01: Disclosing one’s faith in applying for jobs may be detrimental for job hunting in the U.S., particularly if you are a Muslim, according to a study by University of Connecticut researcher Bradley Wright.
In Christianity Today magazine (June), Wright reports on a study he conducted with Michael Wallace where they created four different kinds of resumes with similar work experience (evenly divided between men and women and with names lacking obvious ethnic or religious connection) but with different campus religious groups randomly selected that each fictitious job seeker was involved with—Jewish, Muslim, atheist, evangelical, Catholic, pagan, a made up religion of “Wallonian” (to see if employers would discriminate against a religion that did not exist) and a control group that made no religious reference.
The researchers sent out 9,600 resumes in New England and the South and found that applicants involved with Muslim student groups on their resumes got significantly fewer responses than other applicants; they got 12.6 percent response for every 100 resumes sent—40 percent fewer callbacks than the resumes for the control group. Pagans got the highest for the religious groups, at 17.5 percent, while evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, and Wallonian resumes were in the middle, in the 16 percent range, and atheists somewhat lower (15.1 percent).
(Christianity Today, 465 Gundersen Dr., Carol Stream, IL 60188.)
02: Recent research suggests that polarization, more than secularization, will be the major religious dynamic in religion for the near future—a finding that is supported by a new study in the Sociology of Religion (Summer).
A feature of polarization in this context is that there will be bottoming out of religious decline, creating a strong secular-religious divide with the loss of nominally religious individuals. Sarah Wilkins-Laflamme (Oxford University) looked at survey data from regions within the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom from 1985 to 2009-2010 and finds such a pattern, especially in more secular areas. Rather than seeing a decline into “nothing” (complete secularism) in Great Britain and the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, Canada, “populations are becoming ever more split between the poles of the unaffiliated and religiously committed.” In less secular areas, such as the U.S. and other parts of Canada, the religiously committed group started declining, rather than bottoming out, during these years, but they also show a larger nominally affiliated middle-ground group, which actually grew in Northern Ireland, the Canadian Atlantic provinces and Quebec between 1985 and 2009.
Meanwhile, in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (June), Marion Burkimsher confirms that secular countries in Europe do show a pattern of “bottoming out” in religious decline. Studying various indicators of religious trends, such as youth religious attendance and attendance levels of those born between 1950 and 1981, the researcher finds three patterns: decline in the Catholic countries where attendance rates have been higher than in other parts of Europe (Italy, Slovakia and Portugal do not show such decline); growth in ex-communist countries such as Romania and Russia; and in strongly secular countries, stability in the Czech Republic and even some religious increases in Scandinavia. Burkimsher notes that in 2012, the vast majority of countries studied had youth attendance levels in the range of 3 to 19 percent, and, of those, “none seemed to be continuing on a sustained downward trajectory.”
(Sociology of Religion, http://socrel.oxfordjournals.org/content/current; Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1111/)
03: Going back to pioneer French sociologist Emile Durkheim, the religious connection to suicide has been a classic sociological problem. In fact, recent research supports his argument that Catholic affiliation tends to decrease its occurrence.
Writing in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (June), Benno Torgler and Christoph Schaltegger find that Catholic-Protestant differences in the occurrence of suicide that Durkheim found still holds true. The sociologists used data from the various cantons, or subfederal states, of Switzerland and also from the European Values Study (EVS). They find a negative correlation between the proportion of Catholics in a canton and the number of suicides per capita. They control for such factors as childhood religious experience, exposure to alternative religious beliefs, the importance of family and church attendance and still find the correlation.
The finding is supported by their analysis of the EVS’ rates of suicide acceptance in 414 European regions inhabited by Protestants and Catholics. Belief in sin, the afterlife, and the importance of God in one’s life served to inoculate individuals against suicide, including those Protestants who were more active churchgoers.