Archive for the ‘religion and spirituality’ Category

Social Context and College Completion in the United States: The Role of Congregational Biblical Literalism

January 27, 2015 Comments off

Social Context and College Completion in the United States: The Role of Congregational Biblical Literalism (PDF)
Source: Sociological Perspectives

Prior research has documented the influence of religion on a variety of stratification processes. Largely absent from this research, however, are explicit examinations of the role religious contexts play in educational outcomes. In this study, we focus on the congregation-level prevalence of a salient religious belief: biblical literalism. Using national multilevel data (U.S. Congregational Life Survey [USCLS]; N = 92,344), we examine whether individuals’ likelihood of completing college is dependent on the percentage of fellow congregation members who are biblical literalists. We find that college completion is tied to congregational literalism in important ways. Net of individual biblical literalism and other controls, congregational literalism decreases the likelihood of completing college. In addition, while congregational biblical literalism decreases the likelihood of college completion for both biblical literalists and non-literalists, the relationship is strongest for non-literalists such that in highly literalist congregations, non- literalists’ likelihood of college completion more closely resembles that of literalists.

Be Afraid. Be A Little Afraid: The Threat of Terrorism from Western Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq

January 13, 2015 Comments off

Be Afraid. Be A Little Afraid: The Threat of Terrorism from Western Foreign Fighters in Syria and Iraq
Source: Brookings Institution

Many U.S. and European intelligence officials fear that a wave of terrorism will sweep over Europe, driven by the civil war in Syria and continuing instability in Iraq. Many of the concerns stem from the large number of foreign fighters involved.

Despite these fears and the real danger that motivates them, the Syrian and Iraqi foreign fighter threat can easily be exaggerated. Previous cases and information emerging from Syria suggest several mitigating effects that may reduce—but hardly eliminate—the potential terrorist threat from foreign fighters who have gone to Syria. Those mitigating factors include:

• Many die, blowing themselves up in suicide attacks or perishing quickly in firefights with opposing forces.
• Many never return home, but continue fighting in the conflict zone or at the next battle for jihad.
• Many of the foreign fighters quickly become disillusioned, and a number even return to their home country without engaging in further violence.
• Others are arrested or disrupted by intelligence services. Indeed, becoming a foreign fighter—particularly with today’s heavy use of social media—makes a terrorist far more likely to come to the attention of security services.

The danger posed by returning foreign fighters is real, but American and European security services have tools that they can successfully deploy to mitigate the threat. These tools will have to be adapted to the new context in Syria and Iraq, but they will remain useful and effective.

Faith on the Hill: The Religious Composition of the 114th Congress

January 8, 2015 Comments off

Faith on the Hill: The Religious Composition of the 114th Congress
Source: Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project

When the new, 114th Congress is sworn in on Jan. 6, 2015, Republicans will control both chambers of the legislative body for the first time since the 109th Congress (2005-2006). Yet, despite the sea change in party control, there is relatively little change in the overall religious makeup of Congress, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. More than nine-in-ten members of the House and Senate (92%) are Christian, and about 57% are Protestant, roughly the same as in the 113th Congress (90% and 56%, respectively). About three-in-ten members (31%) are Catholic, the same as in the previous Congress.

Protestants and Catholics continue to make up a greater percentage of the members of Congress than of all U.S. adults. Pew Research surveys find that, as of 2013, 49% of American adults are Protestant, and 22% are Catholic.

The ecology of religious beliefs

January 5, 2015 Comments off

The ecology of religious beliefs
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Although ecological forces are known to shape the expression of sociality across a broad range of biological taxa, their role in shaping human behavior is currently disputed. Both comparative and experimental evidence indicate that beliefs in moralizing high gods promote cooperation among humans, a behavioral attribute known to correlate with environmental harshness in nonhuman animals. Here we combine fine-grained bioclimatic data with the latest statistical tools from ecology and the social sciences to evaluate the potential effects of environmental forces, language history, and culture on the global distribution of belief in moralizing high gods (n = 583 societies). After simultaneously accounting for potential nonindependence among societies because of shared ancestry and cultural diffusion, we find that these beliefs are more prevalent among societies that inhabit poorer environments and are more prone to ecological duress. In addition, we find that these beliefs are more likely in politically complex societies that recognize rights to movable property. Overall, our multimodel inference approach predicts the global distribution of beliefs in moralizing high gods with an accuracy of 91%, and estimates the relative importance of different potential mechanisms by which this spatial pattern may have arisen. The emerging picture is neither one of pure cultural transmission nor of simple ecological determinism, but rather a complex mixture of social, cultural, and environmental influences. Our methods and findings provide a blueprint for how the increasing wealth of ecological, linguistic, and historical data can be leveraged to understand the forces that have shaped the behavior of our own species.

CRS — The “Islamic State” Crisis and U.S. Policy (December 8, 2014)

December 17, 2014 Comments off

The “Islamic State” Crisis and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Islamic State is a transnational Sunni Islamist insurgent and terrorist group that has expanded its control over areas of parts of Iraq and Syria since 2013. It threatens the governments of both countries and potentially several other countries in the region. The emerging international response to the threat is multifaceted and includes coalition military strikes and assistance plans. There is debate over the degree to which the Islamic State organization might represent a direct terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland or to U.S. facilities and personnel in the region.

Final Report on the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Women Religious in the United States of America, 16.12.2014 (Nuns)

December 16, 2014 Comments off

Final Report on the Apostolic Visitation of Institutes of Women Religious in the United States of America, 16.12.2014
Source: The Vatican

Great variations exist across religious institutes not only in their charism, mission, spiritual traditions, and communal life but also in more easily quantifiable characteristics such as the size and composition of their membership, the configuration of religious houses or other accommodations in which they live, their geographic dispersion and distribution, and the number, types, and settings of the works in which the religious are engaged. Despite these differences, the overall trends among a large majority of religious institutes, especially those related to aging and diminishment, are clear.

Today, the median age of apostolic women religious in the United States is in the mid-to-late 70s. The current number of approximately 50,000 apostolic women religious is a decline of about 125,000 since the mid-1960s, when the numbers of religious in the United States had reached their peak. It is important to note, however, that the very large numbers of religious in the 1960s was a relatively short-term phenomenon that was not typical of the experience of religious life through most of the nation’s history. The steady growth in the number of women religious peaked dramatically from the late 1940s through the early 1960s, after which it began to decline as many of the sisters who had entered during the peak years left religious life, the remaining sisters aged and considerably fewer women joined religious institutes.

Jerusalem: Recent Israeli-Palestinian Tensions and Violence, CRS Insights (November 20, 2014)

December 9, 2014 Comments off

Jerusalem: Recent Israeli-Palestinian Tensions and Violence, CRS Insights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The status of Jerusalem and its holy sites has been a long-standing issue of political and religious contention between Jews and Muslims. Recently, tensions have intensified owing to various factors, including:

+ Efforts by some Israelis, including an anticipated Knesset bill, to emphasize Israel’s claim to the Temple Mount (known by Muslims as the Haram al Sharif or Noble Sanctuary) and to gain greater Jewish access to and worship permissions on the Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif (“Mount/Haram”), which have elicited negative reactions from Palestinians and other Arabs.

+ Various indications of direct or tacit Israeli official backing for greater Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem, including via announcements relating to construction of Jewish residential housing that is widely opposed internationally.

+ A spiraling pattern of unrest and violence, including attacks and security responses that have killed or injured Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank, and some Arab communities in Israel.


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