Category: Religion Trends

Study: Happiness is having friends at church

Attending religious services regularly and having close friends in the congregation are key to having a happier, more satisfying life, a study finds.

Even attending services irregularly — just several times a year — increases a sense of well-being, so long as there is a circle of friendships within the community and a strong, shared religious identity.

That’s the key finding of a study released today in the December issue of the American Sociological Review.

For the study, Lim and co-author Robert Putnam analyzed data collected during 2006 and 2007 as part of the Faith Matters Study, a nationwide survey of a representative sample of adults.

The survey, examining the various ways that religion affects American society, is the focus of the recently released book American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Putnam and David Campbell.

Lord Carey: Christianity being ‘airbrushed’ from society as Christmas is ‘rebranded’

Britain’s Christian culture is under attack as faith is “airbrushed” from society, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, has warned.

Even Christmas is being “re-branded” as a secular festival because councils, politicians and businesses are “ashamed” of its true religious meaning, he said.

Lord Carey’s remarks came as he launched a national campaign to promote the right of Christians to express their beliefs in public and at work.

But Anglican bishop Nick Baines has rejected claims by some lobby groups and activists that Christians in Britain are being persecuted for their beliefs.

He said that in fact “we’re everywhere” and urged church people not to allow themselves to be fitted into a “hierarchy of victimhood”.

Acknowledging the genuine and terrible persecutions in Christian history and affecting minorities around the world today, the bishop denied that the choices facing Christians in modern plural Britain were in any way comparable.

Study predicts Christianity rising in south, Muslims heading West

Toffler Associates released its predictions for the next 40 years to mark the 40th anniversary of “Future Shock,” in which author Alvin Toffler studied the 1970s to see what would happen in the future.

Among the predictions: Christianity will rise rapidly in the global South, while Muslims will migrate in increasing numbers to the West, where their presence will reshape public attitudes and government policies.

Survey: Americans don’t know much about religion

pie chart A new survey of Americans’ knowledge of religion found that atheists, agnostics, Jews and Mormons outperformed Protestants and Roman Catholics in answering questions about major religions, while many respondents could not correctly give the most basic tenets of their own faiths.

The U.S. is one of the most religious countries in the developed world, especially compared to largely secular Western Europe, but faith leaders and educators have long lamented that Americans still know relatively little about religion.

Spiritual icons making their way into necklaces, bracelets, charms

Pop stars Miley Cyrus and Taylor Momsen wear rosary necklaces, sometimes four at a time over a slinky corset dress or vintage rock T-shirt. “Eat Pray Love,” whose protagonist travels to India in search of enlightenment, has spawned a collection of charms, rings and bracelets. And the reality-bending Kardashian sisters are designing jewelry based on Armenian religious icons.

It’s official: The practice of incorporating religious or spiritual symbols in jewelry has become ubiquitous among smaller niche designers as well as more commercial brands. With the public’s growing interest in yoga, meditation and personal talismans that offer protection or courage, jewelry and accessory designers are picking up the theme and adorning their work with icons deeply rooted in ancient beliefs and religions.

Teens say bye-bye to church

Bye-bye church. We’re busy.” That’s the message teens are giving churches today.

Only about one in four teens now participate in church youth groups, considered the hallmark of involvement; numbers have been flat since 1999. Other measures of religiosity — prayer, Bible reading and going to church — lag as well, according to Barna Group, a Ventura, Calif., evangelical research company. This all has churches canceling their summer teen camps and youth pastors looking worriedly toward the fall, when school-year youth groups kick in.

Talking to God may be losing out to Facebook,” says Barna president David Kinnaman.

“Sweet 16 is not a sweet spot for churches. It’s the age teens typically drop out,” says Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, which found the turning point in a study of church dropouts. “A decade ago teens were coming to church youth group to play, coming for the entertainment, coming for the pizza. They’re not even coming for the pizza anymore. They say, ‘We don’t see the church as relevant, as meeting our needs or where we need to be today.’ “

More young adults heeding pastoral call

For the past 10 years, the estimated median age of candidates for master of divinity degrees has fallen steadily, from 34.14 in 1999 to 32.19 in 2009, according to an analysis by the Center for the Study of Theological Education (CSTE) at Auburn Seminary.

That marks a reversal: From 1989 to 1999, the estimated median age had climbed steadily from 31.4 to 34.14.

Denominations hail this new pattern as a positive sign now, as churches increasingly depend on aging leaders and struggle to attract parishioners under age 30.

Rise of independent groups influencing Judaism

Dozens of “independent minyanim” — unaffiliated Jewish worship communities — have sprung up in the past decade, mixing elements of the mainstream denominations while answering to none of them.

Ten years ago, the United States had two independent minyanim, plural of minyan. Today, there at least 70 involving about 20,000 people, said Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, who wrote a book on the independent minyanim, “Empowered Judaism.”

The number involved is a small percentage of the estimated 5.2 million Jews in the U.S. But Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University, said the movement is driven by the most devout and educated Jews, and its ideas on worship, prayer and what defines a community will inevitably cross into mainstream practice.

“What happens in American Judaism over and over is that the margins influence the mainstream,” Sarna said. “I don’t expect many of the independent minyanim themselves will be long lasting. But I think we will look back and say that they had long-lasting influence.”

Fewer Spaniards say they are Catholic: study

The proportion of Spaniards who say they are Roman Catholic has fallen to 73 percent from around 80 percent eight years ago, according to a survey released Thursday by the CIS research centre.

About 25 percent of all Spaniards now claim to be atheists or without a religion, compared to 17 percent in 2002, the June survey of 2,500 adults found.