PDA

View Full Version : Religion in the World


Ocean
09-04-2010, 06:14 PM
I found this article (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/04/opinion/04blow.html?hpp://) in the NYTimes, with an interesting and colorful graph.

Here (http://www.gallup.com/poll/142727/religiosity-highest-world-poorest-nations.aspx#1) is the link to the Gallup report that is discussed in the article. And another Gallup report (http://www.gallup.com/poll/128276/Increasing-Number-No-Religious-Identity.aspx) tracking religious identity in the U.S.

AemJeff
09-04-2010, 06:19 PM
I found this article (htthttp://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/04/opinion/04blow.html?hpp://) in the NYTimes, with an interesting and colorful graph.

Here (http://www.gallup.com/poll/142727/religiosity-highest-world-poorest-nations.aspx#1) is the link to the Gallup report that is discussed in the article. And another Gallup report (http://www.gallup.com/poll/128276/Increasing-Number-No-Religious-Identity.aspx) tracking religious identity in the U.S.

Ocean, check the first URL in the above. Here is a fixed version:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/04/opinion/04blow.html

Ocean
09-04-2010, 06:21 PM
Ocean, check the first URL in the above. Here is a fixed version:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/04/opinion/04blow.html

Fixed! Thanks!

kezboard
09-05-2010, 01:06 PM
I guess the oversimplified message of the graph is supposed to be that the richer the country, the less likely it is to be religious -- so therefore, America is exceptional as a rich country whose citizens still say that religion is important in their daily lives. But another way that the US is distinct from other Western countries is in its high levels of economic inequality, and I wonder how we would look if that were factored in. Maybe upper-income Americans are more likely to fit the European pattern -- I'm not sure.

Also, we aren't the only exceptional country in terms of religiosity. Gallup says that post-communist countries are characterized by low levels of religiosity as a result of repression of religious practice during the communist period, but that's directly contradicted by their statistics. I counted eleven post-communist countries that have higher levels of religiosity than the US. Most of those are really poor (Moldova, Kyrgyzstan) and can be written into Gallup's pattern, but some of them aren't -- I don't think Croatia or Poland (high religiosity) are considerably poorer than Hungary (low).

The whole poorer = more religious scheme seems to work for one region -- Western Europe. Why should the US, or Romania, or Vietnam, be expected to follow Western European social trends?

Ocean
09-05-2010, 01:26 PM
I guess the oversimplified message of the graph is supposed to be that the richer the country, the less likely it is to be religious -- so therefore, America is exceptional as a rich country whose citizens still say that religion is important in their daily lives. But another way that the US is distinct from other Western countries is in its high levels of economic inequality, and I wonder how we would look if that were factored in. Maybe upper-income Americans are more likely to fit the European pattern -- I'm not sure.

Also, we aren't the only exceptional country in terms of religiosity. Gallup says that post-communist countries are characterized by low levels of religiosity as a result of repression of religious practice during the communist period, but that's directly contradicted by their statistics. I counted eleven post-communist countries that have higher levels of religiosity than the US. Most of those are really poor (Moldova, Kyrgyzstan) and can be written into Gallup's pattern, but some of them aren't -- I don't think Croatia or Poland (high religiosity) are considerably poorer than Hungary (low).

The whole poorer = more religious scheme seems to work for one region -- Western Europe. Why should the US, or Romania, or Vietnam, be expected to follow Western European social trends?

If you look at the graph in the NYTimes, you can see the distribution having a clear trend toward lower per capita GDP and higher religiosity. There will always be countries that fall outside that pattern, but the trend is clear.

In terms of the weight of economic inequality in the U.S., that question can't be answered with the data presented here alone. You may be able to find additional data elsewhere that can help. I did a quick google search and found this other data (http://www.stat.columbia.edu/~cook/movabletype/archives/2007/11/religiosity_and.html) which shows distribution of religious attendance by income level and by state in the U.S. Here the trend is also lower income higher attendance, but it seems more scattered. One would have to have the actual numbers and statistics.

operative
09-05-2010, 05:48 PM
If you look at the graph in the NYTimes, you can see the distribution having a clear trend toward lower per capita GDP and higher religiosity. There will always be countries that fall outside that pattern, but the trend is clear.

In terms of the weight of economic inequality in the U.S., that question can't be answered with the data presented here alone. You may be able to find additional data elsewhere that can help. I did a quick google search and found this other data (http://www.stat.columbia.edu/~cook/movabletype/archives/2007/11/religiosity_and.html) which shows distribution of religious attendance by income level and by state in the U.S. Here the trend is also lower income higher attendance, but it seems more scattered. One would have to have the actual numbers and statistics.

