Sociologist and Historian Rodney Stark thinks so:
Many intellectuals insist that a worldwide triumph of secularization is inevitable, and they applaud whatever is interpreted as a sign of religious decline. Religious believers, meanwhile, lament these same signs. The crucial point is that both sides accept the premise that the world is becoming more secular.
The world is not merely as religious as it used to be. In important ways, it is much more intensely religious than ever before. Around the globe, four out of every five people claim to belong to an organized faith, and many of the rest say they attend worship services. In Latin America, Pentecostal Protestant churches have converted tens of millions, and Catholics are going to Mass in unprecedented numbers. There are more churchgoing Christians in Sub-Saharan Africa than anywhere else on earth, and China may soon become home of the most Christians. Meanwhile, Islam enjoys far higher levels of member commitment than it has for many centuries, and the same is true for Hinduism.
Despite all this, the media regularly report new “proofs” of the rapid decline of religion in America and abroad. In May, the Pew Research Center released its latest Religious Landscape Survey. Pew’s director of religion, Alan Cooperman, summed it up by saying, “The country is becoming less religious as a whole, and it’s happening across the board.” Pew followed up with another survey in November, trumpeting its findings with the headline “U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious.”
But, despite these confident proclamations about the decline of religion, Pew’s findings were certainly misleading and probably wrong, for reasons you’ll soon see. The decline of religion elsewhere is merely wishful thinking and entirely at odds with reliable data.
Every important claim that I make in my book The Triumph of Faith is based on carefully reported solid evidence. The empirical backbone of my book is provided by the truly remarkable Gallup World Polls, which began in 2005 and consist of annual, national surveys conducted in 163 nations that by now add up to more than a million interviews. Never before has a scholar had access to such a body of data.
Mark Shea has taken his agree-with-me-on-these-issues-or-you-are-not-really-pro-life routine to the pages of the Jesuit rag America:
But weirdly, when the topic is not the unborn, many allegedly pro-life people often forget their wisdom. Result: on many issues ranging from war to torture to refugees to the death penalty, it is extremely common to run into people who are anti-abortion, but not pro-life.
And so self-identified pro-life people, in a solid majority, favored the launch of the Iraq War, despite the fact that it failed to meet a single criterion of Just War teaching, was sternly denounced by Pope John Paul II, warned of by the world’s bishops, and dismissed as folly by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, who famously remarked that the “concept of a ‘preventive war’ does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church” and who warned that it would result in catastrophe—as the destruction of the Chaldean Church, the deaths of at least 100,000 people and the transformation of Iraq into chaos eloquently attests.
Relatedly, self-identified pro-life Christians supported, in greater percentages than the general U.S. population, the use of torture against prisoners. Indeed, along with Evangelicals, self-identified pro-life Catholics may constitute the single most enthusiastic supporters of torture in American public life. This is despite the fact that the church describes torture as gravely and intrinsically immoral—exactly the same terms in which she describes abortion.
Similarly, the death penalty is sometimes treated as an issue in which the church’s guidance to inflict the punishment only if absolutely necessary is rejected on the theory that God “commands” rather than reluctantly permits the death penalty. Some even go so far as to declare the church, not merely entitled to an opinion from which they dissent, but actually “wrong” and work to execute as many victims as possible.
Finally, there is the strange spectacle of some Catholics opposing pre-natal help for low income women (thus increasing the likelihood of abortion for poor families who fear they cannot afford another child) and the even stranger spectacle of self-identified pro-life people brandishing guns and screaming for desperately poor refugee children from Central America to be sent back to the extreme dangers of rape, sex slavery and murder.
I encourage my students (past and present) to ask questions and seek the truth, and sometimes some will take up the challenge. Last week we saw the challenge of prior Myths to our belief in the historical Jesus Christ. This week we have a Christian challenge to Christian religion. I would like to again tap into the collective genius that is American Catholic blogosphere to see what shakes out. I don’t think Christianity could have survived as a loose-knit band of solo believers/wanna-be disciples. Surely the Bible would never have been standardized. I see Jesus as one who puts all religious persons on notice- to not be hypocritical or without compassion. But in my read He doesn’t throw out the baby of religion with the bathwater of failing pharisees. I am pointing my students to this blog to consider your arguments and thoughts- so be polite and thoughtful regarding those who may be reading who are young questing souls- not sure of the spiritual landscape just yet.
