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Global Religious Diversity: Half of the Most Religiously Diverse Countries are in Asia-Pacific Region

April 9, 2014 Comments off

Global Religious Diversity: Half of the Most Religiously Diverse Countries are in Asia-Pacific Region
Source: Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project

Several years ago, the Pew Research Center produced estimates of the religious makeup of more than 200 countries and territories, which it published in the 2012 report “The Global Religious Landscape.” The effort was part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project, which analyzes religious change and its impact on societies around the world. As part of the next phase of this project, Pew Research has produced an index that ranks each country by its level of religious diversity.

Comparing religious diversity across countries presents many challenges, starting with the definition of diversity. Social scientists have conceived of diversity in a variety of ways, including the degree to which a society is split into distinct groups; minority group size (in share and/or absolute number); minority group influence (the degree to which multiple groups are visible and influential in civil society); and group dominance (the degree to which one or more groups dominate society). Each of these approaches can be applied to the study of religious diversity.1

This study, however, takes a relatively straightforward approach to religious diversity. It looks at the percentage of each country’s population that belongs to eight major religious groups, as of 2010.2 The closer a country comes to having equal shares of the eight groups, the higher its score on a 10-point Religious Diversity Index.

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CRS — Membership of the 113th Congress: A Profile (updated)

April 7, 2014 Comments off

Membership of the 113th Congress: A Profile (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

This report presents a profile of the membership of the 113th Congress (2013-2014). Statistical information is included on selected characteristics of Members, including data on party affiliation, average age, occupation, education, length of congressional service, religious affiliation, gender, ethnicity, foreign births, and military service.

Does Secular Education Impact Religiosity, Electoral Participation and the Propensity to Vote for Islamic Parties? Evidence from an Education Reform in a Muslim Country

April 6, 2014 Comments off

Does Secular Education Impact Religiosity, Electoral Participation and the Propensity to Vote for Islamic Parties? Evidence from an Education Reform in a Muslim Country (PDF)
Source: Institute for the Study of Labor

Using a unique survey of adults in Turkey, we find that an increase in educational attainment, due to an exogenous secular education reform, decreases women’s propensity to identify themselves as religious, lowers their tendency to wear a religious head cover (head scarf, turban or burka) and increases the tendency for modernity. Education reduces women’s propensity to vote for Islamic parties. There is no statistically significant impact of education on men’s religiosity or their tendency to vote for Islamic parties and education does not influence the propensity to cast a vote in national elections for men or women. The impact of education on religiosity and voting preference is not working through migration, residential location or labor force participation.

Textbook Diplomacy: Why the State Department Shelved a Study on Incitement in Saudi Education Materials

March 27, 2014 Comments off

Textbook Diplomacy: Why the State Department Shelved a Study on Incitement in Saudi Education Materials (PDF)
Source: Foundation for the Defense of Democracy
From press release:

Though first noted as problematic more than a decade ago by the Department of State, incitement and hatred continues to be taught from government textbooks to students in Saudi Arabia. Today, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) released a monograph exploring why a 2011 U.S. government-commissioned study on the subject has been withheld from the public, what is being taught in Saudi schools today, and how official incitement impacts U.S. national security.

Clergy as Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect

March 20, 2014 Comments off

Clergy as Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect
Source: Child Welfare Information Gateway

This factsheet discusses laws that require members of the clergy to report cases of suspected child abuse and neglect. The issue of whether a member of the clergy can claim privileged communications as a reason for not reporting also is discussed. Full-text excerpts of laws for all States and U.S. territories are included.

Worldwide, Many See Belief in God as Essential to Morality

March 17, 2014 Comments off

Worldwide, Many See Belief in God as Essential to Morality
Source: Pew Global Attitudes Project

Many people around the world think it is necessary to believe in God to be a moral person, according to surveys in 40 countries by the Pew Research Center. However, this view is more common in poorer countries than in wealthier ones.

In 22 of the 40 countries surveyed, clear majorities say it is necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values. This position is highly prevalent, if not universal, in Africa and the Middle East. At least three-quarters in all six countries surveyed in Africa say that faith in God is essential to morality. In the Middle East, roughly seven-in-ten or more agree in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, the Palestinian territories, Tunisia and Lebanon. Across the two regions, only in Israel does a majority think it is not necessary to believe in God to be an upright person.

