Churches, Chapels, and Desirable Residences

At a recent Sunday service, my church sang the hymn “Come thou fount of every blessing,” with its line “Here I raise my Ebenezer, Hither by thy help I come.” This is a classic example of a line that made wonderful sense to a Biblically-literate audience, who knew that Ebenezer was a “stone of help” [Read More…]

Religions Dead and Living

In recent columns, I looked at what happened to a religion heavily focused on hierarchy and clergy when it was cut loose from those moorings – how in fact it reverted to what we might call a default kind of religion. I noted for instance the emphasis on sacred places and objects, on charismatic individuals, [Read More…]

The Ghosts of Religion Past

When religious systems die or collapse, how do their followers carry on? Historically, such a situation is not that uncommon. Imagine a society with an established religion of some kind, based on hierarchical structures and priests, and then, for whatever reason, those structures vanish. In some cases, a new civil and religious order forbids or [Read More…]

Fertility, Faith and Politics

I have been writing on the global demographic revolution marked by collapsing fertility rates and shrinking family sizes. In particular, I have focused on the religious implications of these changes. For a variety of reasons, lower fertility shows a close correlation to secularization, and the rapid decline of organized religion. Some social issues in particular [Read More…]

Fertility, Faith and Islam

I have been posting about declining fertility rates around the world, specifically about their impact on religiosity and secularization. Beyond that, those rates also serve as excellent indicators of trends in gender roles and relationships, and a wide range of social and cultural themes. Tell me a country’s total fertility rate (TFR) and I will [Read More…]

Fertility and Faith, Continued

I have made the case that fertility and faith are intimately linked. Very generally, falling fertility rates correlate with declining support for organized religion, and growing secularization. (This is the total fertility rate, TFR). The key marker is the “replacement” rate, when a typical woman bears 2.1 children during the course of her life. When [Read More…]

Fertility and Faith

I have written a good deal about the relationship between demographics and religious loyalties, and this theme has critical implications for the future development of all the world’s faiths. This topic will probably be the theme of my next book, so let me take the opportunity offered by the blog format to lay out some [Read More…]

Secularization or Religious Pluralism?

What is the “big story” that scholars should tell about the relationship of religion to the modern world? For many decades, social scientists believed that modernization led ineluctably to secularization. Modern goods such as science, democracy, technology, social mobility, and the free market meant that, sooner or later, religion was destined to swoon and irreligion [Read More…]

Secularization and Scotland’s Christian Heritage

One of the most immediate differences from America one notices in the U.K. is how secularized the society is (especially compared to Texas!). Polls in Scotland suggest that even nominal adherence to Christianity, and Christian orthodoxy, is in massive decline. Although opinion data is often difficult to interpret with precision, the overall pattern seems clear. [Read More…]

WHERE HAVE ALL THE CULTISTS GONE?

One of the most enjoyable academic conferences on religious studies is CESNUR, the Center for the Study of New Religions, and this past month we hosted the group’s annual meeting at Baylor. I spoke on a topic that I have addressed before, namely the sharp decline in public concern (or panic) about dangerous religious cults [Read More…]