01: A survey from the American Bible Society finds that the percentage of those who are “Bible skeptical” is now equal to those Americans who are “Bible engaged”—both at 19 percent.
Since the survey began in 2011, the Bible skeptics have risen from 10 percent to 19 percent of respondents. The survey, conducted by the Barna Group, categorizes the Bible engaged, who have remained at the same percentage, as those who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and who study it at least four times per week. But those in the “Bible friendly” camp—those who hold to biblical inerrancy but who read it less than four times per week—have dropped from 45 percent to 37 percent.
Those considered “neutral” toward the Bible—believing that it might be inspired but is not inerrant or that it is not inspired and based on the writers’ views of God—have also held steady at 26 percent. The growth in Bible skeptics, holding the most negative view of the Bible and viewing it as just a collection of stories and advice, are driven by the Millennial generation; 19 percent of Millennials believe no literature is sacred compared to 13 percent of all adults.
02: Postcommunist countries with Protestant and Catholic heritages are more likely to enact policies and practices of transitional justice in the move to democracy than those nations with Muslim and Orthodox backgrounds, according to a study in the Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies (Spring).
Peter Rozik analyzed 34 postcommunist countries and their policies and laws limiting the political participation of former authoritarian leaders and other officials (a process known as lustration) from 1990 to 20012. The postcommunist countries that inherited the legacies of Protestantism and Catholicism not only lead in enacting such laws of transitional justice but have on average also increased the intensity of their lustration practices.
Rozik notes that the “opposite is true of countries with mainly Muslim legacies, as they have received low and decreasing scores on the lustration index. The countries inheriting Orthodox legacies also score low on the lustration index; their lustration scores have remained relatively even over the last two decades.” The researcher controlled for other factors that may cause this pattern, such as the type, duration and the degree of bureaucratization of the communist regimes, but finds that the role of the religious legacies remains significant. He concludes that the church-state postures of these various traditions and the degree of actual complicity between religious officials with communist regimes may be factors driving these different outcomes.
(Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies, http://jsri.ro/ojs/index.php/jsri/index)
03: Nations in the Asia-Pacific region have the highest levels of religious diversity in the world, according to a report by the Pew Research Center.
Six of the world’s 12 nations and territories with a “very high degree” of religious diversity can be found in the Asia-Pacific region— led by Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea, China, and Hong Kong. Sub-Saharan Africa was the second leading region in diversity, including the countries of Guinea-Bissau, Togo, Ivory Coast, Benin and Mozambique. Suriname was the only country in the Americas to be included in the top 12 most religiously diverse nations. The U.S. has a moderate level of religious diversity, ranking 68th among 232 countries and territories that were studied.
04: While online religious involvement might compete with, and sometimes overtake, real-life participation in faith communities, a study of British Sikhs show that this need not be the case.
The study, conducted at the University of Leeds, finds that the influence of the Internet in shaping religiosity depended on the level of offline engagement in the tradition the young Sikhs had. If the young Internet user is already affiliated with a specific Sikh group, online activity tends to reinforce existing ideas about religious tradition and authority; if there is less of an institutional affiliation, the user is more likely to explore tradition on their own terms, with the Internet affording a “safe space” for such exploration, according to researcher Jasjit Singh writing in the journal Contemporary Southeast Asia (December).
The general tendency, however, was for many Sikhs to “check” information on the religion online, including discussing “taboo subjects,” but still continue to cite offline elders and authorities. But the Internet does appear to affect some traditional structures of Sikhism. For instance, the practice of Kundalini yoga, which was previously not very well-known in Sikh circles, has gained some new influence because of its high profile on the Internet. Singh also finds that the Internet may affect how young Sikhs read religious texts, because online translation software allows them to engage with texts on a level that was not available to their parents.
(Contemporary Southeast Asia, https://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg/journal-details/cs.)
05: Although Pentecostals have been implicated in the long-standing Muslim-Christian conflict in northern Nigeria, they are no more prone to violent attitudes than other Christians, according to a study published in current issue of Pneuma (36: 2014), a journal of Pentecostal studies.
The view that Pentecostals have engaged in the violent conflict with Muslims was partly perpetuated by Pentecostal leaders themselves as they issued statements in recent years saying that they had to defend themselves from attacks by militant Muslims represented by such a group as Boko Haram. The use of spiritual warfare rhetoric by some Pentecostal leaders has also been seen as stoking the conflict with Muslims.
Researchers Danny McCain, Musa Gaiya, and Katrina Korb conducted a survey of 139 church leaders consisting of Pentecostals from northern Nigeria, mainline Protestants from Northern Nigeria, and Pentecostals from southern Nigeria (who have not experienced Muslim-Christian violence) about their attitudes toward Muslims and the use of violence. They find that northern Pentecostals had significantly better attitudes toward Muslims than northern mainliners, and there was no significant difference between northern and Southern Pentecostals.
Northern Pentecostals did have more favorable attitudes toward violence than southern Pentecostals but there was no significant differences in their attitudes from those of northern mainline Protestants. Northern Pentecostals were also more likely to believe that harmonious co-existence with Muslims was possible than northern mainliners.