People often talk about how religious a country the United States is, and compared to many European countries this is the case. The map below, based on Gallup data collected from 2006-2008, however, shows that there’s considerable variation in religiosity worldwide. There are interesting patterns by wealth, type of religion, and continent.
Here’s an interesting article from yesterday’s New York Times. It describes what it calls “New Evangelicals”… basically Evangelical Christians who value social justice. Quoting Scot McKnight, it describes this group as follows:
“A sizable portion of evangelicals have left the right, so to speak, in what the theologian Scot McKnight called “the biggest change in the evangelical movement,” nothing less than the emergence of “a new kind of Christian social conscience.” These new evangelicals focus on economic justice, environmental protection and immigration reform — not exactly Republican strong points. The religious right remains a potent political force, but where once there was the appearance of an evangelical movement that sang out in one voice, there is now a robust polyphony.”
The article claims that 19% of the population fits into this category, but I think this number is way too high. (They put into all evangelicals who don’t self-identify as the religious right).
Still, it’s interesting to see variation among Evangelicals and how this will play out in politics.
Thank you Ed Cyzewski
Part 4 in a series on deconversion.
Going into this study of deconversion, I figured that interactions and relationships with non-Christians would be an important cause for people leaving. After, we’re sociologists, and we study how peer and friend relationships affect so many things.
However, in the narratives themselves, there were surprisingly few references to non-Christians leading the writers away from faith. We counted only eight in the fifty testimonies that we read. For example, one writer had a non-Christian friend loan him a book arguing against Christianity. Another had a family member who advocated against Christianity.
Far more commonly, non-Christians were mentioned as supporting the writers’ decisions after they had left Christianity. For example, the website from which we drew the narratives endorsed and supported the decisions of former Christians, but it did not seem to initially bring about these decisions.
As such, the narrative writers rarely described individuals outside of the church as helping bring about their deconversion. Rather, they described new relationships with non-Christians (exemplified by their participation in an online community for deconverts) as the consequence, not cause, of changes in their beliefs.
Why might non-Christians be mostly absent from these deconversion stories? One answer might be the insular social networks of some Christians, for several writers spoke of having had relatively few interactions or relationships with non-Christians. For example, a woman raised in the church wrote that she did not even know what the word “atheist” meant until she was in her twenties.
Generally speaking, then, [Read more…]
A problem with moral standards, whether rooted in Christianity or otherwise, is how to express them in a cultural context. That is, are we doing something because we think it’s right to do or because it’s socially-normative behavior. (And I realize that the two need not be separate). As such, sometimes we understand the morality of behavior more clearly when it goes against cultural expectations.
Here’s a story from NPR several years ago that illustrates it. It tells of how a man responded to being mugged. The “proper” response to being mugged is to 1) be safe and 2) contribute to the mugger getting caught or hurt. Instead, this victim expressed love.
It starts: [Read more…]