Religion = politics in America

Even as overall party identification trends in the U.S. have shifted over the past six and half years, the relationship between religion and party identification has remained consistent. Very religious Americans are more likely to identify with or lean toward the Republican Party and less frequently identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, compared with those who are moderately or nonreligious.

images-1

Gallup classifies Americans as “very religious” if they say religion is an important part of their daily lives and that they attend religious services every week or almost every week. That group constituted 41% of all U.S. adults in the first half of 2014. “Nonreligious” Americans (30% of Americans in 2014) are those who say religion is not an important part of their daily lives and that they seldom or never attend religious services. The remaining group, 29%, are classified as “moderately religious.” These people say religion is important in their lives but that they do not attend services regularly, or that religion is not important but that they still attend services.

From 2008 to June 2014, nonreligious Americans have been the most Democratic of the three religious groups, with a net Democratic value ranging between +38 and +19 over that period. Those who are moderately religious have also tilted Democratic, with net values ranging from +23 to +1. Those who are very religious are least Democratic, with net values in the negative range, meaning that on average, this group identifies with or leans toward the Republican Party more than the Democratic Party. Continue reading “Religion = politics in America”

Marriage equality = religious freedom

A coalition of clergy members is challenging North Carolina’s constitutional ban on gay marriage with an unusual approach: They’re filing a federal lawsuit that contends that the ban violates their First Amendment religious freedom rights.

The clergy members said in the lawsuit filed Monday that they would like to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies in their congregations but can’t because of the “unjust law.”images

The lawsuit is one of dozens that have been filed in the wake of the Supreme Court’s reversal of the Defense of Marriage Act last year. Since then, several states have challenged the legality of their same-sex marriage bans. But this is the first to use the First Amendment protection of freedom of religion as the basis for the challenge.

“North Carolina’s marriage laws are a direct affront to freedom of religion,” said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, executive minister with the Cleveland-based United Church of Christ, which is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “We feel that it is important that any person that comes into community life of a United Church of Christ congregation be afforded equal pastoral care and equal opportunity to religious services that clergy provide.”

But in North Carolina, clergy are often faced with a troubling decision — “whether to provide those services or break the law,” Guess said. “That’s something no clergy member should be faced with.”

Along with the United Church of Christ, which has more than 1 million parishioners across the country and over 50,000 in North Carolina, a dozen clergy members and same-sex couples were listed as plaintiffs. The defendants included North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper and several county district attorneys as well as five registers of deeds. Continue reading “Marriage equality = religious freedom”

Myth of war on religion

Last week, the Public Religion Research Institute published a study showing that Americans want their fellow citizens to think they are more religiously observant than they really areimgres. When asked by a live human being on the telephone how often they attend religious services, respondents were more likely to say they attend frequently. When filling out a self-administered online survey, by contrast, they were more likely to admit that they do not.

Surprising? Not terribly. But this may be: Liberals were more likely to exaggerate their religious attendance than conservatives. Liberals attend services

Why does this matter? Because it’s more evidence that the claim that liberals are waging a “war on religion” is absurd. You can hardly listen to a GOP presidential hopeful or flip on Fox News without hearing the charge. In 2012, Rick Perry promised that if elected he’d “end Obama’s war on religion.” Bobby Jindal recently warned that “the American people, whether they know it or not, are mired in a silent war” against “a group of like-minded [liberal] elites, determined to transform the country from a land sustained by faith into a land where faith is silenced, privatized, and circumscribed.” Ann Coulter explains, “Liberals hate religion because politics is a religion substitute for liberals and they can’t stand the competition.”

Notice the claim. It’s not merely that liberals are not religious themselves. It’s that they disdain people who are, and this disdain creates a cultural stigma (and a legal barrier) to religious observance. “Bigotry against evangelical Christians is the last acceptable form of bigotry in the country,” Ralph Reed said recently. Continue reading “Myth of war on religion”

Drugs and religion

The notion that hallucinogenic drugs played a significant part in the development of religion has been extensively discussed, particularly since the middle of the twentieth century.

As reported in today’s The Atlantic, “Various ideas of this type have been collected into what has become known as the entheogen theory. The word entheogen is a neologism coined

images

in 1979 by a group of ethnobotanists (those that study the relationship between people and plants). The literal meaning of entheogen is “that which causes God to be within an individual” and might be considered as a more accurate and academic term for popular terms such as hallucinogen or psychedelic drug. By the term entheogen we understand the use of psychoactive substances for religious or spiritual reasons rather than for purely recreational purposes.

“Perhaps one of the first things to consider is whether there is any direct evidence for the entheogenic theory of religion which derives from contemporary science. One famous example that has been widely discussed is the Marsh Chapel experiment. This experiment was run by the Harvard Psilocybin Project in the early 1960s, a research project spearheaded by Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert. Leary had traveled to Mexico in 1960, where he had been introduced to the effects of hallucinogenic psilocybin-containing mushrooms and was anxious to explore the implications of the drug for psychological research.

