Category Archives: Research

Gallup survey finds religiosity highly correlated to poverty

Gallup survey finds religiosity highly correlated to poverty


We should be careful about drawing rash conclusions from the correlation between religiosity and societal breakdown

In the Guardian Susan Blackmore takes a look at new research by Gregory Paul that compares ‘popular religiosity’ for developed nations against the ‘successful societies scale’ (SSS) which includes such things such as homicides, the proportion of people incarcerated, infant mortality, sexually transmitted diseases, teenage births and abortions, corruption, income inequality, and many others.

She writes that we should be careful about drawing rash conclusions from the correlation between religiosity and societal breakdown

Hope for non-believers – many American Christians believe atheists will get into heaven

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life carried out a survey of 3,000 Americans in 2008 about whether people thought beliefs other than their own can lead to ‘eternal life’.

The survey was designed as a follow-up to their 2007 Religious Landscape Survey which reported that 70 per cent Americans who claim a religious affiliation saying that many religions can lead to eternal life. (This earlier survey by the BBC found that 51 per cent of Americans agreed that ‘My God (Beliefs) is the only true God (Beliefs)’ compared with 31 per cent of people in the UK who agreed with the same statement)

The 2008 survey asked those who say many religions can lead to eternal life whether or not they think a series of specific religions (including Judaism, Islam and Hinduism) can lead to eternal life, as well as whether they thought atheists or people who have no religious faith can achieve eternal life.

The survey found that most American Christians are not thinking only of other Christian denominations when they say many religions can lead to eternal life – strong majorities believe that both Christian and non-Christian faiths can.

Although a majority who say that many religions can lead to eternal life believe that people with no religious faith also can achieve eternal salvation (56 per cent), far fewer (42 per cent) say this about atheists.

White evangelical Protestants are least likely to believe various non-Christian religions can lead to eternal life although the numbers are still significant – nearly three-quarters (72%) of evangelicals who say many religions can lead to salvation name at least one non-Christian faith that can do so.

Actions or beliefs?

Respondents expressed a variety of views on how people can achieve eternal life. When asked to describe in their own words what determines whether a person will attain eternal life, nearly 30 per cent said that a person’s actions are most important. 30 per cent said that belief is the key factor in achieving everlasting life. 10 per cent referred to a combination of belief and actions as necessary for eternal life, and almost as many (8 per cent) cite some other factor as most important. In addition, 14 per cent indicated they are unsure of what leads to eternal life, and another 7 per cent volunteer they do not believe in eternal life.

White evangelicals looked mainly to faith as the key to salvation, while white Catholics tend to look to actions.

Unsurprisingly those people who believed there were many ways to salvation were more likely to say actions are more important than beliefs.

The survey doesn’t appear to control for factors like ethnicity, age or religous practice though – it could for example be that White evangelicals are more narrowminded in their outlook because they are more devout rather than any core doctrinal reasons.

What do these results tells us? That there are huge numbers of people open to the idea that other beliefs (including non religious ones) are legitimate and valuable and that co-operation between different belief groups can be built on far more than a grudging pragmatism but on some form of real respect.

Also that the opportunities for co-operation are not equal and some religious groups will be more ammenable than others. But amenable there are and across all traditions offering hope that none of us are as feared, despised or condemned for our beliefs quite as much as louder voices might have us believe.

Research suggests generosity is in the genes

The BBC reports that an Israeli study involving 203 people revealed those who had certain variants of a gene called AVPR1a were on average nearly 50% more likely to give money away in an online task.

Lead researcher Dr Ariel Knafo said: “The experiment provided the first evidence, to my knowledge, for a relationship between DNA variability and real human altruism.”

The gene AVPR1a plays a key role in allowing a hormone called arginine vasopressin to act on brain cells. Vasopressin, in turn, has been implicated in social bonding.

The complex picture of belief

Measuring the number of people who are religious is a bit of a tricky job. We can be pretty sure that there are people who don’t believe in God or myths or any supernatural business. We can also be sure that there also people who, say, believe in the literal truth of the Bible, that God has stuck around after the creation business and intervenes in our lives now and then. But what about the rest – the majority of people? Continue reading

Australian research finds religious youth more likely to volunteer

Andrew Singleton of Monash University, Australia previews some findings from The Spirit of Generation Y his study of spirituality among 1216 young Australians which revealed that religion is strongly associated with many positive life outcomes.

We found that one in five 13-to-24 year olds are actively religious, while about one in six could be described as atheists. The rest are religiously or spiritually disengaged but tend to either secular indifference or a superficial interest in the New Age.

…The religiously active are more likely to have positive civic attitudes, display high levels of social concern and be actively involved in community service. Active Christians, for example, do much more hours of volunteer work per month than secular youth. On a measure of the extent to which a person holds positive human values — favouring an ethical life, justice for all and having an orientation to the common good — we also found the religiously active to be streets ahead.

These findings make sense when we consider that regular attendees at religious services are encouraged to lead altruistic and ethical lives and given ample opportunities to partake in community service.

What about the young atheists? Most secular-minded youth are more self-oriented because there is no widely understood or shared ethical alternative paradigm on which to model their lives. Despite recent commentary about “generation Y” being community-minded, our evidence suggests that the prevailing ethos of the past decade — individualism and consumerism — afflicts young people in spades. And the secular humanists and rationalists do not seem to be putting up a credible, earthly alternative way of life.

Christian Today reports further that the study found 71% of Gen Y are not involved in any kind of community service in a typical month – whether fundraising, office work, signing a petition, collecting for a charity or coaching a sporting team. The study found that 77% of those whose spirituality type is Secular and 51% of Active Christians are not engaged in community activities in any way and do nothing for others apart from close family and friends.

However, a significant proportion of Gen Y go against that trend. They demonstrate strong community values and are actively involved in their communities in ways that assist the marginalised and disadvantaged. Some do hard-edge volunteer work that requires both initiative and courage. This type of service takes them outside their comfort zone and provides them with new skills and confidence.

Those who engage in voluntary work are likely to have a strong commitment to community values and be actively involved their faith. Active Christians and those New Agers who were brought up Christian demonstrate high levels of community involvement and altruism.

Spirituality type is also correlated with generosity: although 25% of Seculars and 8% of Active Christians give nothing to charity in a year, those Active Christians who do donate are generous in their giving.

Raising children in a religion – abuse or stability?

Next up to take on Richard Dawkins is the Guardian’s Anne Karpf. She begins:

If Richard Dawkins had his way, a fair number of you and, as it happens, me, would be had up for child abuse. According to him, that’s what religious indoctrination of children by their parents is. And if you can sue for the long-term mental damage caused by physical abuse, he argues, why shouldn’t you sue for the damage caused by mental child abuse?

If you accept Dawkins’s characterisation of religion, you’d probably agree. Religious parents, to him, are Mr Dogma and Mrs Bigot: they terrify their kids with tales of eternal hell, fire and damnation, when – that is – they’re not carrying out female circumcision or coercing them into forced marriages. Flat-earthers the lot, they’re brainwashers, fanatically opposed to science and rationality.

Isn’t it curious that we tolerate the stereotyping of religion in a way we’d never abide with race, religion [sic] or gender? I certainly don’t recognise myself in this caricature.

Hmmm in fact Karpf is the one doing the misprepresenation here. Continue reading