01: The growth of the non-affiliated (or “nones”) continues unabated among incoming American college students, and it may be diminishing the importance of spirituality among such young adults, according to the American Freshman, an annual study conducted by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. The study, which has consistently asked incoming students their religious affiliation, surveyed 153,015 students at 227 four-year colleges. In 2014, more than a fourth of incoming freshman (27.5 percent) selected “none” for their religious affiliation, a one-year increase of 2.9 percentage points from 2013 and a 12 percent increase from 1971. Among men, 30 percent said they were unaffiliated, compared to 25.4 percent of women. Even at Catholic and other religious colleges, the proportion of nones has consistently increased—almost doubling in non-Catholic schools (from 9.3 to 17.4 percent).
When respondents were first asked to rate their level of spirituality in 1996, 44 percent reported their spirituality as “above average” or highest 10 percent.” This figure dropped to 35.7 percent in 2014. Students who identified with a religion were more likely to put a high rating on their spirituality—43 percent compared to 16.4 percent of nones.
(The study can be downloaded at: http://www.heri.ucla.edu/monographs/TheAmericanFreshman2014.pdf)
02: Religious influence and involvement among Mexican youth have a significant impact in their aspirations to migrate to the U.S., according to a study in the current issue of the Journal of International Migration & Integration (No. 16). Authors Stephen Hoffman, Flavio Francisco Marsiglia and Stephanie Ayers, surveyed 474 students from eight rural alternative high schools in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. They classified those who are more institutionally involved in the Catholic parishes as being influenced by “external” religiosity and those exhibiting an “internal” faith, such as reading religious literature on their own. The findings indicate that as external religiosity increases, the desire to work and live in the U.S. decreases.
More surprisingly, holding to an internal religiosity increased the desire to live and work in the U.S. The authors argue that deterrence of migration may be linked to higher rates of religious participation, such as church attendance, because such activity may lead to greater life satisfaction (as has been found in several studies), thus decreasing their desire to migrate. A greater integration into social networks associated with religious involvement could also be a deterring factor. But, it could also be the case that having a strong personal religiosity provides a sense of divine protection that could encourage such risky actions as migrating to the U.S.
(Journal of International Migration & Integration, http://link.springer.com/journal/12134
03: A study of Pagan practitioners in the U.S. finds that most follow multiple religious paths and largely engage in pagan practices on an individual rather than a group level. In the current issue of The Pomegranate (16.7, 2014), a journal specializing in Neopaganism, Gwendolyn Reece provides the results from a large survey of 3,318 Pagans and finds an unexpectedly high number of those engaging in individual rituals—96.1 percent. This figure includes both those who are members of formal groups and those who are strictly individual practitioners.
This confirms previous research on the rise of solitary practitioners. In Reece’s study, group members were probably overrepresented yet the importance of individual practice was paramount. Solitary practice could encompass meditation, casting spells and other magic, as well as rituals, such as those involving the seasons. Reece also did not find sharp differences between practitioners in the various groups (such as Wicca); rather, finding that they identified with multiple groups or paths.
(The Pomegranate, http://www.equinoxpub.com/journals/index.php/POM/issue/current)
04: A new survey of British young adults finds an increase in atheism and support for atheist politicians, intensifying a growing divide between young and old in the country. The survey, conducted by YouGov, a British marketing firm, finds that as many as one-third of all Britons do not believe in “any sort of God or any higher power.” Almost one in three under the age of 24 declare themselves to be atheists, compared with only one in 10 people over the age of 60. The respondents showed strong support for public figures embracing atheism, such as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labor Party leader Ed Millbrand.
In a Religion News Service article (Feb. 12), Trevor Grundy writes, “The survey shows that while atheists in England are ready to stand up and talk about their non-belief in God, most Christians are reluctant to proclaim their faith.”
05: There are two times more children growing up as Muslim in the UK than a decade ago, states a report by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), reports John Bingham in The Telegraph (Feb. 11). One in 12 schoolchildren in England and Wales is now a Muslim. On one hand, this is linked with the growth of the Muslim population. In 2001, there were fewer than 1.6 million Muslims in England and Wales, and 2.7 million in 2011, i.e. a 75 percent jump in only 10 years. On the other hand, in a country where the population is aging, the profile of the Muslim population is significantly younger.
Half of Muslims living in Britain are under 25, and a third under 15. This demographic growth of the Muslim population raises questions about the political impact it might have, especially considering that almost three quarters of Muslims identify exclusively as British in the census. For instance, writes Bingham, Muslims make up more than a fifth of the population in 26 parliamentary constituencies. But Muslims are only 4.8 percent of the overall population, thus the consequences should not be exaggerated.
However, according to David Voas (Essex University), such an expansion is unprecedented among ethnic-religious minorities. Even if immigration would stop, Muslims would reach the 10 percent threshold around the middle of the century. It might lead slowly to some adjustments in social practices as well as to changes in foreign policy.
While young Muslims identify closely with Britain, their faith can represent a strong identity resource at the same, Voas explained. A recent BBC poll of 1,000 Muslims in the UK finds that 46 per cent believe that the nation is becoming less tolerant of the Islamic community that may fortify such a religious identity. See more at:
(The full report can be downloaded in PDF format from the MCB website: http://www.mcb.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/MCBCensusReport; for more on the BBC poll visit: http://www.skynews.com.au/news/world/europe/2015/02/25/survey-finds-muslims-feel-uk-is-less-tolerant.html#sthash.mUSxbA2W.dpuf)