.
At a conference on Mormons and politics at Columbia University in February attended by RW, Notre Dame University political scientist David Campbell presented findings from the newly completed “Peculiar People Survey,” which polled 500 Mormons in the U.S. on a wide range of social and religious issues. Aside from immigration, the Mormons were more likely than Catholics and evangelicals to allow for exceptions in the cases of dangers to the health of the mother and rape. Campbell said that one of the more unexpected findings is that there is significantly less politics preached from Mormon pulpits than in other religious groups. The survey found that Mormons do discuss politics, but such discussions take place outside of their churches.
Mormons can also be mobilized relatively rapidly, especially when leaders endorse a social cause and when all the general authorities of the church present a united front on an issue.
07: One of the largest studies of black Catholics in the U.S. finds that members of this group are more religiously involved than their white counterparts, while also being more educated and more economically successful than African-American Protestants.
The study, conducted by University of Notre Dame University researchers, is said to be the first ever to have a large enough African-American Catholic sample to draw statistically reliable data on their attitudes and other demographic information. Compared to the white Catholic weekly church attendance figure of 30.4 percent, 48.2 percent of black Catholics attend weekly.About 44 percent of black Catholic households reported incomes above $60,000, while only 20 percent of black Protestant households reported such incomes.
While half of African Americans report that their educations ended at high school graduations or below, only a quarter of black Catholics said their educations ended at these levels, according to an article on the survey published in the National Catholic Reporter (Feb. 3–16). The study also found far less of a generation gap among black Catholics; young African Americans are more likely to attend Mass than their white counterparts.
(National Catholic Reporter, http://www.ncronline.org)
08: A pattern of culture conflict fueled by religious differences is taking shape in Canada and in several aspects resembles the beginnings of the “culture wars” in the U.S., according to a study in the journal Politics and Religion (issue 5, 2012).
Authors Adrian Ang and John Petrocik look at data drawn from the Canadian Election Studies between 1997 and 2006. They find there is significant division on gay marriage, abortion and other moral issues according to different levels of religious commitment—a “moral divide” very similar to that which exists in the U.S. Because the divide tends to cut across denominational lines, there is the potential for moral-cultural issues to serve as “wedge issues.”
Canada is not divided by deep religious differences, but it is a society where religion continues to be linked to party allegiance. This means that it is possible for an aspiring “political entrepreneur” to reshuffle party supporters along religious lines—“perhaps parallel to the American experience of the 1980s,” writes Ang and Petrocik.
(Religion and Politics, http://journals.cambridge.org)
09: The growth of faith-based organizations (FBOs), at least in the case of England, does not necessarily mean an expansion of religious proselytism or even advocacy, reports Sarah Johnsen in The Tablet (March 17).
Johnsen is one of the researchers in the government-funded Religion and Society program focusing on faith-based services and the homeless. The researchers studied a wide range of Christian, Muslim, Hindu (including Hare Krishna) and Sikh faith-based groups working with the homeless.
They found only a small minority of homeless people reported receiving pressure to talk or hear about religion.The only major difference between secular and FBOs was that staff were required to be “in sympathy with” the sponsoring organization, even though “front-line” staff were not required to be profess their faith. Contrary to what is presumed, it was the secular rather than the religious organizations that tended toward interventionist “rehabilitative” approaches. The “growing invisibility of religion” in many FBOs may due to the increasing restrictions imposed upon them by local authorities, such as removing religious symbols.
(The Tablet, 1 King Cloisters, Clifton Walk, London W6 0QZ, UK)