Many people in Asia and Latin America also link faith and morality. For example, Indonesians, Pakistanis, Filipinos and Malaysians almost unanimously think that belief in God is central to having good values. People in El Salvador, Brazil, Bolivia and Venezuela overwhelmingly agree. However, most Chinese take the opposite position – that it is not necessary to be a believer to be a moral person. And in Latin America, the Chileans and Argentines are divided.

The Journal of Physical Security 7(1), 2014

March 12, 2014 Comments off

The Journal of Physical Security 7(1), 2014
Source: Argonne National Laboratory

Welcome to volume 7, issue 1 of the Journal of Physical Security. This issue has 7 papers on the following topics: testing locks, seals and nuclear safeguards, a security thought experiment, vulnerability assessment issues, the levels of critical infrastructure risk, and community partnerships for counteracting radicalization. Volume 7, issue 2 should also be out shortly.

Paper 1 – SK McNeill, “Analysis of Explosive Magazine Padlock Breaching Techniques”, pages 1‐21
Paper 2 – HA Undem, “Nuclear Containment and Surveillance Terminology”, pages 22‐24
Paper 3 – P Kurrasch, “Money in a Glass Box”, pages 25‐30
Paper 4 – RG Johnston and JS Warner, “Vulnerability Assessment Myths (Or What Makes Red Teamers See Red)”, pages 31‐38
Paper 5 – RG Johnston and JS Warner, “What Vulnerability Assessors Know That You Should, Too”, pages 39‐42
Paper 6 – B Nussbaum, “The ‘Levels of Analysis’ Problem with Critical Infrastructure Risk”, pages 43‐50
Paper 7 – HS Mack, “Countering Violent Extremism in the United States: Law Enforcement’s Approach to Preventing Terrorism through Community Partnerships”, pages 51‐56

As usual, the views expressed by the editor and authors are their own and should not necessarily be ascribed to their home institutions, Argonne National Laboratory, or the United States Department of Energy.

U.S. Catholics View Pope Francis as a Change for the Better

March 6, 2014 Comments off

U.S. Catholics View Pope Francis as a Change for the Better
Source: Pew Religion & Public Life Project

One year into his pontificate, Pope Francis remains immensely popular among American Catholics and is widely seen as a force for positive change within the Roman Catholic Church. More than eight-in-ten U.S. Catholics say they have a favorable view of the pontiff, including half who view him very favorably. The percentage of Catholics who view Francis “very favorably” now rivals the number who felt equally positive about Pope John Paul II in the 1980s and 1990s, though Francis’ overall favorability rating remains a few points shy of that of the long-serving Polish pope.

But despite the pope’s popularity and the widespread perception that he is a change for the better, it is less clear whether there has been a so-called “Francis effect,” a discernible change in the way American Catholics approach their faith. There has been no measurable rise in the percentage of Americans who identify as Catholic. Nor has there been a statistically significant change in how often Catholics say they go to Mass. And the survey finds no evidence that larger numbers of Catholics are either going to confession or volunteering in their churches or communities.

CRS — Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights (updated)

February 25, 2014 Comments off

Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

More than two years after the 2011 U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, sectarian divisions and the Sunniled uprising in neighboring Syria have fueled a revival of radical Islamist Sunni Muslim insurgent groups that are attempting to undermine Iraq’s stability. Iraq’s Sunni Arab Muslims resent the Shiite political domination and perceived discrimination by the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Iraq’s Kurds are embroiled in separate political disputes with the Baghdad government over territorial, political, and economic issues. The rifts caused a significant uprising led by the Sunni insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq, now also known by the name Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), that began December 26, 2013 and gained control of several cities in Anbar Province. Earlier, unrest delayed some provincial elections during April-June 2013 and the latest uprising could affect the legitimacy of national elections for a new parliament and government set for April 30, 2014. Maliki is widely expected to seek to retain his post after that vote.

