FaithWorld

Pew dissects U.S. “Millennials” on issues of faith and culture

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has just issued a report that examines issues of faith and culture among Americans between the age of 18 and 29 — a demographic group that has been dubbed the “Millennials” because most came of age around 2000. You can see our story here and the report here.

A couple of things come to mind. One is the finding that Millennials were far more likely than their elders from “Generation X” and the “Baby Boom” to be unaffiliated with a specific faith. In the context of recent American history, Generation X was born between 1965 and 1980, while Baby Boomers flooded the country from 1946 to 1964.

The report found one-in-four American Millennials unaffiliated with any specific faith, compared to 20 percent of Generation Xers at a comparable point in their lives (the late 1990s). Only 13 percent of Baby Boomers were religiously “unaffiliated” in the late 1970s when they were roughly the age Millennials are now.

ROUTE-RECOVERY/

There are some U.S. religious conservatives who will no doubt sound the alarm and point to these numbers as yet another example of moral decline. But one striking thing about the number is that, as the appendix at the end of the report makes clear, three in four young American adults are affiliated with a religious faith. I would guess that such a figure would be far higher than a comparable one for, say, many countries in western Europe. Such a comparison could be instructive, if the data were available.

The report is also just the latest to highlight the generation chasm that exists on the issue of gay rights. For example, the report said that Pew’s massive 2007 U.S. Religious Landscape Survey found young adults to be almost twice as likely to say homosexuality should be accepted by society as those 65 and older, 63 percent versus 35 percent.

Singapore raps evangelical pastor for ridiculing Buddhists, Taoists

lighthouse evangelism

Lighthouse Evangelism church in Singapore, 11 Sept 2005/Slivester

Singapore has warned an evangelical Christian pastor that his online videos are offensive to Buddhists and Taoists, underlining the city-state’s concerns that religion is a potential faultline for its multicultural society.

Pastor Rony Tan, of the Lighthouse Evangelism megachurch, apologized and pulled the video clips off the internet after being visited by the government’s Internal Security Department (ISD) on Monday, the pastor and the government said on their websites. “I sincerely apologize for my insensitivity towards the Buddhists and Taoists, and solemnly promise that it will never happen again,” Tan said.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said in a statement on Tuesday that “Pastor Tan’s comments were highly inappropriate and unacceptable as they trivialised and insulted the beliefs of Buddhists and Taoists. They can also give rise to tension and conflict between the Buddhist/Taoist and Christian communities. ISD told Pastor Tan that in preaching or proselytising his faith, he must not run down other religions, and must be mindful of the sensitivities of other religions.”

Church of England laments drop in UK religious TV programmes

A shopper looks at televisions in central London 2 March 2005/Toby Melville

A shopper looks at televisions in central London 2 March 2005/Toby Melville

The Church of England voted on Wednesday to express “deep concern” about a drop in religious programmes on British television but drew back from solely targeting the BBC for criticism.

The Church’s General Synod, or parliament, had been asked by one of its members to pinpoint the publicly funded BBC for marginalising religion and treating religious shows on its non-core channels as “freak shows..”

But the synod instead voted on an amendment which expressed its “deep concern about the overall reduction in religious broadcasting across British television in recent years.” The member, Nigel Holmes, a former BBC producer, brought a private motion accusing the BBC of preferring natural history and gardening programmes to religious output, saying some in broadcasting assumed that religion lost audiences.

Being religious may not make you healthier after all

A number of studies over the past two decades have shown that religious people tend to be healthier. But a new study suggests that when it comes to heart disease and clogged arteries, attending religious services or having spiritual experiences may not protect against heart attacks and strokes.

This study suggests “there’s not a lot of extra burden or extra protection afforded by this particular aspect of people’s lives,” said Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, of the Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, who led the study, published in the journal Circulation.

JAPAN

In their review of data from nearly 5,500 people who were part of another study, Lloyd-Jones and his colleagues — one of whom, Matthew Feinstein, is a Northwestern medical student who suggested the research — expected to see less risk for heart disease among those with more “religiosity.”

