AFTERLIFE & Worship attendance is most common in areas where life is shortest.

by Pew Research, 6/13/18.

The ‘existential insecurity’ explanation for variation in religion.

Variations in religious commitment also can be attributed to differences in the way countries – and often whole regions – developed historically, and how each society practices religion. Even though these differences do not directly explain the existence of age gaps, they affect how successive generations experience religion and respond to questions about observance.

As the map above shows, the countries with the highest shares of people who say religion is very important in their lives are in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and Latin America, while those with the lowest shares are in Europe, North America, East Asia and Australia.

This has led many researchers to observe that people in poorer parts of the world are, on average, more religious than those in societies with advanced economies.3 Other indicators of economic development – such as education, life expectancy and income equality – also tend to align with measures of religious commitment.

Pew Research Center data show, for example, a clear correlation between life expectancy at birth in a country and the percentage of its people who attend religious services weekly. That is, the higher the life expectancy in a country, the less likely people are to attend services frequently.

Political scientists Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart, examining findings from the World Values Survey, attribute the pattern of higher religious commitment in poor places to stark differences in existential insecurity – that is, the degree of safety and security people feel as they go about their daily lives.4

As their theory goes, in places where people face a constant threat of premature death due to hunger, war or disease, feelings of vulnerability tend to drive people to religion, which in turn provides hope and reduces anxiety. In countries with advanced economies, meanwhile, people are more likely to feel safe – in part because technology and infrastructure investments in these societies have helped people overcome many common health problems, cope with severe weather, and deal with other types of emergencies that can cause existential anxiety. Norris and Inglehart contend that people in these countries rely less on religion for emotional support or for explanations of the unknown.

When new cohorts of adults grow up in societies with greater existential security than their parents had – as may be the case in a country with improving economic conditions – young adults may drift away from religion, producing the age differences described in this report. By the same token, a decline in existential security within a country that falls into civil war or some other calamity could help to explain some of the exceptions – places where younger adults are more religious than their elders (see sidebar in Chapter 2).

Read more at … https://www.pewforum.org/2018/06/13/why-do-levels-of-religious-observance-vary-by-age-and-country/

Hell & Researchers say the fear of hell exerts a restraining effect on suicide.

by David Briggs, American Religion Data Archive, Christianity Today, 2/3/19.

“And the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness.” – The Westminster Confession

Hell matters to a lot of us.

About half of Americans are absolutely sure of their belief in hell, while the percentage who believe rises above two-thirds when some degrees of uncertainty are included.

Editor’s note: Last year, a LifeWay Research survey similarly found that just 45 percent of Americans agree hell is a real place. Pew Research Center reported that a vast majority of highly religious and somewhat religious Americans (at least 8-in-10) believe in hell, while barely any non-religious Americans do (fewer than 5%). In the Pew study, each group was more likely to professor a belief in heaven than hell.

Earlier research into supernatural evil such as hell, Satan, and demons has found both positive and negative outcomes.

Belief in supernatural evil has been linked to results such as increasing religious resources and promoting greater cooperation and less selfish behavior.

And warnings about hell and Satan have been shown to be helpful for many people seeking to live up to divine standards in areas from cultivating lasting relationships to avoiding harmful addictions.

In one recent study, a team of researchers from the Netherlands reviewed 15 cross-sectional studies on moral objections to suicide, especially the conviction of going to hell after taking one’s own life. They found each study supported the idea that moral objections and fear of hell exerted a restraining effect on suicide.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/february/hell-belief-anxiety-arda-baylor-university.html

HELL & Who Worries About Hell the Most? #BaylorUniv. researchers find belief in hell should not be considered a pathological fear, “but is perhaps a rational response to personal theological” beliefs.

by David Briggs, American Religion Data Archive, Christianity Today, 2/3/19.

“And the souls of the wicked are cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness.” – The Westminster Confession

Can belief in hell be considered a pathological fear?

Consider the stakes for many believers. With the prospect of an eternity of torture and other forms of suffering, one might say a crippling fear of hell would be warranted.

With those questions in mind, a team of researchers from Baylor University developed a series of measures on “hell anxiety” and tested them in what they say is the first systematic examination of the psychological consequences of belief in hell.

What they found was that individual belief in hell was not in itself connected to any neuroses, and that most people did not display an unhealthy focus on the possibility of eternal damnation.

