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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.
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.
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.
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.
The vast majority of people in sub-Saharan Africa are deeply committed to the world’s two largest religions, according to the study by the Pew Research Forum on Religion and Public Life.
At the same time, the proportion of Britons who say they have “no religion” has increased from 31 per cent to 43 per cent.
These findings on the world Muslim population lay the foundation for a forthcoming study by the Pew Forum, scheduled to be released in 2010, that will estimate growth rates among Muslim populations worldwide and project Muslim populations into the future.
Clearly, interest in religion is high. News magazines run cover stories. Megachurches are booming. Political campaigns target churchgoers as a valuable metric to win elections.
So why are fewer Americans identifying with a religion, denomination or particular faith group? Why are a growing number of people becoming faith-free? And if the trend continues, is it a matter of alarm?
These are questions Wayne Slater, of The Dallas Morning News, asked of a panel of religious leaders.
The Great Recession made things worse, AP reports.
It’s further drained the financial resources of many congregations, seminaries and religious day schools. Some congregations have disappeared and schools have been closed. In areas hit hardest by the recession, worshippers have moved away to find jobs, leaving those who remain to minister to communities struggling with rising home foreclosures, unemployment and uncertainty.
Religion has a long history of drawing hope out of suffering, but there’s little good news emerging from the recession. Long after the economy improves, the changes made today will have a profound effect on how people practice their faith, where they turn for help in times of stress and how they pass their beliefs to their children.
In a culture where people readily engage physical trainers to hone their bodies and psychotherapists to untangle their neuroses, an increasing number are looking to spiritual directors as “spotters” for their souls.
As it has grown larger, the no religion or None population is no longer a fringe group and the “None” choice in terms of (ir)religious identification is now attracting wide swaths of Middle America.
The rise of the secular student movement parallels that of the broader secular demographic in the U.S.
Consider this: 39% of Americans attend church weekly yet 75% pray at least weekly, according to the Pew Religion Forum. In fact, 58% overall, and 66% of American women pray daily.
And maybe most remarkably: 35% of those who don’t identify with any religion at all — the “unaffiliated”– pray weekly or daily. That means there’s a large number of Americans who don’t attend church regularly but pray a great deal.
These statistics, as well as the popularity over the years of books like the Prayer of Jabez and The Secret and many other devotional books, show that prayer has become popular on its own, sometimes detached from the tradition of church. Call it Prayerism.
The only group that grew in every U.S. state since the 2001 survey was people saying they had “no” religion; the survey says this group is now 15 percent of the population. Mark Silk said this group is likely responsible for the shrinking percentage of Christians in the United States.
But researchers point out that just because people are dropping out of organized religion, that doesn’t mean they’re abandoning faith.
“Growing numbers of people now serve as their own theologian-in-residence,” said George Barna, president of Barna Group, on releasing findings of one of the polls on Jan. 12.