Haiti quake raises fears of child-eating spirits

haiti kids

Children in a homelss camp in Port-au-Prince, 27 Jan 2010/Eduardo Munoz

The earthquake that shattered Haiti has unleashed fears that child-eating spirits, mythological figures entrenched in Haitian culture, are prowling homeless camps in search of young prey.

The ‘loup-garou,’ which means ‘wolf man,’ is similar to werewolf legends in other parts of the world, but in Haitian folklore it is a person who is possessed by a spirit and can turn into a beast or even a dog, cat, chicken, snake or another animal to suck the blood of babies and young children.

Haitians fear loups-garous in the best of times and even more since a powerful earthquake wrecked the capital of Port-au-Prince two weeks ago, killing as many as 200,000 people and forcing hundreds of thousands more to sleep outside in vast camps or on the streets.

Global economic crisis also a values crisis, Davos poll says

wefreportThe World Economic Forum, whose annual Davos summit opening today is a favourite gathering for the rich and powerful, has issued an opinion poll showing two-thirds of those surveyed believe the current economic crisis is also a crisis of values. Almost as many singled out business as the sector that should stress values more to foster a better world. “The poll results point to a trust deficit regarding values in the business world,” the Forum said in a statement.

The fact the Forum conducted this poll may come as a surprise to those who know Davos only from the “CEO in the snow” interviews that flood some cable TV financial broadcasts at this time of year. However, he Forum has widened its scope beyond its initial role as a European management seminar. Since 2001, it has been working with faith communities in inter-faith dialogue, especially between the West and the Muslim world, and more recently a Global Agenda Council on Faith to explore “the challenges that lie in the interactions between religion and society, religion and peacebuilding and religion and business”.

My news story here on the poll gives a summary of its findings. In a few bullet points, they are:

France takes first step towards banning Muslim face veils

veil presser

Camera crews at presentation of the veil commission report in Paris, 26 Jan 2010/Tom Heneghan

The French parliamentary commission studying the issue of full Muslim veils has produced its expected result — a recommendation that the National Assembly denounces these veils as contrary to French values and votes a law to ban them in public. They could not propose a full draft law because there are some doubts about whether a total ban would be constitutional. But the lawmakers made it absolutely clear they wanted to rid France of the veils — known here as “burqas” even though most are Saudi-style niqabs — and the fundamentalist Islam they said the garments represent.

Our news report here gives the main details of the story. At the news conference presenting the report, commission chairman André Gérin was his usual outspoken self, lashing out at “gurus of fundamentalism” who he said were forcing women to wear full veils and warning the veil phenomenon was only “the tip of the iceberg.” The veil hid what he called “scandalous practices of sectarianism and fundamentalism.” His deputy chairman Eric Raoult was more moderate and even defended the commission against charges it was “monomaniac” in its focus on the veil.

Text of Mehmet Ali Agca’s letter before release from prison

Following is the full text of an open letter issued on Wednesday in Istanbul by lawyers for Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who shot Pope John Paul in 1981. Agca is due to be released from a Turkish jail on Monday January 18. agca police

Mehmet Ali Agca in Istanbul during short release from jail on 20 Jan 2006/Ahmet Ada

OPEN LETTER 13 January 2010

1 = Terrorism is the Evil of the Devil.

2 = All religions prohibit and condemn Terrorism.

3 = The AL QAEDA is a psychopathic criminal NAZI organization. And remember that the Oklahoma City bomber TIMOTHY MCVEIGH was a NAZI too.

Religion now hottest topic of study for U.S. historians – AHA survey

nypl 1Religion has become the hottest topic of study for U. S. historians, overtaking the previous favourite — cultural studies — and pulling ahead of women’s studies in the latest annual survey by the American Historical Association. Younger historians are more likely than older ones to turn their sights on faith issues.

The proportion of U.S. historians working on religious issues now stands at 7.7%. If that seems low, compare it with the more traditional fields in the study of the past — political history (4.6%), military history (3.8%) or diplomatic history (3.8%). Cultural studies stood at 7.5% and women’s studies at 6.4%.