“On Good Friday 1962, two groups of students received either psilocybin or niacin (a nonhallucinogenic “control” substance) on a double-blind basis prior to the service in Boston University’s Marsh Chapel. Following the service nearly the entire group receiving psilocybin reported having had a profound religious experience, compared to just a few in the control group. This result was therefore judged to have supported the entheogenic potential of hallucinogenic drug use. Interestingly, the experiment has subsequently been repeated under somewhat different and arguably better controlled circumstances and the results were substantially the same. Continue reading “Drugs and religion”

Speedfaithing at Irvine

images-1You have 10 minutes to sell someone on Catholicism, no more than that to distill the teachings of the Koran or the foundations of Mormonism. It’s speed-dating for religion, and in a burst of faith-driven curiosity, dozens of students at UC Irvine raced from room to room Wednesday to listen to religious students (and two atheists) break down the core tenets of their belief system while on the clock, reports today’s LA Times

“Is it required to wear wraps on your head?” “What exactly do you do on a mission?” “Do you go to an atheist church?” Before students began faith shopping, organizers offered a little advice: Don’t see it as an opportunity for debate. Just listen. And keep it short. “You obviously can’t learn everything about a religion in 10 minutes and that’s not the point,” said Karina Hamilton, director of the Dalai Lama Scholars Program at UC Irvine.

“Speedfaithing was developed by Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based nonprofit that promotes religious tolerance, as a way to help young people interact with members of diverse faiths. Since it began in 2005, similar events have been held at colleges across the country. In Irvine, organizers planned the midday event in advance of a visit next week by Interfaith Youth Core founder Eboo Patel, a member of President Obama’s inaugural Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. “In Orange County we have tremendous diversity,” said Raid Faraj, diversity educator for the school’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity. “We have members of almost every major religious faith you can think of…. This is an opportunity to create a safe environment for people to come together and ask questions.” During the first session, a handful of students gathered around Chase Davis, a fourth-year biology major, who was responsible for explaining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.He covered the basics — the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and the importance of family. And he told his own story, of finding faith a couple of years ago. Continue reading “Speedfaithing at Irvine”

Smoking after church

Smoking in the U.S. is highly correlated with religiosity, with those who never attend church almost three times as likely to smoke as those who attend weekly.images-1

This relationship holds even when controlling for demographic characteristics associated with smoking and church attendance, reports Gallup.

“These data are based on 353,571 interviews conducted throughout 2012 with American adults aged 18 and older as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

“Smoking as measured by the question “Do you smoke?” increases in a linear fashion as church attendance decreases, ranging from a low of 12% among those who report attending church at least once a week, to 30% among those who never attend church.

“Both smoking and religious service attendance are related to a number of demographic characteristics within the population, including:

  • Age — smoking decreases with age, while religious service attendance increases
  • Gender — men are more likely to smoke but are less likely to attend church
  • Marital status — smoking is lower among married Americans, while church attendance is higher Continue reading “Smoking after church”

Seeking a cure for religious fundamentalism

An Oxford University researcher and author specializing in neuroscience has suggested that one day religious fundamentalism may be treated as a curable mental illness, reports Huffington Postimages-2

“Kathleen Taylor, who describes herself as a “science writer affiliated to the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics,” made the suggestion during a presentation on brain research at the Hay Literary Festival in Wales on Wednesday.In response to a question about the future of neuroscience, Taylor said that “One of the surprises may be to see people with certain beliefs as people who can be treated,” The Times of London notes.

“Someone who has for example become radicalised to a cult ideology — we might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of mental disturbance,” Taylor said. “In many ways it could be a very positive thing because there are no doubt beliefs in our society that do a heck of a lot of damage.”The author went on to say she wasn’t just referring to the “obvious candidates like radical Islam,” but also meant such beliefs as the idea that beating children is acceptable. Taylor was not immediately available for comment.”

Continue reading “Seeking a cure for religious fundamentalism”

“Nones” still growing, but more slowly

imgresLast year the “rise of the nones” made headlines, as pollsters noted significant increases in the number of Americans who checked “no religion” on surveys. As the Gallup organization today summarized:

“The percentage of American adults who have no explicit religious identification averaged 17.8% in 2012, up from 14.6% in 2008 — but only slightly higher than the 17.5% in 2011. The 2011 to 2012 uptick in religious ‘nones’ is the smallest such year-to-year increase over the past five years of Gallup Daily tracking of religion in America.”

Apparently the number of nones continues to grow, but recent data show the increases are beginning to plateau. To measure the phenomenon, Gallup asked:  “What is your religious preference — are you Protestant, Roman Catholic, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, another religion, or no religion? (If respondent names ‘another religion,’ ask:) Would that be a Christian religion or is it not a Christian religion? Religious ‘nones’ are those who respond ’no religion’ as well as those who say they don’t know or refuse to answer. Continue reading ““Nones” still growing, but more slowly”

One in five Americans now “non-religious”

These days the Pew Research Center has been doing more than polling voters. In a new study, Pew reports a precipitous drop in the number of Americans who identify as “religious.” In a report entitled “”Nones” on the Rise,” Pew finds that “one-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling. In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%). This large and growing group of Americans is less religious than the public at large on many conventional measures, including frequency of attendance at religious services and the degree of importance they attach to religion in their lives. Continue reading “One in five Americans now “non-religious””