The findings, some of which even surprised research team members, included:

  • The more religious an individual was, the less likely they were to display hell anxiety.
  • Unhealthy fears were not related to dogmatism or religious fundamentalism.
  • Free will, or the idea individuals have control over where they will spend their afterlife, was a key element in reducing hell anxiety.

That does not mean belief in hell may not have a dark side when other mediators are involved.

The study found those who viewed God primarily with fear, those who believed they were likely to go hell, and those with a sense outside forces could decide their fate, were more likely to experience greater hell anxiety and death anxiety.

Overall, the results suggested belief in hell should not be considered a pathological fear, “but is perhaps a rational response to personal theological” beliefs, researchers concluded.

Hell matters to a lot of us.

About half of Americans are absolutely sure of their belief in hell, while the percentage who believe rises above two-thirds when some degrees of uncertainty are included.

Editor’s note: Last year, a LifeWay Research survey similarly found that just 45 percent of Americans agree hell is a real place. Pew Research Center reported that a vast majority of highly religious and somewhat religious Americans (at least 8-in-10) believe in hell, while barely any non-religious Americans do (fewer than 5%). In the Pew study, each group was more likely to professor a belief in heaven than hell.

Earlier research into supernatural evil such as hell, Satan, and demons has found both positive and negative outcomes.

Belief in supernatural evil has been linked to results such as increasing religious resources and promoting greater cooperation and less selfish behavior.

And warnings about hell and Satan have been shown to be helpful for many people seeking to live up to divine standards in areas from cultivating lasting relationships to avoiding harmful addictions.

In one recent study, a team of researchers from the Netherlands reviewed 15 cross-sectional studies on moral objections to suicide, especially the conviction of going to hell after taking one’s own life. They found each study supported the idea that moral objections and fear of hell exerted a restraining effect on suicide.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/february/hell-belief-anxiety-arda-baylor-university.html

TRENDS & Entitlement religion? Fewer people participate in religion … but more believe in an afterlife #SanDiegoStateUniversity

“It was interesting that fewer people participated in religion or prayed but more believed in an afterlife,” Twenge said. “It might be part of a growing entitlement mentality – thinking you can get something for nothing.”

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (March 21, 2016)–The percentage of Americans who prayed or believed in God reached an all-time low in 2014, according to new research led by San Diego State University psychology professor Jean M. Twenge.

A research team that included Ryne Sherman from Florida Atlantic University and Julie J. Exline and Joshua B. Grubbs from Case Western Reserve University analyzed data from 58,893 respondents to the General Social Survey, a nationally representative survey of U.S. adults administered between 1972 and 2014. Five times as many Americans in 2014 reported that they never prayed as did Americans in the early 1980s, and nearly twice as many said they did not believe in God.

Americans in recent years were less likely to engage in a wide variety of religious practices, including attending religious services, describing oneself as a religious person, and believing that the Bible is divinely inspired, with the biggest declines seen among 18- to 29-year-old respondents. The results were published today in the journal Sage Open.

“Most previous studies concluded that fewer Americans were publicly affiliating with a religion, but that Americans were just as religious in private ways. That’s no longer the case, especially in the last few years,” said Twenge, who is also the author of the book, “Generation Me.” “The large declines in religious practice among young adults are also further evidence that Millennials are the least religious generation in memory, and possibly in American history.”

This decline in religious practice has not been accompanied by a rise in spirituality, which, according to Twenge, suggests that, rather than spirituality replacing religion, Americans are becoming more secular. The one exception to the decline in religious beliefs was a slight increase in belief in the afterlife.

“It was interesting that fewer people participated in religion or prayed but more believed in an afterlife,” Twenge said. “It might be part of a growing entitlement mentality – thinking you can get something for nothing.”

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About San Diego State University

San Diego State University is a major public research institution offering bachelor’s degrees in 91 areas, master’s degrees in 78 areas and doctorates in 22 areas. The university provides transformative experiences, both inside and outside of the classroom, for its 35,000 students. Students participate in research, international experiences, sustainability and entrepreneurship initiatives, and a broad range of student life and leadership opportunities. The university’s rich campus life features opportunities for students to participate in, and engage with, the creative and performing arts, a Division I athletics program and the vibrant cultural life of the San Diego region. For more information, visit http://www.sdsu.edu.