Among the reasons cited by the AHA were:

    Interest in the rise of “more activist (and in some cases ‘militant’) forms of religion.” An “extension of the methods and interests of social and cultural history.” The impact of the “historical turn” in other disciplines, including religious studies. Increased student demand for courses on the subject.
The AHA report has some interesting quotes from professors in the field:
    “I think the category has become more popular because historians realize that the world is aflame with faith, yet our traditional ways of dealing with modern history especially can’t explain how or why,” said Jon Butler, a professor of history, religious studies and American studies at Yale University. “The ‘secularization thesis’ appears to have failed and so we need to find ways to explain how and why it didn’t die as so much written history suggests.” “I came to recognize that (expressions of faith) were woven into just about every aspect of life, not separate subjects I could leave for another time or someone else,” said  University of California at Berkeley historian William Taylor. “My ongoing research and writing about religious matters continues to be carried out in this spirit—not as a field apart, but as integral to my reckonings with how people then understood their lives and acted upon those convictions.” Jeanne Kilde of the University of Minnesota said “students in the late 1990s began coming to class with questions about religion” due to its influence on recent elections, growing attention in the media and an increase in public displays of religion.
nypl 2Given this blog’s focus in religion in the public sphere, this general trend of growing interest in religion isn’t anything new to us. What is interesting is that this is spreading in academia. A hat tip goes to The Immanent Frame blog, which also ran its own series of reactions from historians to this news. Here’s a sample from David A. Hollinger at Berkeley:  “Religion is too important to be left in the hands of people who believe in it. Finally, historians are coming to grips with this simple truth.” (Photos: New York Public Library, 14 Dec 2004/Mike Segar) Follow FaithWorld on Twitter at RTRFaithWorld

French foreign ministry bureau studies faith issues worldwide

kouchner sarkozy

Bernard Kouchner (L) and Nicholas Sarkozy (R), 10 July 2008/Vincent Kessler

France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, one of the original “French doctors” who has been active in humanitarian causes for decades, once said the only major conflict he knew that had nothing to do with religion was the 1969 “football war” between El Salvador and Honduras. With a perspective like that, he naturally asked when he took over the foreign ministry in 2007 where religion figured in its diplomatic analysis and strategy. The answer was that it didn’t really figure in it, at least not in a systematic way. Laïcité — France’s trademark separation of church and state — had created a kind of “we don’t do God” reflex in its diplomacy. Kouchner began a series of internal discussions about the new challenges to diplomacy,  issues such as global warming, terrorism, sustainable development or religion. One of the results was the establishment last summer of a religious affairs bureau at the Quai d’Orsay.

Joseph Maïla, the former rector of the Catholic Institute of Paris appointed to head this bureau, explained the thinking behind this step in an interview that ran on our newswire today. As he explained in that story, the issue has an interesting European dimension, because the European Union’s Lisbon Treaty calls for a regular dialogue with religious groups in Europe. He added that  President Nicolas Sarkozy’s more flexible approach to laïcité also helped bring about a new appreciation of the role religion plays in public affairs. This has nothing to do with any loosening of the actual church-state separation in France, he stressed, but creates an atmosphere in which it’s easier for religious issues to be considered as factors in policy planning. Joseph Maïla, 1 Dec 2009/Tom Heneghan

Joseph Maïla, 1 Dec 2009/Tom Heneghan

Maïla said the bureau’s tasks were to study the links between religion and conflict, follow issues of church-state separation in Europe and advise the ministry on which positions to take on issues where religion is involved. He stressed that France had obviously dealt with international religious issues in the past, when they were clearly relevant to a problem, but didn’t take a systematic approach to faith in public affairs. Now, with a six-person bureau dedicated to the issue, it has one of the largest staffs dealing with the question in Europe. Most other European countries, which don’t have the same traditional reluctance to discuss religion in politics, usually have only one or two diplomats tracking faith issues.