The Rise of Islamic Finance

February 24, 2014 Comments off

The Rise of Islamic Finance
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

Global Islamic financial assets have soared from less than $600 billion in 2007 to more than $1.3 trillion in 2012, an expansion rooted in the growing pool of financial assets in Muslim-majority countries driven by consumer demand for products that comply with religious codes. Assets are concentrated in Muslim countries of the Middle East and Southeast Asia, but the sector appears poised to enter Western markets and complement conventional financing. Prime Minister David Cameron announced in 2013 that the United Kingdom will issue a £200 million ($327 million) Islamic bond, or sukuk, making it the first non-Muslim country to tap into Islamic financing. Companies in the United States are also considering Islamic finance to fund business ventures and infrastructure projects. Demand for new Islamic investments is expected to outstrip supply by as much as $100 billion by 2015, an imbalance that could translate to much-needed liquidity in some tight markets. But the industry remains small and will need to expand considerably to have a significant impact on global financial markets.

Ethnic Cleansing and Sectarian Killings in the Central African Republic

February 21, 2014 Comments off

Ethnic Cleansing and Sectarian Killings in the Central African Republic
Source: Amnesty International

“Ethnic cleansing” of Muslims has been carried out in the western part of the Central African Republic, the most populous part of the country, since early January 2014. Entire Muslim communities have been forced to flee, and hundreds of Muslim civilians who have not managed to escape have been killed by the loosely organised militias known as anti-balaka.

“They killed my children heartlessly,” said Oure, a Muslim woman whose four sons were killed by anti-balaka fighters on 26 January. She, her two sisters, their 75-year-old mother, and seven of the family’s children had gone out early in the morning, trying to reach a church in the northwest town of Baoro, when they were caught by an anti-balaka militia unit. “The children were slaughtered in front of our eyes,” Oure continued, sobbing: “both my children and my sisters’ children.” One of Oure’s sisters, Aishatu, was wounded on her hand when she tried to protect the children, who were boys ranging in age from 8 to 17 years old.

Amnesty International has documented large-scale and repeated anti-balaka attacks on Muslim civilian populations in Bouali, Boyali, Bossembélé, Bossemptélé, Baoro, Bawi, and the capital, Bangui, in January, and has received credible information regarding additional attacks in Yaloke, Boda, and Bocaranga. Some of these attacks were carried out in revenge for the previous killing of Christian civilians by Seleka forces and armed Muslims.

CRS — Membership of the 113th Congress: A Profile (updated)

February 13, 2014 Comments off

Membership of the 113th Congress: A Profile (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Senate)

This report presents a profile of the membership of the 113th Congress (2013-2014). Statistical information is included on selected characteristics of Members, including data on party affiliation, average age, occupation, education, length of congressional service, religious affiliation, gender, ethnicity, foreign births, and military service.

United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child — Concluding observations on the report submitted by the Holy See

February 6, 2014 Comments off

Concluding observations on the report submitted by the Holy See (PDF)
Source: United Nations

The Committee is concerned that in dealing with cases of child pornography committed by members of the clergy, the Holy See has failed to ensure children’s right to express their views and have them given due weight, and that the Holy See has given preceden ce to the preservation of the reputation of the church over children’s rights to have their best interests taken as a primary consideration. The Committee is concerned that in doing so, the Holy See has undermined the prevention of offences under the Optional Protocol and the capacity of child victims to report them and therefore contributed to the impunity of the perpetrators and created further trauma for child victims of offences.

Red States, Blue States, and Divorce: Understanding Regional Variation in Divorce Rates

February 6, 2014 Comments off

Red States, Blue States, and Divorce: Understanding Regional Variation in Divorce Rates (PDF)
Source: Population Association of America

Why are cohabiting unions less frequent in the red states, why are early marriages and early first births more common in the red states, and why is the transition to adulthood faster and maternal labor force participation lower in the red states? Are these characteristics exogenous to religious affiliation or at least partially endogenous with respect to religion? Why isn’t the cultural support for marriage and disapproval of divorce in conservative denominations enough to overcome these heightened risk factors for divorce? The answer may lie in the unique religious culture of Christian conservatives. This religious culture both praises the sanctity of marriage while simultaneously eliciting patterns of behavior that destabilize marriage. In particular, the emphasis placed on sexual restraint until marriage and abstinenceonly education, and the stigma attached to abortion and certain forms of birth control encourage early family formation and cessation of education among religious conservatives (Fitzgerald and Glass, 2008; Regnerus, 2007) This paper tests this theoretical claim by analyzing county level data on conservative religious concentration, demographic behavior (age at first marriage, age at first birth, mean educational attainment, marriage, cohabitation and maternal labor force participation rates, etc.) and divorce.

