RELIGION & Pew’s list of most & least religious nations (US in the middle of the pack globally)

by ANGELINA E. THEODOROU, Pew Research, 12/23/15.

More than half of Americans (53%) now say religion is very important in their lives, according to a recent Pew Research Center report. While this figure has declined somewhat in recent years – down from 56% in 2007 – Americans remain in the middle of the pack in terms of importance of religion when compared with people around the world.

In fact, the share of Americans who say religion is very important is close to the global median of respondents who say this in a separate survey.

By this measure, Americans place less importance on religion in their lives than do people in a number of countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. For example, nearly universal shares of Ethiopians (98%), Senegalese (97%) and Indonesians (95%) say religion is very important, as do eight-in-ten or more Nigerians (88%), Filipinos (87%) and Indians (80%).

U.S. is in the middle of pack when it comes to importance of religion in people's lives

Countries where religion is broadly seen as important have a variety of religious makeups, ranging from predominantly Christian nations like the Philippines, to mostly Muslim countries like Indonesia, to Hindu-majority India and even to some religiously mixed countries like Nigeria.

Meanwhile, religion is considerably more important to Americans than to residents of many other Western and European countries, as well as other advanced economy nations, such as Japan.

Generally, poorer nations tend to be religious; wealthy less so, except for U.S.

Overall, people in wealthier nations tend to place less importance on religion than those in poorer nations. However, the United States – the wealthiest nation included in the 2015 global survey based on gross domestic product per capita – is a notable exception to this trend. Americans are much more likely than their counterparts in other economically advanced nations to say religion is very important. About twice as many or more Americans say religion is very important in their lives compared with the share of people who say this in Australia (18%), Germany (21%) and Canada (27%), the next three wealthiest countries included in our survey.

The U.S. — which, like much of Europe, has been experiencing a rise in the share of people who say they have no religion — is also near the middle when it comes to the share of people who say religion is “not too” or “not at all” important in their lives. About one-in-five Americans (22%) say this, compared with a global median of 13%. In 14 countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East, few, if any, say religion is not too or not at all important in their lives. By comparison, France (61%), Japan (58%) and Australia (56%) are among several countries where majorities say religion is not too or not at all important to them…

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/12/23/americans-are-in-the-middle-of-the-pack-globally-when-it-comes-to-importance-of-religion/

CHURCH TRENDS & Most Impt. Observations from The National Congregations Survey (NCSIII) #Duke #MarkChaves

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: The National Congregations Study (NCSIII) is, along with The American Congregations 2015: Thriving and Surviving survey by David A. Roozen, one of the best snapshots of American Christianity and where it is going. You can download the free and complete report here.

Mark Chaves and Alison Eagle begin their report with what they designate some of their “most important observations” including:

  • The number of congregations claiming no denominational affiliation increased from 18% in 1998 to 24% in 2012
  • White mainline congregations, and the people in those congregations, are older than the congregations and people of other religious traditions
  • Most congregations are small but most people are in large congregations
  • People are increasingly concentrated in very large congregations
  • The average congregation is getting smaller, but the average churchgoer attends a larger congregation
  • People in smaller congregations give more money to their churches than do people in larger congregations
  • Worship services have become more informal and expressive
  • 10% of churchgoers worship in multi-site congregations
  • American solo or senior pastoral leaders are more ethnically diverse and older, but not more female, than they were in 1998
  • Thirteen percent (13%) of congregations are led by volunteer senior or solo pastoral leaders
  • Assistant and associate ministers and specialized congregational staff constitute 42% of the full-time ministerial work force and three-quarters (74%) of the part-time ministerial work force.
  • Compared to solo and senior pastoral leaders, secondary ministerial staff are more female, younger, less likely to be seminary educated, and more likely to have been hired from within the congregation
  • There is increasing ethnic diversity over time both among and within American congregations
  • Food assistance is by far the most common kind of social service activity pursued by congregations, with more than half (52%) of all congregations listing food assistance among their four most important social service programs
  • When congregations lobby elected officials or participate in demonstrations or marches, the issues they most commonly engage are poverty, abortion, and same-sex marriage
  • Acceptance of female lay leadership is very widespread, with 79% of congregations allowing women to hold any volunteer position a man can hold, and 86% allowing women to serve on the main governing board
  • Congregational acceptance of gays and lesbians as members and lay leaders increased substantially between 2006 and 2012, but acceptance levels vary widely across religious traditions

The National Congregations Study was directed by Mark Chaves, Professor of Sociology, Religious Studies, and Divinity at Duke University. This report was written by Mark Chaves and Alison Eagle, and designed by Spring Davis. It is a much revised and updated version of American Congregations at the Beginning of the 21st Century, written by Mark Chaves, Shawna Anderson, and Jason Byassee after the 2006 NCS.