The Miracle of Caring and Sharing – Mark Shea, National Catholic Register
Permanent Deacons Taking Role Away From Priests – Father John Zuhlsdorf
Infiltration Evangelization – Giuseppe Ambrose, The Three Bs
Of All the Rutten Ideas (Tim Rutten of the LA Times) – Phil Lawler, CC/OTC
If JP2 Can Be a Saint, Really, Anybody Can – John Norton, Our Sunday Visitor
Getting Off the Misery-Go-Round of Scrupulosity – Trent Beattie, Cthlc Lane
Vatican Surprises Bloggers with Successful Meeting – Father Tim Finigan
On Infertility and Adoption – This Cross I Embrace
Things are Getting Airbrushed – Rich Leonardi, Ten Reasons
Why Religion Matters – Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
If you liked this roundup of the best posts from around the Catholic blogosphere, visit ThePulp.it for daily updates twice a day.
An environmental confederation in the UK got the talented screenwriter Richard Curtis to produce a short film, ironically called No Pressure, for the 10:10 campaign, an effort to remind people to do their part in reducing carbon emission 10% by 2010 AD.
Unfortunately for the environmental movement the film backfired because it reinforced the image that beneath the surface environmentalists will do anything once in power to make it compulsory to follow their vision for the future, which includes violence.
Obviously, you read or watch the speech in its entirety, but I will present a few highlights for readers:
And yet the fundamental questions at stake in Thomas More’s trial continue to present themselves in ever-changing terms as new social conditions emerge. Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: what are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend? By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved? These questions take us directly to the ethical foundations of civil discourse. If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident – herein lies the real challenge for democracy.
I’m on record as not being a member of the Glenn Beck fan club. I don’t like his overly emotive mannerisms, his politics, or his theology. I’d rather the president of my alma mater was more circumspect in praising him, and I’ve written to the university to that effect. At the same time, I’m somewhat fascinated by the accounts of his rally in DC this past weekend. For instance, here is David Weigel (erstwhile Washington Post reporter and Journolist member) reporting on the event:
“It’s about as angry as a Teletubbies episode….The Democrats who pre-butted Beck’s rally by predicting an overtly political hateananny were played for suckers. They didn’t pay attention to Beck’s “Founder Fridays” episodes on Fox, his high-selling speaking tour, or his schmaltzy children’s book The Christmas Sweater. It’s not his blackboard that makes him popular. It’s the total package he sells: membership in a corny, righteous, Mormonism-approved-by-John Hagee cultural family. The anger is what the media focus on, he says, joking several times about what “the press” will do to twist his words.
Beck’s rally ends just as he said it would—without incident, political or otherwise. He’s just taken the world’s most derided TV audience, put them in the National Mall, and presided over the world’s largest megachurch. “Bring out the bagpipes,” he says. Bagpipe players then walk onto his stage, and the sound of “Amazing Grace” fills the mall.
The debate over the so-called Ground Zero mosque near the former site of the World Trade Center in New York has raised public interest in, and opposition to, other proposed or recently built mosques and Islamic centers throughout the country.
In areas where Muslim migration or immigration has been significant, some citizens have attempted to discourage construction of new mosques. Few come right out and cite the threat of terrorism; more often they seem to resort to time-honored NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) tactics such as creative interpretation of zoning ordinances, claims of decreased property values, or claims of real or potential problems with traffic, noise, etc.
Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I understand the need to be vigilant regarding the potential for violent subversion, as well as the dangers of taking such a politically correct approach to militant Islam that people hesitate to report obvious suspicious activity for fear of being labeled bigots (as seems to have happened in the Fort Hood massacre case).
My wife and I went to see Inception this weekend and I’ve been mulling over it the past two days. I’ve been looking through the internet to find a good analysis and, not finding one fully to my satisfaction, look Tolkien & Lewis’s advice and just wrote my own. If you haven’t seen the movie, I don’t know why you’re reading this but rest assured you will be lost. For those who did see it, I’ll see you after the break.
I read a comment a few weeks ago on GetReligion.org attempting to explain why John Paul Stevens was the last Protestant in the U.S. Supreme Court which simply said that Catholics and Jews have a tradition of being immersed in law (Canon Law and Halakha respectively for Catholics and Jews as an example).
This struck me as interesting because at first glance it kind of makes sense.
