Just as there is a Protestant work ethic, a “Protestant family ethic” has emerged which encourages marriage and family formation, particularly among those who have attended Protestant schools, according to a new study. The study, conducted by sociologists Albert Cheng, Patrick J. Wolf, Wendy Wang, and W. Bradford Wilcox, looked at how enrollment in Catholic, Protestant, public, and secular private schools is associated with different family outcomes later in life. The researchers analyze national representative data from the Understanding America Study and the National Longitudinal Survey (going from 1997-2018) to understand the link between such outcomes as divorce, marriage, and having children outside of marriage, to the schools the respondents attended. They find that adults who attended Protestant schools are more than twice as likely to be in an intact marriage as those who attended public schools, and among those who have ever married, Protestant school attendees are about 60 percent less likely than public school attendees to have ever divorced. Catholic school attendees are about 30 percent less likely to have had a child out of wedlock than those who attended public schools.

The authors of the study explain the different outcomes from public schools (secular private schools had similar though weaker effects) as stemming from the different “moral ecologies” that these students are enmeshed in, comprising family environments, and different moral views of marriage and sexuality being taught. Public and Catholic schools, for instance, are more likely to stress tolerance and diversity but might avoid family issues to avoid controversy; Protestant schools are more likely to stress the importance of marriage as a good in itself.  But the influence of peers and the moral messages they send to each other stood out as the most important factor. For instance, 75 percent of Protestant students said almost none of their peers had sex, compared to 38 percent of Catholic students and 16 percent of public-school students.

(This study can be downloaded at: 

A recent survey of congregational leaders across the country by the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving asked congregations about their finances finds more decline among Catholic parishes than Protestant churches. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey found a slight majority (52 percent) of congregations reported an increase in participation. Yet at the same time, a plurality of congregations (42 percent) reported a drop in contributions. Giving overall was down 4.4 percent from March to June compared to the same period in 2019 (with the decline in June standing at 6.0 percent). Catholic parishes and small congregations with less than 50 weekly participants reported declines in participation and giving more often than any other groups. In contrast, the annual State of the Plate study of congregational giving (conducted among 1,076 Protestant churches) finds a rise in contributions after church closings and declines in April, with close to two-thirds reporting by August that giving was either up (22 percent) or steady (42 percent).

(The Lake Institute study can be downloaded here:








Adherents of the prosperity gospel, which stresses the benefits of health and wealth from faith, are more likely to defy public health initiatives than other believers, according to a study by Paul Djupe and Ryan P. Burge. Writing in their blog Religion in Public (September 24, 2020), the political scientists conducted a survey in late March at the start of the pandemic, looking
at the public health dimensions of the prosperity gospel. They find a large plurality, in the low 40 percentile, holding to prosperity gospel beliefs (which they define as holding to both the benefits of faith for health and detrimental effects of unbelief).  The survey finds that prosperity gospel beliefs drive up perceptions of threat from the coronavirus, bringing them to the same level as Democrats, but the former is more likely to emphasize the First Amendment and how restrictions during the pandemic are hurting religious freedom and closing churches. The prosperity gospel adherents are also more likely to resist church closures and believe we are living in the end times. Djupe and Burge argue that prosperity gospel adherents tend to “ascribe to an exclusive theology that emphasizes ingroup over outreach to others.” [It should be noted that the large population of prosperity gospel adherents that the researchers find and the generic definition they offer differs from the prosperity theology found in Pentecostal and charismatic churches].

(Religion in Public,

Although U.S. teens and their parents may share a common faith, the importance the younger generation attaches to religion is less than their parents might think, according to an analysis of survey data by Pew Research Center. Most U.S. teens follow their families’ religious affiliation, Protestant parents likely to have teens identifying as Protestants, and Catholic parents mostly having teens who consider themselves co-believers. A large majority of non-affiliated parents also have teens who describe themselves in secular terms.  Most teenagers attend religious services about as often as their parents do, with 44 percent saying they go to religious services at about at least once a month. The difference shows up on the importance of religion– far fewer teens (24 percent) than parents (43 percent) say that religion is very important in their lives. The survey also asked both groups to rate the importance of religion in the other family member’s life and were fairly accurate (73 percent for teens and 64 percent for parents).

But “among those who do not agree, parents are far more likely to overestimate the importance of religion to their teen than to underestimate it.” For instance, for parents giving a different answer than their teen does regarding the importance of religion to the teen, 69 percent think religion is more important in the life of their teen than their teen does, with a much smaller percentage underestimating religion’s importance (29 percent). Of the teens, giving a different answer than their parents on this question, 43 percent overestimated it and 55 percent underestimated it.