Download the survey here:  National Congregations Study (NCSIII) .

RELIGION & Religious Nones Still Thank God, Ask for His Help #Pew #LifeWay

by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 4/21/16.

They probably won’t show up to church this week, but the religiously unaffiliated may still pray.

A Pew Research study found 76 percent of Americans say they thanked God for something in the past week. That includes 37 percent of the religiously unaffiliated.

A quarter of nones also say they asked God for help in the past week, while 6 percent say they got angry with Him.

Religious individuals are much more likely to say they’ve turned to God recently, but it’s noteworthy how many of those who claim no faith still report talking to God.

The religiously unaffiliated are broken into two categories: atheists/agnostics and those who are “nothing in particular.” Almost half (48 percent) of those who classify themselves as nothing in particular say they expressed gratitude to God in the past week. A third (32 percent) say they asked God for help.

Even a portion of atheists and agnostics say they thanked God in the past week (18 percent) and asked Him for help (13 percent).

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/04/21/religious-nones-still-thank-god-ask-for-his-help/

ISLAM & Patricia Crone, Questioning Scholar of Islamic History, Dies at 70 #NYTimes

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel; “Patricia Crone was one of the most impactful historians to study the rise of Islam. To understand the beginning of this religion including the reason for its internal conflicts read this New York Times overview.”

By Sam Roberts, The New York Times, 7/22/15.

… Fred M. Donner, a professor of Near Eastern history at the University of Chicago, said Professor Crone had “made it clear that historians of early Islam had failed to really behave as historians — that is, had failed to challenge the validity of their sources, but rather had accepted complacently what I call the ‘traditional origins narrative’ created by the Islamic tradition itself.”

As a result, in books like “Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World” (1977, written with Michael Cook), she disputed assumptions that Islam had been transmitted by trade from Mecca, in what is now Saudi Arabia, suggesting that it had been spread by conquest instead. She also identified how indigenous rural prophets in what is now Iran had defied conquering Arabs and helped shape Islamic culture, setting the stage for conflicts within Islam that endure today.

Current events frequently intruded on Professor Crone’s scholarship on historic divisions in the Middle East between secularism and Islamic orthodoxy, and between the Arab world and the West. Writing about present-day Muslims on the website openDemocracy in 2007, she said, “Wherever they look, they are being invaded by so-called Western values — in the form of giant billboards advertising self-indulgence, semi-pornographic films, liquor, pop music, fat tourists in indecent clothes and funny hats, and politicians lecturing people about the virtues of democracy…

In another essay for openDemocracy, Professor Crone focused on the Prophet Muhammad himself, writing that “we can be reasonably sure that the Quran is a collection of utterances that he made in the belief that they had been revealed to him by God.” She summarized the major themes of the Quran as “God’s unity, the reality of the resurrection and judgment, and the imminence of violent punishment.”

She also wrote that Muhammad was perceived not as the founder of a new religion but as a preacher in the Old Testament tradition, hailing the coming of a messiah. His success, she argued, “had something to do with the fact that he preached both state formation and conquest: Without conquest, first in Arabia and next in the Fertile Crescent, the unification of Arabia would not have been achieved.”

Her other books include “God’s Rule: Government and Islam: Six Centuries of Medieval Islamic Political Thought” (2004) and “The Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran” (2012), which detailed the historical precedents for local rebels defying the ruling elite…

Read more at … http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/07/23/us/patricia-crone-scholar-of-islamic-history-dies-at-70.html?referrer=

RELIGION & What’s driving the changes seen in Pew’s Religious Landscape Study

by Pew Research Fact Tank, 5/28/15.

Based on more than 35,000 interviews, the Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study presented a detailed portrait of an America where changes in religious affiliation have affected all regions of the country and many demographic groups.

The survey’s findings raise questions about why these changes are occurring.

Fact Tank sat down with David Campbell, a professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, to explore what the new findings mean. Campbell is the author of a number of books on religion, including (along with Robert Putnam) “American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.”

For you, what stands out as the most important new finding or findings in the Religious Landscape Study?

The rise of the religiously unaffiliated has rightly drawn a lot of attention, but it is worth pausing to consider what that rise tells us. For one thing, the secular surge demonstrates the fluid and dynamic nature of America’s religious ecosystem. Most of the people who say that their religion is “nothing in particular” or “none” were raised in a household that was at least nominally religious. In other words, the “nones” were once “somethings.” But, equally important, most of the “nones” are what we might call soft secularists. Most do not describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, which suggests that they are not totally disaffected from all aspects of religion, or from a belief in a God or higher power. In other words, this suggests that many of the “nones” are not actively opposed or hostile to religion, and that some of them might even be attracted to a new form of religion.