Of course there is much more to why the current make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court, 6 Catholics, 2 Jews, and an Episcopalian, is as it is.
But I thought it was an interesting enough topic to dive into.
Lisa Wangsness of the Boston Globe chimes in with her two cents worth [emphases mine]:
Evangelical Protestants have been slow to embrace, or to feel welcomed by, the elite law schools like Harvard and Yale that have become a veritable requirement for Supreme Court nominees. One reason for this, some scholars say, is because of an anti-intellectual strain within evangelicalism.
As Ronald Reagan would say, there you go again, pushing the liberal theory that Christians are stupid (at least Evangelical Protestants).
Lets get beyond these stereotypes done by liberals to Christians.
I give an incredulous salute to the liberal Commonweal for publishing a magnificent column by Kenneth Woodward where he discusses the New York Times Magisterium:
No question, the Times’s worldview is secularist and secularizing, and as such it rivals the Catholic worldview. But that is not unusual with newspapers. What makes the Times unique—and what any Catholic bishop ought to understand—is that it is not just the nation’s self-appointed newspaper of record. It is, to paraphrase Chesterton, an institution with the soul of a church. And the church it most resembles in size, organization, internal culture, and international reach is the Roman Catholic Church.
Like the Church of Rome, the Times is a global organization. Even in these reduced economic times, the newspaper’s international network of news bureaus rivals the Vatican’s diplomatic corps. The difference is that Times bureau chiefs are better paid and, in most capitals, more influential. A report from a papal nuncio ends up in a Vatican dossier, but a report from a Times correspondent is published around the world, often with immediate repercussions. With the advent of the Internet, stories from the Times can become other outlets’ news in an ever-ramifying process of global cycling and recycling. That, of course, is exactly what happened with the Times piece on Fr. Murphy, the deceased Wisconsin child molester. The pope speaks twice a year urbi et orbi (to the city and to the world), but the Times does that every day.
Again like the Church of Rome, the Times exercises a powerful magisterium or teaching authority through its editorial board. There is no issue, local or global, on which these (usually anonymous) writers do not pronounce with a papal-like editorial “we.” Like the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the editorial board is there to defend received truth as well as advance the paper’s political, social, and cultural agendas. One can no more imagine a Times editorial opposing any form of abortion—to take just one of that magisterium’s articles of faith—than imagine a papal encyclical in favor.
The Times, of course, does not claim to speak infallibly in its judgments on current events. (Neither does the pope.) But to the truly orthodox believers in the Times, its editorials carry the burden of liberal holy writ. As the paper’s first and most acute public editor, Daniel Okrent, once put it, the editorial page is “so thoroughly saturated in liberal theology that when it occasionally strays from that point of view the shocked yelps from the left overwhelm even the ceaseless rumble of disapproval from the right.” Okrent’s now famous column was published in 2004 under the headline “Is the New York Times a Liberal Newspaper?” and I will cite Okrent more than once because he, too, reached repeatedly for religious metaphors to describe the ambient culture of the paper.
My second post using clips from the Birth of Freedom video produced by the Acton Institute. As historian Susan Wise Bauer, justly popular in home schooling circles for her superb The History of the Ancient World and The History of the Medieval World, indicates in the video above, defenses of slavery based upon the Bible often confused descriptive passages of the Bible, written in ages where slavery was as common as complex machines are in ours, with prescriptive commands that slavery was right and just. Additionally, defenders of slavery using the Bible did not work out fully the logical implications of their position. For example, if Saint Paul’s comments regarding slavery meant that slavery was just, would absolute monarchies also be just based upon Paul’s statements to obey the authority of the Roman Empire? If slavery was good based upon Saint Paul’s statements, did that mean that enslavement of whites was good since the vast majority of slaves Saint Paul would have had contact with would have been white? Using the Bible to defend slavery leads to endless questions of this type as the abolitionists at the time pointed out.
Perhaps one of the more elaborate defenses of slavery using religion was that of Richard Furman in a letter to the Governor of South Carolina, John Lyde Wilson, in 1822. A Baptist pastor, Furman was born in Esopus, New York in 1755. A preacher of unusual power, he was appointed as the Baptist pastor of the High Hills of Santee Baptist Church in South Carolina at the age of 19. An ardent patriot during the Revolution, he became pastor of the First Baptist Church in Charleston in 1787.