I think that some of those connections may be spurious. For instance, if you were to run a quick test for correlation between states with higher populations of African Americans and higher church attendance, you'd likely find a strong link (Utah is probably the one outliers, but this is for obvious reasons). I don't ascribe the increased religiosity in the African American community to their general status as poorer Americans.

I think that many Christian denominations have been shown to have a lower attendance rate with higher educational attainment, which can also be correlated to higher earnings. Latter Day Saints are one conspicuous exception, as higher educational attainment actually tends to correlate with increased church attendance.

I also wouldn't draw any link to economic factors as poverty in America is nothing like poverty in the developing world, where church attendance can be extremely high (Nigeria is the highest, in terms of church attendance, that I know of, which can be partly credited to the roughly even split between Christians and Muslims). Simply put, there is no such thing as poverty in America, at least not when we have a global focus. There are poorer Americans, but that's about it.

Unlike most European countries, America never had a state church nor was religiosity ever compelled. We've always been a nation that endorsed and supported freedom of religion, and that makes a tremendous difference: compelling someone to do anything has long term issues.

So, it's actually our historical freedom, if anything, that can be credited with our continued religiosity.

Ocean
09-05-2010, 06:01 PM
You raise some good points, although you seem to reach conclusions that aren't supported by the data presented.


You hypothesize that higher African American population can account for higher church attendance. I don't know what other demographic data was used in the survey, but they could control for race in order to determine that possible association, if they have that information. And income level would certainly be associated with race.

You said:

I don't ascribe the increased religiosity in the African American community to their general status as poorer Americans.


Why? I don't know what to ascribe the increased religiosity to, but I can't rule out that poverty has an effect.

I agree with the comparison between poverty in America and the developing world. However, the survey initially cited in the NY Times article referred to GDP per capita, not other poverty indexes.

You said:

So, it's actually our historical freedom, if anything, that can be credited with our continued religiosity.


How did you reach that conclusion?

operative
09-05-2010, 06:30 PM
Why? I don't know what to ascribe the increased religiosity to, but I can't rule out that poverty has an effect.

Well, I wouldn't state unequivecally that it has nothing to do with anything, and I am certainly not an expert in the area, but I think that there is a strongly engrained culture of church attendance in the African American community. Church serves an important role within the community structure. And I'd argue that this is income-neutral, as we can see a similar culture among Latter Day Saints; unfortunately I couldn't find a quick guide to average income by denomination that included LDS, but here is one without it: http://www.success-and-culture.net/articles/incomes.shtml

One way to test the hypothesis would be to chart the decline of AA church attendance with income level, compared with white patterns. Of course, the denomination could be a factor there--generally I think that denominations who are more rigidly anti-evolution are more likely to lose more-educated adherents, though I haven't read anything confirming this.





How did you reach that conclusion?

By reaching :p

It's more a hypothesis than a conclusion, really. It's what makes sense to me as a distinguishing feature between American culture and European cultures. As a matter of fact, Poland is the most religious of all European countries, and they are a country that had to fight against a Communist, atheistic regime. Think of it as a Newtonian phenomena--the more a government pushes one way, the more a country will resist in the opposite way. Cultural reasons and our distinct history is also what I would credit for our lack of a powerful communist/fascist movement, even in the midst of the Great Depression.

Ocean
09-05-2010, 07:00 PM
Well, I wouldn't state unequivecally that it has nothing to do with anything, and I am certainly not an expert in the area, but I think that there is a strongly engrained culture of church attendance in the African American community. Church serves an important role within the community structure. And I'd argue that this is income-neutral, as we can see a similar culture among Latter Day Saints; unfortunately I couldn't find a quick guide to average income by denomination that included LDS, but here is one without it: http://www.success-and-culture.net/articles/incomes.shtml

One way to test the hypothesis would be to chart the decline of AA church attendance with income level, compared with white patterns. Of course, the denomination could be a factor there--generally I think that denominations who are more rigidly anti-evolution are more likely to lose more-educated adherents, though I haven't read anything confirming this.

I would speculate, like you, that the historical segregation of African American make them more likely to group around activities that are communal, such as church attendance. I could imagine that for centuries it was also a source of comfort for the multiple hardships that the group suffered.