Read more at … https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-03/sdsu-fan031816.php

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018

THEOLOGY & American Views of the Afterlife & Sin

by Bob Smietana, Facts and Trends, LifeWay, 9/28/16.

Findings of a new survey of American views on Christian theology from Nashville-based LifeWay Research (include) …Evangelical believers say hell is for real. Other Americans aren’t so sure.

2016-heavenEighty-four percent of those who hold evangelical beliefs say hell is a place of eternal judgment, where God sends all people who do not personally trust in Jesus Christ. Only 30 percent of Americans who don’t have evangelical beliefs hold that view.

Overall, fewer than half (40 percent) of Americans say those who don’t believe in Jesus will go to hell.

Many evangelical believers say everybody goes to heaven. They also believe that only those who trust Jesus as their Savior are saved.

Two-thirds of those with evangelical beliefs (64 percent) say heaven is a place where all people will ultimately be reunited with their loved ones. That’s slightly higher than Americans in general (60 percent).

By definition, all those with evangelical beliefs affirm that only people who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation. Overall, about half of Americans (54 percent) say only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone receive eternal salvation.

Everybody sins but it’s no big deal.

2016-sinAmericans admit they aren’t perfect. But they give each other the benefit of the doubt. Two-thirds (65 percent) agree that everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature. More than half (57 percent) say it would be fair for God to show His wrath against sin. But that wrath seems to be reserved only for the worst sinners.

Three-quarters (74 percent) of Americans disagree with the idea that even the smallest sin deserves eternal damnation. That includes almost two-thirds (62 percent) who strongly disagree…

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/09/27/what-do-americans-believe-about-god-new-study-explores-our-theology/#.V-ulH_D3aaM

THEOLOGY & Is Hell For Real? Thought provoking video by Paige Patterson

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Increasingly there is discussion about the reality of Hell. Hear what my colleague and friend Thom Ranier says about a new video by Paige Patterson on the topic. Then, check the video out for yourself.

“Paige Patterson is a true role model for evangelism. He longs to see men, women, boys, and girls​ come to know Christ as their Savior. In this video, with rich theological content and deep pastoral concern, Dr. Patterson shares the biblical truths of Hell. Take time to watch it and share it with others. It’s just that important.” Thom S. Rainer, President & CEO – LifeWay Christian Resources.

Watch the video (released April 4, 2016) at … https://www.truelife.org

FUTURE & Purgatory: One (Solitary?) Evangelical’s Affirmation #ScotMcKnight on #JerryWalls

by: Scot McKnight, 4:14/15.

Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 10.58.49 AMJerry Walls is one of the few evangelicals by confession who also affirms purgatory. I don’t agree with Walls here, but after a full book on the topic, Walls reduces his argument to a single chapter in Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. (Purgatory in the theory of Catholicism is only for Christians; it is not about a second chance; it is entirely for Christians and concerns their sanctification and/or satisfaction.)

How do you respond to this: The only difference between an affirmation and a denial of purgatory is that the former thinks the Christian not only needs entire sanctification but will be conscious and participatory in the process while for the traditional Protestant (denier of affirmation) entire sanctification occurs instantaneously (at death, at resurrection) and is entirely an act of God (and God’s grace).

Some Protestants are not bothered; others are deeply offended. E.g., John Calvin …

Read more at … http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2015/04/14/purgatory-one-mostly-solitary-evangelicals-affirmation/

HEAVEN & Most people want to live past 75, but they haven’t given much thought to dying

By Jason Millman 9/29/14 The Washington Post

There have been a couple of important developments in the past couple of weeks suggesting that maybe, just maybe, we can finally have a long-sought rational conversation about end-of-life care.

First, the influential Institute of Medicine issued a 507-page report recommending major reforms for how end-of-life care is provided. And then Ezekiel Emanuel, a well-known bioethicist and former Obama adviser, explained why he wants to die at the not-so-old age of 75. Emanuel’s provocative essay has inspired a range of reactions, including on this blog, where University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack made his case for living longer.

Less discussed in the past couple of weeks is where Americans’ attitudes on death and dying stand — and how they’ve been changing. A couple of Pew Research Center polls in the past year provide useful perspective on this topic.

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Read more at … http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/09/29/most-people-want-to-live-past-75-but-they-havent-given-much-thought-to-dying/