Survey | More than One-in-Five Fans have a Ritual Before or During Sports Games

January 23, 2014 Comments off

More than One-in-Five Fans have a Ritual Before or During Sports Games
Source: Public Religion Research Institute

Just ahead of the 2014 Super Bowl, half of sports fans see some aspect of the supernatural at play in sports, meaning they either pray to God to help their team, have thought their team was cursed at some point in time, or believe that God plays a role in determining the outcome of sporting events.

Exploring parents’ perspectives on their interfaith marriage (Jewish and Christian) and the transmission of religious activities to their children

January 22, 2014 Comments off

Exploring parents’ perspectives on their interfaith marriage (Jewish and Christian) and the transmission of religious activities to their children
Source: California State University-Northridge

The purpose of this study was to examine the practices, traditions, and religious beliefs that Jewish and Christian spouses are passing onto their children. To further examine the strategies and approaches used in integrating religion into their children’s lives, a total of 16 interfaith spouses were recruited to take part in the study. Subjects responded to a series of audio-recorded questions covering areas related to religion and childrearing. In addition, participants were presented with a demographic questionnaire that assessed basic, measurable attributes such as ethnicity and gender.

Comparisons amongst responses indicate that a variety of religious approaches are utilized amongst couples. The religious strategies found in this study ranged from instilling one main religion, combining both religions, to incorporating very little religion at all into the religious upbringing of the child or children. The sample size was too small to draw any definitive conclusions. However, these findings do have implications for future research on the experiences of Jewish and Christian interfaith couples, particularly with regards to raising children together.

CRS — Free Exercise of Religion by Secular Organizations and Their Owners: Implications for the Affordable Care Act (ACA)

January 16, 2014 Comments off

Free Exercise of Religion by Secular Organizations and Their Owners: Implications for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Supreme Court’s grant of review in Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Secretary of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Hobby Lobby Stores v. Sebelius, along with recent federal court decisions, has highlighted the ongoing controversy over the scope of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) contraceptive coverage requirement, which requires an employer to provide certain contraceptive coverage to its employees under its group health plan. Some employers have objected to the requirement, citing objections to the facilitation of the use of contraceptives in conflict with the religious tenets by which their businesses operate. An analogous issue has arisen in state courts in the context of same-sex weddings. Several private businesses that qualify as public accommodations have objected to state requirements that they provide services without discriminating based on sexual orientation despite the owners’ religious objections to same-sex marriage. These issues have raised a novel legal question for the courts: What rights do secular businesses that operate for profit have to pursue legal claims to protect their religious exercise?

Religious Hostilities Reach Six-Year High

January 14, 2014 Comments off

Religious Hostilities Reach Six-Year High
Source: Pew Religion & Public Life Project

The share of countries with a high or very high level of social hostilities involving religion reached a six-year peak in 2012, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. A third (33%) of the 198 countries and territories included in the study had high religious hostilities in 2012, up from 29% in 2011 and 20% as of mid-2007. Religious hostilities increased in every major region of the world except the Americas. The sharpest increase was in the Middle East and North Africa, which still is feeling the effects of the 2010-11 political uprisings known as the Arab Spring. There also was a significant increase in religious hostilities in the Asia-Pacific region, where China edged into the “high” category for the first time.

Religion, Partisanship, and Attitudes Toward Science Policy

January 14, 2014 Comments off

Religion, Partisanship, and Attitudes Toward Science Policy
Source: Sage Open

We examine issues involving science which have been contested in recent public debate. These “contested science” issues include human evolution, stem-cell research, and climate change. We find that few respondents evince consistently skeptical attitudes toward science issues, and that religious variables are generally strong predictors of attitudes toward individual issues. Furthermore, and contrary to analyses of elite discourse, partisan identification is not generally predictive of attitudes toward contested scientific issues.

Religious Affairs in Joint Operations

January 8, 2014 Comments off

Religious Affairs in Joint Operations (PDF)
Source: Joint Chiefs of Staff (via Federation of American Scientists)

This publication provides doctrine for religious affairs in joint operations. It also provides information on the chaplain’s roles as the principal advisor to the joint force commander (JFC) on religious affairs and a key advisor on the impact of religion on military operations. It further provides information on the chaplain’s role of delivering and facilitating religious ministries in joint operations.

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