By reaching :p


*rolls eyes*

It's more a hypothesis than a conclusion, really. It's what makes sense to me as a distinguishing feature between American culture and European cultures. As a matter of fact, Poland is the most religious of all European countries, and they are a country that had to fight against a Communist, atheistic regime. Think of it as a Newtonian phenomena--the more a government pushes one way, the more a country will resist in the opposite way. Cultural reasons and our distinct history is also what I would credit for our lack of a powerful communist/fascist movement, even in the midst of the Great Depression.

Hmmm... Europe is coming from a past of rule by monarchies and church. They emerged from that rule through the Enlightenment revolutionary process. It's not surprising that since then they have continued to move away from religious practice while they embrace secularism. The U.S. followed a different course. Perhaps because independence was reached before the European secularization was completed, the U.S. stayed at that religious stage. I don't really know how that worked. I guess there must be scholars who have studied the process. But, I doubt that freedom led directly to religious adherence. At least it doesn't make a lot of sense to me conceptually.

operative
09-06-2010, 01:05 AM
Well, I wouldn't say that freedom led to religious adherence, in the sense of creating it where it would not otherwise have existed. I'd argue that it's more of a sustaining force than anything.

If you wanted to make an alternative argument you could look at settlement patterns and make a strongly cultural argument--for instance, Washington and Oregon are among the least religious states whereas the Dakotas are among the most religious. The Dakotas have a strong Scandinavian influence owing to much of the settlers, something that certainly sets them apart from the Pacific northwest.

Here's a recent Gallup survey on it:
http://www.gallup.com/poll/125999/Mississippians-Go-Church-Most-Vermonters-Least.aspx

That shows a substantial difference regionally. The south and the midwest are substantially more religious than the Pacific and Atlantic coastal states. Settlement patterns could explain it.

rfrobison
09-06-2010, 01:21 AM
Europe is coming from a past of rule by monarchies and church. They emerged from that rule through the Enlightenment revolutionary process. It's not surprising that since then they have continued to move away from religious practice while they embrace secularism. The U.S. followed a different course. Perhaps because independence was reached before the European secularization was completed, the U.S. stayed at that religious stage. I don't really know how that worked. I guess there must be scholars who have studied the process. But, I doubt that freedom led directly to religious adherence. At least it doesn't make a lot of sense to me conceptually.

One thing that may be missing from your analysis is the strong separation of church and state in the U.S. compared to the state church model in much of Europe (France would be a major exception and there are others, no doubt). This ties into our discussion on the other thread -- which I hope to get back to later.

One hypothesis I've heard is that the U.S. "free market" approach to religion, where various groups compete for adherents has forced "sellers" to innovate, whereas in large swathes of Europe favored churches have more or less held a monopoly, breeding complacency.

Something for my cohorts to consider, aside from the dubious morality of fusing national and religious identity.

Ocean
09-06-2010, 10:20 AM
One hypothesis I've heard is that the U.S. "free market" approach to religion, where various groups compete for adherents has forced "sellers" to innovate, whereas in large swathes of Europe favored churches have more or less held a monopoly, breeding complacency.


Yes, that sounds possible. The multiplicity of denominations may make church attendance much more vital in order to maintain each particular group in a larger community.

kezboard
09-06-2010, 12:29 PM
As a matter of fact, Poland is the most religious of all European countries, and they are a country that had to fight against a Communist, atheistic regime.

According to the Gallup poll, it's less religious than Romania, Kosovo, Bosnia, Georgia, and Macedonia. These are all post-communist countries too, but so are some of the least religious countries in Europe. Estonia is the least religious country listed, and they were no less oppressed under Soviet communism than the Poles (if not more -- they were annexed by the USSR). I guess the Czech Republic wasn't polled by Gallup, but it shares the dominant Catholic tradition and central European culture, not to mention a closely related language, with Poland, whereas Estonia is AFAIK dominated by Lutheranism and more closely culturally linked to the Scandinavian countries -- but the CR can't be much more religious than Estonia is. The reasons are pretty complicated, but it has very little to do with communism and much more to do with the formation of national identity. Polish nationalism embraced the Catholic church as a symbol of national identity (in contrast, I guess, to the Orthodox Russian and Protestant Prussian occupiers), while Czech nationalism was very strongly anti-clerical because of the history of religious subjugation by the Habsburgs after the Hussite and Thirty Years Wars.

I suppose in a way this could confirm what you said about a Newtonian reaction, although you would think that if that were the case, forced Catholicization by the Habsburgs would have resulted in more Protestantism among Czechs, not more atheism. I basically agree with you about the state church "defanging" religion in countries like Great Britain, but this can't apply to countries like the CR or Estonia which never had state churches.

stephanie
09-06-2010, 03:58 PM
Yes, that sounds possible. The multiplicity of denominations may make church attendance much more vital in order to maintain each particular group in a larger community.

