01: The growing secularization of the American elite classes may be evident in the fact that there are more atheists and agnostics entering Harvard than Protestants and Catholics, according to a new survey. Writing in the Washington Post (Sept. 9), Sarah Pulliam Bailey cites the Harvard Crimson poll of the university’s class of 2019, showing that Harvard’s combined number of atheists and agnostics among its incoming class exceeds the number of Catholics and Protestants. The “number appears to be a striking contrast with the rest of the U.S. millennial population, those from ages 18 to 34.” While there is a decline in Christian identification among millennials in general, with 52 percent of this generation now identifying as Protestant or Catholic, 34.1 percent of Harvard’s incoming class identified as such. An additional 13 percent of millennial Americans identify as atheist or agnostic, compared with 37.9 percent of Harvard freshmen.
In comparing the Harvard findings with the recent Pew study of non-affiliation, Bailey notes that the Crimson’s poll and Pew’s survey are not “perfect comparisons since they appear to ask about religious identification differently. Pew provides the opportunity for respondents to say they are not religious. The Crimson doesn’t appear to have a category for those who don’t identify with religion at all, except for the categories of atheists and agnostics…Either way, the Crimson’s poll suggests a decline in number of Protestants and Catholics and a rise of atheists and agnostics in the three years of available data. For the class of 2017, the number of Protestants and Catholics were 42.4 percent, compared to 37 percent for the class of 2018 and 34.1 percent for the class of 2019. For atheists and agnostics, the trend is reversed. For the class of 2017, atheists and agnostics made up 32.4 percent of the campus, while they made up 35.6 percent of the class of 2018 and 37.9 percent of the class of 2019.” The students who report the highest level of religiosity are Mormon, athletes (from a survey last spring), and those coming from families making less than $125,000 per year.
02: While many studies have associated Islamic radicalization with low socio-economic status, a recent survey finds a strong relationship between affluence and fundamentalism, according to an article in the journal Social Compass (September). Natalie Delia Deckard of Emory University and David Jacobson of the University of South Florida conducted a survey of 1,200 Muslims in Western Europe on affluence and fundamentalism, controlling for demographic variables in their analysis including native birth, gender, age, educational attainment and marital status. They find that the data showed a strong positive relationship between prosperity and fundamentalism. As respondents reported being more prosperous, they also reported holding more orthodox views on gender roles and being attracted to Sharia law, anti-Western attitudes and a greater willingness to sacrifice themselves for their faith. There was also a correlation between being unemployed and holding these fundamentalist views. Deckard and Jacobson conclude that their findings may show that “radicalization may be more aptly associated with the alienated than with the poor. In the immigrant communities of Western Europe, the working poor are the least likely to express fundamentalist religious beliefs.”
(Social Compass, http://scp.sagepub.com/)