(The Pew Research Center analysis can be downloaded here:

 A study of the spirituality of Americans finds that the more a person identifies as spiritual, the more likely they are to take civic and political action. The study, conducted by the Fetzer Institute, used interviews, focus group conversations, and a survey of a cross-section of the U.S., and found that forms of civic and political action resulting from spirituality ranged from volunteering and donating to voting and speaking out on social and political issues. The study found that seven in ten survey respondents said that spirituality is important in their lives. In defining their spirituality, respondents commonly included descriptions of a relationship with God or Jesus, reference to religion in general, or a belief in a higher power. But a significant majority of both spiritual and religious people say they have no doubts that a higher power exists. Over half of people who reported such strong belief feel such a presence at least every day. Some of those who do not believe in a higher power, or have their doubts, still report having this experience of a presence at least once in a while. The study found that 88 percent said they engage in at least one spiritual or religious activity at least once a week, such as prayer (60 percent), reading (50 percent), art (50 percent), being in nature (41 percent), and religious service (32 percent). While nearly half of respondents said they are part of a religious community, four in five people who are spiritual but not religious are not part of a spiritual or religious community.

(The Fetzer Study can be downloaded here: 

 Despite the increase in use of public language about the role of religion in Hungary’s identity by its nationalist government, even religious people tend to adapt to secular values in every day life, according to a study in the journal Social Compass (online in September, 2020). Hungarian sociologists Bulcsu Bognar and Zoltan Kmetty use an online quota sample (which aims to correspond to the demographics of a larger population) of 1,000 respondents to represent Internet users between 18 and 65. Respondents were asked about their views on various illegal and “norm-breaking” behaviors, such as cheating on taxes, other forms of corruption, marital infidelity, and homosexuality. The researchers found that religious respondent showed few differences from their secular counterparts; belief in a personal God had no effect on their views on moral behavior in terms of economic activities, with a smaller decline in support of marital fidelity from 2008 findings. While religious believers showed stronger opposition to homosexuality, even that is more in line with the secular view that sexuality is a private matter. The study concludes that Hungary represents a case of “believing without moralizing,” with people upholding (including the government) the Christian roots of Western civilizational discourse while no longer taking Christian beliefs seriously in shaping their ethics.

(Social Compass,

 A report based on online fieldwork by sociologist Rakib Ehsan among 750 Muslims in the UK finds a pattern of anti-Semitism, particularly among those who are the least  integrated in society. The study, published by the Henry Jackson Society and conducted the Savanta ComRes polling firm, looked at Muslim attitudes toward Jews and Israel, particularly examining perceptions of Jewish control, as well as religions and countries. Muslims are reported to show elevated signs of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiments, especially those lacking strong ties to society, as measured by their friendship networks. Ehsan compares his findings to a poll of anti-Semitism wider British society carried out in 2019 and finds that even those Muslims who were the most integrated still show more anti-Semitism than the British as a whole. Higher levels of formal education did not inoculate Muslim respondents from holding anti-Semitic attitudes and subscribing to conspiracy theories against the Jews.

(The study can be downloaded here: https://com/polls/henry-jackson-society-british-muslimattitudes-august-2020/)

 A significant percentage of Iranians claim that they have become non-religious or do no longer pray, according to an online survey about Iranians’ attitudes toward religion, conducted in June by the Group for Analyzing and Measuring Attitudes in Iran (GAMAAN). Conducted by Ammar Maleki (Tilburg University, Netherlands) and Pooyan Tamimi Arab (Utrecht University, Netherlands), the survey is based on answers from a refined sample of 39,981 respondents (out of more than 50 thousand answers), coming from all parts of the country. Respondents were reached using the method of multiple virtual snowball sampling through social media (Telegram, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Facebook). The survey finds that 70 percent of Iranians are active on at least one social media platform according to Iranian official figures. Despite the limits of such a method, the mere number of respondents and the professional treatment and weighting of the data mean that the survey can definitely point to trends among literate individuals above the age of 19.

Nearly 9 percent of the respondents identify as atheists, 5.8 percent as agnostics, 2.7 percent as humanists, and an impressive 22 percent as nones; 32 percent are Shiite Muslims, 5 percent Sunni Muslims and 3.2 percent Sufis. There are 1.5 percent Christians and 0.5 percent Bahai, with 7.7 percent identifying as Zoroastrians (very far above the real number of Zoroastrians in the country, but probably allowing people to connect with an Iranian non-Muslim religious legacy). While 41 percent say that their beliefs did not change significantly during their lifetime, 47 percent “reported having transitioned from being religious to non-religious,” while only 6 percent of previously non-religious people claim to have become religious, and the same percentage to have converted from one religious view to another. Over 27 percent report praying five times a day, as prescribed, while nearly 60 percent say that they do not observe the observe the prescribed prayers. Sixty-eight percent think that religious prescriptions should not be incorporated into legislation, while less than 15 percent believe “that the law should always comply with religious prescriptions.” More than 70 percent think that the State should not provide financial support to any religion. 41 percent think that all beliefs should be allowed to proselytize publicly, 43 percent that no religion should have a right to proselytize in public, and only 4 percent that this should be reserved for Muslims.

(The results of answers to several other questions can be found in the PDF document that can be downloaded from GAMAAN website,