Perhaps related to this, and the greater religiosity of AAs on average, is the fact that having numerous independent and competing denominations rather than one primarily state-recognized one is that it gives religion a greater role in creating identity and community. Something that might be especially appealing in a society like ours where the ideal of "you can create your own place" and mobility and all that might mean that there's a desire for entities that allow one to belong. I can definitely see our churches playing that role in a way that they wouldn't necessarily in other countries.

In places like Poland it makes sense that religion would be more significant in a similar identity kind of way -- a symbol of Polishness vs. the surrounding countries and occupying forces originally and then vs. Communism.

As far as different regions of the country goes, that would be an interesting comparative study, although I think if it's settlement patterns it's so only in a complicated way. (I have a book about changing historical religious patterns in the South, but sadly have yet to read it.)

operative
09-06-2010, 04:34 PM
According to the Gallup poll, it's less religious than Romania, Kosovo, Bosnia, Georgia, and Macedonia. These are all post-communist countries too, but so are some of the least religious countries in Europe. Estonia is the least religious country listed, and they were no less oppressed under Soviet communism than the Poles (if not more -- they were annexed by the USSR). I guess the Czech Republic wasn't polled by Gallup, but it shares the dominant Catholic tradition and central European culture, not to mention a closely related language, with Poland, whereas Estonia is AFAIK dominated by Lutheranism and more closely culturally linked to the Scandinavian countries -- but the CR can't be much more religious than Estonia is. The reasons are pretty complicated, but it has very little to do with communism and much more to do with the formation of national identity. Polish nationalism embraced the Catholic church as a symbol of national identity (in contrast, I guess, to the Orthodox Russian and Protestant Prussian occupiers), while Czech nationalism was very strongly anti-clerical because of the history of religious subjugation by the Habsburgs after the Hussite and Thirty Years Wars.

I suppose in a way this could confirm what you said about a Newtonian reaction, although you would think that if that were the case, forced Catholicization by the Habsburgs would have resulted in more Protestantism among Czechs, not more atheism. I basically agree with you about the state church "defanging" religion in countries like Great Britain, but this can't apply to countries like the CR or Estonia which never had state churches.

I do agree with much of what you say here. In regards to Kosovo and Bosnia, I think that the presence of significant populations of Muslims and Christians together increases the religion of each--I think that also explains Nigeria's significantly higher church attendance. I don't have any numbers on it, but I am guessing that the religiosity of Lebanese Christians is significant.

To further aid your point, you could look at Malta, which retains the most religiosity of any European country. I think that their church is strongly connected with their nationalism. Granted, they're so tiny that it's difficult to include them in anything, but I think it furthers the argument.

operative
09-06-2010, 04:38 PM
Perhaps related to this, and the greater religiosity of AAs on average, is the fact that having numerous independent and competing denominations rather than one primarily state-recognized one is that it gives religion a greater role in creating identity and community. Something that might be especially appealing in a society like ours where the ideal of "you can create your own place" and mobility and all that might mean that there's a desire for entities that allow one to belong. I can definitely see our churches playing that role in a way that they wouldn't necessarily in other countries.

In places like Poland it makes sense that religion would be more significant in a similar identity kind of way -- a symbol of Polishness vs. the surrounding countries and occupying forces originally and then vs. Communism.

In the same way, Christian churches played a pretty significant role in the pro-democracy movements of South Korea, which helps explain why a good portion of the population (30-35%) is Christian and among the most observant of Christian populations.


As far as different regions of the country goes, that would be an interesting comparative study, although I think if it's settlement patterns it's so only in a complicated way. (I have a book about changing historical religious patterns in the South, but sadly have yet to read it.)

It may not be the case all of the time, but I think there would be a strong case that the Scandinavian influence in the Dakotas, and the Irish protestant influence in the South, led to greater religiosity.

Ocean
09-06-2010, 11:15 PM
Not directly related, but here's (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/philosophy-and-faith/) another interesting article discussing faith and philosophy (and science) written by a philosophy professor at Notre Dame.

rfrobison
09-06-2010, 11:53 PM
Thanks for the link, Ocean. Really interesting.

Ocean
09-07-2010, 12:08 AM
Thanks for the link, Ocean. Really interesting.

You're welcome. Glad you liked it.

Good night.

jaimel
09-21-2010, 08:34 AM
stop worshiping and fighting over MANGODS...... GOD IS THE UNIVERSE ITSELF!