Americans are still reading books

The death of the book has been greatly exaggerated.

A Pew study has found that Americans are reading books in large numbers.  Nearly three-fourths of Americans have read at least one book in the past year.  The average number of books read in that period is 12.

E-books are growing in popularity, but they still lag behind print books.  28% of the public have read an e-book over the last year, but only 6% read e-books exclusively. [Read more…]

New study on church-going has surprises

Pew Research has released a new study on church-going, including why people leave, how they choose a new congregation, and why people don’t attend.  Read the study here.

The reason lots of people have stopped going to church, it turns out, is not so much that they are rejecting religion in favor of scientific materialism.  Rather, the logistics of getting up on Sunday and organizing themselves and the family for a trip to church is just too difficult.

The main reason people choose a new congregation is not disagreement with the pastor of the old one (a reason given only by 11%), but because they have moved.  The factor that is most influential in choosing a new congregation?  The pastor’s sermons.

There are other surprises:  denominational loyalty is still an important factor; while many people attend church less, almost 25% of Americans are attending church more.

Take a look at the study and then read an analysis of the findings by Emma Green in the Atlantic, excerpted and linked after the jump. [Read more…]

Study challenges LGBT assumptions 

Public opinion, government policy, and Supreme Court rulings about LGBT issues has been predicated on the notion that same-sex attraction and having a gender identity different from one’s biological sex are innate, fixed conditions.  In the words of the Lady Gaga song, “I was born this way.”

But a Johns Hopkins study has found otherwise.
[Read more…]

Why the LA Times poll differs from the others

Most polls show Donald Trump losing big time, especially in the crucial battleground states.  But the L.A. Times poll shows Trump ahead of Clinton by two points, a fact heralded by the Trump campaign.  So why are that poll’s results so different?

Most polls ask people who they are going to vote for.  The L.A. Times poll, designed by USC social scientists, is not so straightforward.  It asks a pre-selected group, used for other research purposes, to rate on a scale from 0-100 their chances of voting for a particular candidate.  Then the results are weighted for demographics, which is usual, but then also weighted for how the respondents voted in the 2012 election.

The Times admits that the result is that Republicans are probably over-represented.  I would add that the 0-100 scale isn’t going to tell us much if respondents are ambivalent about both candidates.  But I think this is also an example of social scientists overthinking their task and trying to come up with a methodology that is so sophisticated that it is unlikely to work.  But maybe it will.  We’ll know in November. [Read more…]

Morality as politics

The Pew Research Center has conducted a study finding that 64% of church goers heard political issues being preached from the pulpit.  Those “political issues” included abortion, homosexuality, religious liberty, the environment, and economic inequality.

Now those are mostly moral–not political–issues.  Churches have always taught about sexual morality and respect for human life.  They have also addressed issues of social morality.  That is not being political.  The Pew study found that only 14% heard political candidates being promoted or criticized.

What’s interesting here is that the researchers consider moral beliefs to be nothing more than political positions.  To be sure, government dictates about morality gives them a political dimension they normally would not have.  This is especially true when the government requirements run counter to the church’s traditional moral teachings.  Of course the church must push back against that.

But the problem isn’t churches meddling into politics.  It is the government meddling into morality.

[Read more…]

Young men living the dream

Research shows that young men 18-30 are more likely to be living with their parents than with a woman.  And that the large number of the unemployed in this demographic are not only living with their parents but spending virtually all of the time they would normally be working playing video games.

But here is the kicker:  They LIKE living this way.  It isn’t that poor economic prospects are causing them to retreat into a depressing isolation.  They consider this a good life.  Expending their sexual impulses in internet pornography, rather than marriage or dating that could lead to marriage, and channeling all of their aggression into first person shooters, instead of the military or ambition or earning a living or protecting a family, this generation is happy, content, and living the dream.

So says Samuel D. James, drawing on the research of Erik Hurst and the insights of Russell Moore, excerpted and linked after the jump.

[Read more…]