• Muslims are depicted more negatively in U.S. and Western media than members of other religions, a new study finds. Writing in the Conversation (May 29), political scientists Erik Bleich and A. Maurits van der Veen report that while newspapers tend to publish a balanced proportion of negative depictions of other minority religions, Muslims face negative coverage to a far greater extent. The researchers “used media databases such as LexisNexis, Nexis Uni, ProQuest and Factiva to download 256,963 articles mentioning Muslims or Islam…from 17 national, regional and tabloid newspapers in the United States over the 21-year period from Jan. 1, 1996, to Dec. 31, 2016.” To measure the positivity or negativity of the articles, they were compared “to the tone of a random sample of 48,283 articles about topics drawn from a wide range of newspapers. A negative value on this scale means that a story is negative relative to the average newspaper article.”

    This approach provided a baseline for additional comparisons. Bleich and van der Veen collected sets of articles from U.S. newspapers relating to Catholics, Jews and Hindus, and also assembled stories linked to Muslims from newspapers in the UK, Canada and Australia. “Our central finding is that the average article mentioning Muslims or Islam in the United States is more negative than 84 percent of articles in our random sample…Articles that mentioned Muslims were also much more likely to be negative than stories touching on any other group we examined. For Catholics, Jews and Hindus, the proportion of positive and negative articles was close to 50-50. By contrast, 80 percent of all articles related to Muslims were negative.” The researchers found a very similar proportion of negative to positive articles from the UK, Canada, and Australia.

    Source: University of Cambridge.


  • Most synagogues are growing or stable, although a sizeable percentage are declining, according to a new survey of American Judaism by Faith Communities Today (FACT). The 2020 FACT survey revealed that, contrary to dire media reports, some synagogues are experiencing growth: while 40 percent reported decline, 40 percent reported growth, and about 20 percent were holding steady. The researchers suggest, however, that “synagogues likely mirror the larger reality of the church world where 70 percent of people attend the largest 10 percent of congregations. So too, the largest synagogues are attracting more and more members while smaller ones, in difficult markets, report challenges.” The report adds that the observed stability and growth among most synagogues may be due to their having followed the “people they most wish to attract.” Most synagogues report having moved at some point in their history, with only 27 percent remaining in the same location since they were founded. The survey also suggests that synagogues have yet to invest the resources necessary to attract the next generation and have maintained relatively low rates of young Jewish adult engagement (a reality across the board of faith traditions in America as a whole), and that “rabbis are older, male, long tenured and often the sole clergy member in their synagogues.

    (The FACT report can be downloaded from:

    Source: Chabad.


  • “The angry hostility towards religion engineered by the New Atheist movement is over,” though some of this antagonism is still apparent when it comes to science and religion, a new study finds. The study, conducted by the British Christian think tank Theos, and based on interviews with scientists as well as a YouGov survey of 5,000 UK adults, found a significant decrease in dismissive and hostile attitudes toward religion. When a similar study was conducted at the height of the New Atheist movement, which was led by such scientists as Richard Dawkins, 42 percent of respondents had agreed that “faith is one of the world’s great evils”; today the share agreeing with that statement is down to 20 percent. The survey also found 46 percent agreeing that “all religions have some element of truth in them,” 49 percent that “humans are at heart spiritual beings,” and 64 percent that “there are some things that science will never be able to explain.”

    (The Theos report can be downloaded from:

    Source: Theos.