The pattern of growing “none”-ism also reminds us that the U.S. version of secularism is different than what we have observed in Western Europe. There, secularism has grown steadily through a process of generational replacement — each generation is more secular than the last. Here, secularism has grown rapidly, which means it cannot be explained by generational turnover. But, as I noted, the growth has largely been in soft secularism. Given the highly innovative and entrepreneurial nature of American religion, it is probable that we will see a response by religious leaders to bring those soft secularists back. Whether they will succeed is an open question, but the U.S. has gone through other periods where secularism seemed to be on the rise, only to see religion respond and stem the tide of secularism. For example, religious influence in U.S. society was waning in the 1960s, but was on the rebound by the late 1970s.

Why have mainline Protestants continued to decline dramatically, while evangelical Protestants have shown only small declines?

Evangelicalism can hold on to its adherents because it is as much a subculture as a religion. While evangelicals are typically defined by more than the church they attend on Sunday, they are also bound by mutually reinforcing expressions of culture — the schools their children attend, the movies they watch, the websites they visit, the music they listen to. The deeper someone’s immersion into such a subculture, the more their religion is an integral part of their identity, and thus hard to leave. Furthermore, evangelicalism — both as a religion and a subculture — is highly innovative, entrepreneurial, and adaptable. Evangelical congregations are often engaged in “creative destruction” by regularly introducing such things as new forms of church organization and types of worship.

In contrast, mainline Protestantism is much less likely to be all-encompassing, largely because over most of American history, the national culture had a mainline Protestant accent. Thus, there was no need for mainline Protestants to develop the sort of subculture found among evangelicals. Similarly, while there are some notable exceptions, mainline congregations are generally steeped in more tradition than their evangelical counterparts, making it more difficult to innovate…

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/27/qa-a-look-at-whats-driving-the-changes-seen-in-our-religious-landscape-study/

RELIGION & Lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans differ from general public in their religious affiliations #PewResearch

by CARYLE MURPHY, Pew Research, 5/26/15.

Although many lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adults feel that most major faiths are unwelcoming to their community, a majority of LGB adults are religiously affiliated, according to a new Pew Research Center study. But they are much less likely to be Christian than the general public and are more drawn to smaller, non-Christian denominations.

About 5% of the 2014 Religious Landscape Study’s 35,000-plus respondents identified themselves as members of the LGB population. Of that group, 59% said they are religiously affiliated. But only 48% of them reported belonging to a Christian faith group, compared with 71% of the general public.

Religious Composition by Self-Reported Sexual Identity

In another contrast, while only 6% of the general public affiliates with a non-Christian faith, almost twice as many (11%) gay, lesbian and bisexual adults do so. And almost half of these gay, lesbian and bisexual adults (or 5% of adults overall) said they belong to one of the smaller faith groups, including Unitarian and other liberal faith traditions (2.9%) and New Age groups (2.4%), such as Wiccans and pagans. The Jewish and Buddhist faiths also attracted small percentages (2% each) of LGB adults.

Read more at … http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/26/lesbian-gay-and-bisexual-americans-differ-from-general-public-in-their-religious-affiliations/

RELIGION & Is Christianity in America doomed? #PewResearch

by David Linker, The Week, 5/15/15.

(Based on Pew Research)…The future of religion in America depends to a considerable extent on the future spiritual disposition of the “nones” — the religiously unaffiliated Americans who describe themselves as atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular.” Their remarkably rapid growth — up from 16.1 percent to 22.8 percent of the population in just seven years — is closely connected to the fact that more than one third (36 percent) of the so-called Millennial generation declines to affiliate with any religion. As elderly Americans, who are far more religious, die off, they are being replaced, demographically, by what seems to be the most secular generation in American history.

It’s clear that these young people have little interest in taking part in religious traditions or institutions. But are they truly godless? And will their lack of faith persist as they age?

The answers to those questions are what will determine the shape of America’s religious, cultural, and moral character over the coming decades.

Teasing out the answers with any confidence will require more polling. But the current Pew poll can get us started — and point pollsters in the direction of the kinds of questions they need to start asking the religiously unaffiliated.

Pew helpfully breaks the nones down into three groups:

* Those who describe themselves as atheist or agnostic. (25 percent in 2007; 31 percent in 2014.)

* Those who claim to be “nothing in particular” and consider religion either not at all important or not very important. (Steady at 39 percent from 2007 to 2014.)

* Those who claim to be “nothing in particular” but nonetheless consider religion to be somewhat or very important. (36 percent in 2007; 30 percent in 2014.)..

Read more at … http://theweek.com/articles/555177/christianity-america-doomed