Atheists who believe in God & believers who don’t

According to recent studies, 21% of atheists believe in God.  10% of them pray.  A majority of atheists say that religion is somewhat or very important in their lives.  This is slightly more than the larger category of the “nones,” those who say they have no particular religious identity, nearly half of whom say that religion is important to them.

Then again, those who do claim a religious identity do not necessarily have religious beliefs.  Eight times as many religiously affiliated people doubt the existence of God than there are atheists and agnostics.

Douglas Laycock brings out these findings in his analysis of the recent Pew study of American religion and the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), excerpted after the jump. [Read more...]

Less religion, but more commitment?

The latest Religious Landscape study from Pew Research, last conducted in 2007, shows a drop off in the religious affiliation of Americans, from 83% to 77%.  And yet, among those who are affiliated with a church or its equivalent, more read the Bible, share their faith, go to prayer groups or Bible studies,  draw on their religion for moral guidance, and believe in preserving traditional beliefs and practices. [Read more...]

The three types of secularism

I stumbled upon this article from seven years ago–another one by the great sociologist of religion Peter Berger.  He distinguishes between three kinds of secularism:  one that separates church and state but is not anti-religous; one that has an animus against public religion but is fine with privatized faith; and one that actively tries to suppress all religion. [Read more...]

From “God is dead” to “too many gods”

Peter Berger, a Lutheran in the ELCA, is an important sociologist of religion.  Back in the 1970s, he was one of the scholars who advocated the “secularization” thesis, that as societies grew more modern, they grew less religious.  But now he says that he was wrong.  Today, as societies in Asia, Latin America, and Africa are modernizing, they are becoming MORE religious.  Berger says that what modernity brings is not secularism but religious pluralism.  He says that what we face today is not “God is dead,” but “too many gods.” [Read more...]

Why do so few Europeans go to church?

The distinguished sociologist of religion Peter Berger once promoted “the secularization thesis,” arguing that as societies become more modern, they become less religious.  But he has since said that thesis has been falsified, that the world is getting more religious than ever (and that modernity actually has contributed to the growth of religion).  The more interesting question, he says now, is why Europe has resisted that trend.

I am wondering now, though, after my speaking tour of Scandinavia, if Europe is as secular as it appears.

Nearly 80% of the population of Denmark belongs to the state church.  This requires paying a church tax of from .4% to 1.5% of one’s income, on top of an already crushing tax burden.  These members have been baptized and confirmed and they will be married and buried in the church, but only 3% of them go to church on any given Sunday.

Here are further statistics about the religious climate in Denmark:  According to a 2010 poll, 24% are atheists; 47% believe more vaguely in “some sort of spirit or life force”; and 28% believe in God.  Another poll found that 25% of Danes believe Jesus is the son of God and 18% believe He is the savior of the world.

So, yes, Denmark is a very secular country, with lots of non-believers (about a fourth) and liberal believers (about a half), but another fourth appears to confess Christ.  Perhaps a fifth are Gospel-believing Christians.  That’s actually not bad for a supposedly secular country.

But let’s put the statistics together.  If 80% of the country belong to the Church of Denmark, that must include lots of people who do not particularly believe in Christ, or even God.  And if only 3% of the population attends church regularly, that means that lots of Christians are not attending church either. [Read more...]

The problem with polls

Today’s politics rely a great deal on polls.  The problem is, election polling–which has had some spectacular failures lately–is faced with two huge problems:

(1) Cell phone usage has shot up, to the point that 47% of the population no longer has a land line.  And robo-calling of cell phone numbers is illegal.

(2)  The response rate to polls has plummeted.  In the 1970s, the percentage of people who responded to pollster’s surveys was 80%.  Today, it is 8%.

Thus, a recent national political poll conducted by NBC was based on just 236 responses! [Read more...]


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