A strong believer in education, he founded literary societies, academies, literacy campaigns and local Bible and tract societies. With his leadership, Baptists in South Carolina founded Columbian College in 1821, now known as George Washington University.
Furman began his career viewing slavery as an undoubted evil. By the end of his career he owned slaves and had enlisted the Bible in defense of the “peculiar institution”.
It would be easy to simply view Furman as a hypocrite and a monster. However, such is not the case. He was a highly educated man and a convinced Christian, and his life contained many charitable works, some of which were for blacks, slave and free alike. The truly depressing fact while reading the very well written defense of slavery below, is the recognition that Furman in many ways was a very good man working very hard to defend the indefensible. The attempted slave insurrection of Denmark Versey prompted Furman to write the letter. Furman’s letter to the Governor of South Carolina: Continue reading
To ask some questions is to answer them, and via Commonweal, I see that UCLA history professor emeritus Joyce Appleby has penned a lovely exercise in anti-Catholicism entitled, Should Catholic Justices Recuse Selves On Certain Cases?. Here is an excerpt:
But because of the Catholic Church’s active opposition to abortion, same-sex marriage and capital punishment, it raises serious questions about the freedom of Catholic justices to judge these issues. Perhaps the time has come to ask them to recuse themselves when cases come before their court on which their church has taken positions binding on its communicants…
…Recusal sounds like a radical measure, but we require judges to withdraw from deliberations whenever a personal interest is involved. Surely ingrained convictions exert more power on judgment than mere financial gain. Many will counter that views on abortion, same-sex marriage, and the death penalty are profound moral commitments, not political opinions. Yet who will argue that religious beliefs and the authority of the Catholic Church will have no bearing on the justices when presented with cases touching these powerful concerns?
From the always insightful and provocative Daniel Larison:
As I noted long ago, and as Ross has suggested again this week, it makes no sense to blame Christian orthodoxy or traditional Christianity for the religiously-tinged ideology of the Bush administration and the resulting failures of this ideology’s optimistic and hubristic approach to the world. It is no accident that the most strident and early critics of the Bush administration hailed from traditionalist Catholic and Orthodox circles that make Linker’s bete noire of First Things look like the relatively liberal, ecumenist forum that it is. Mr. Bush espoused a horrifyingly heterodox religious vision, one far more akin to the messianic Americanism that forms part of what Bacevich has called national security ideology than it is to anything that could fairly be called orthodoxy.
A recent study of 33 countries by Anthony Gill and Erik Lundsgaarde found an inverse relationship between religious observance and welfare spending. Countries with larger welfare states, such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark, had markedly lower levels of religious attendance, affiliation and trust in God than countries with a history of limited government, such as the U.S., the Philippines and Brazil. Public spending amounts to more than one half of the GDP in Sweden, where only 4% of the population regularly attends church. By contrast, public spending amounts to 18% of the Philippines’ GDP, and 68% of Filipinos regularly attend church.
R.R. Reno reflecting on Fr. Neuhaus:
I have many fond memories of him, but many important and influential ones, as well. During the fall of 2006, I was in his office, expressing my anxious agitation about the upcoming congressional elections. I worried over the loss of a Republican majority, linking my political concerns to the future of the pro-life cause, the dangers of unfettered bioengineering, and so forth. He sat back in his chair, puffing on his cigar while I prattled on. Then, with a wave of his hand, he dismissed my anxieties with a simple observation:
According to a recent study, the percentage of Americans who profess no religion has been increasing over the last 20 years:
The Catholic population of the United States has shifted away from the Northeast and towards the Southwest, while secularity continues to grow in strength in all regions of the country, according to a new study by the Program on Public Values at Trinity College. “The decline of Catholicism in the Northeast is nothing short of stunning,” said Barry Kosmin, a principal investigator for the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS). “Thanks to immigration and natural increase among Latinos, California now has a higher proportion of Catholics than New England.”
In broad terms, ARIS 2008 found a consolidation and strengthening of shifts signaled in the 2001 survey. The percentage of Americans claiming no religion, which jumped from 8.2 in 1990 to 14.2 in 2001, has now increased to 15 percent. Given the estimated growth of the American adult population since the last census from 207 million to 228 million, that reflects an additional 4.7 million “Nones.” Northern New England has now taken over from the Pacific Northwest as the least religious section of the country, with Vermont, at 34 percent “Nones,” leading all other states by a full 9 points.