• Against predictions that Catholics would enter the ranks of the academic elite at the same rate as those of other and no religions, a recent study finds that they are significantly behind mainline Protestants and Jews on that measure. The study, conducted by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, looked at winners of Nobel Prizes to assess the late Catholic sociologist Andrew Greeley’s prediction that Catholics would be just as likely to enter the academic world as others given their identical rate of graduate degree attainment since the 1960s. In a paper presented at the recent meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, which RW attended, Beit-Hallahmi reported that Catholics represent only a small minority among the most eminent academics, those awarded the Nobel Prize. Out of 638 individuals who have been awarded the Nobel Prize in physics, chemistry, and medicine, only 11 are Catholic, comprising just under 2 percent of the group. For the literature prize, Catholics had significant representation, making up 22 out of 119 awardees. Beit-Hallahmi noted that the pattern of low Catholic representation among Nobel Prize winners is reflected in other past research showing a lower rate of Catholics who are academics. He added that those Catholics who have reached the elite circles of academia have been assimilated and had mostly left the church—contrary to Greeley’s view that even if they did not agree with church doctrine, Catholic scholars would remain affiliated with the church. Beit-Hallahmi concludes that “50 years after Greeley started making these claims, we know that Catholics, who make up more than 25 percent of the population, are indeed well-represented among holders of advanced degrees (27.9 percent), but significantly underrepresented among elite faculty (9.0 percent).”

    The Nobel Prize Laureates Hall at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Visitor Center (NIH Campus, Bethesda, Maryland, USA), February 2015 (source: Hildabast, Wikimedia Commons).


  • There is more “partisan sorting” and politicization among Democrats than Republicans when it comes to issues surrounding “Christian nationalism,” a new study finds. Jesse Smith of Benedictine College presented one of many papers focusing on Christian nationalism at the late-October meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in Salt Lake City, which RW attended. Using data from the General Social Survey, the Views of the Electorate Survey, and Public Religion Research Institute surveys from 1996 to 2023, Smith looked at the puzzle of why alarm over Christian nationalism has been rising at the same time that Christian nationalist ideas, such as the relation of Christian identity to American identity, have been losing support in society. He found that support for such a Christian nationalist position as that for one to be “truly American” one has to be Christian has decreased sharply for Democrats since 2014, while Republicans have shown much less change in that regard. This was evident among both white and black Democrats, although the reaction was strongest among the former. Smith concludes that the backlash against Christian nationalist ideas among Democrats has been stronger than the intolerance and backlash against secularism among Republicans during this time period. He adds that further study of Christian nationalism should include scrutiny of data from across the political spectrum.

    Source: Religion Unplugged.


  •       The U.S. and Utah state flags displayed in
         front of the iconic Salt Lake Temple of the
         LDS Church (source: Pastelitodepapa,
         Wikimedia Commons).

    A survey on the extent of influence of the far right and Christian nationalism in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) finds some impact of these movements among church members, but also a lot of ambiguity. The survey, the latest of the Next Mormon studies conducted by Jana Reiss and Benjamin Kroll, was administered to 830 LDS members in 2022. They found 67 percent of respondents agreeing that the U.S. should be a Christian nation and that the federal government should advocate for Christian values. At the same time, the majority supported the separation of church and state. Support for Christian nationalist ideas was stronger among the LDS in Arizona than Utah. For instance, prayer in school found support among 78 percent of Utah respondents and 90 percent of Arizonans. Acknowledging that such Christian nationalist measures do not fit properly with many LDS teachings and may be too broad, the researchers tried to measure LDS sympathy for far-right groups within the church, asking in the survey about LDS members’ support for the far-right LDS organization DEZ Net, an online forum that is said to have the dwindling support of about 300 members. They found that 49 percent of respondents were “not at all” familiar with the group, and only 16 percent were “very” familiar with it. In conclusion, Reiss estimated that “no more than one-in-five Mormons” support such far-right currents.


  • As sociologists of religion have long suspected, a survey by Samuel Perry of the University of Oklahoma finds that their subfield is viewed by other sociologists as marginal and even conservative. This marginalization has been chronicled by religion scholars from several disciplines over the years. Reporting in the journal American Sociologist (online in October) on the results of an online survey of 536 sociologists, Perry notes that sociology of religion was rated as the least mainstream subfield. But on other measures, such as popularity and intellectual rigor, respondents rated the field as being on par with other specialties, such as sociology of education, and even ranked it higher than economic sociology. Perry also found that along with their marginal status, sociologists of religion were more often characterized as “religious” and “conservative.” Those who characterized sociologists of religion in this way were more likely to downgrade the subfield on nearly every metric. Perry writes that this downgrading was not so much because sociologists of religion were seen as conducting research relevant to the respondents’ own interests and beliefs; rather, it was due to a conservatism they suspected in this subfield. Perry concludes that while attitudes about the marginal nature of the sociology of religion could be remedied by greater advocacy by scholars in the field, the “possibility of anti-religious bias or antipathy toward conservatives is more difficult to solve.”
    (American Sociologist,

    Arkansas state Sen. Joyce Elliott speaking as a visiting lecturer in Gordon Shepherd’s Sociology of Religion class at the University of Central Arkansas, April 2012 (source: Flickr).


  • The number of annual baptisms in Latin America fell from 8,197,000 in 2000 to 5,135,000 in 2020, according to a report by the Latin American and Caribbean Episcopal Council (CELAM). It was also found that confirmations and Catholic marriages decreased steadily in the same period as well. The Catholic newsletter, The Pillar (October 23), reports that the trends highlighted in the CELAM report are significant for world Catholicism since 41 percent of the world’s Catholics live in Latin America and the Caribbean. The report’s authors conclude that it “is possible to conjecture that the number of Catholics in the region, approximated based on the number of baptisms administered per year, will fall in the near future due to the conjunction of two trends: the slowdown in population growth, and the drop in the number of baptisms administered annually.” They also note that alongside the decline in sacraments administered, there was also a widespread weakening of Catholic affiliation, which seemed “to indicate a loss of weight of the Catholic Church in the Latin American population, a distancing from the institution.” On a more positive note for the church, the report also noted that the number of priests in Central America and Mexico doubled from 10,957 to 22,016 in 2020.
    (The Pillar,



  • A study of youth in Finland finds that religious belief is growing among young men and is associated with a higher level of personal wellbeing, while young women are becoming less religious and experiencing a lower sense of wellbeing. The study, presented by Kati Tervo-Niemela of the University of Eastern Finland at the recent meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, which RW attended, is part of a five-nation Templeton-funded project looking at religious transmission across generations in Germany, Finland, Italy, Hungary, and Canada. Tervo-Niemela’s study focuses on a survey conducted in these five countries (N=8,402), biographical interviews with 63 people (children, parents, and grandparents) in 17 families in Finland, and additionally on a larger quantitative survey of 100,000 young confirmands and volunteers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland that has been conducted annually from 2019 to 2023. The researcher reports that in the five nations overall, there was found to be a slight positive correlation between being brought up in religious families and reported happiness in childhood.

    Among the respondents in Finland, Tervo-Niemela found that religious youth had a higher sense of wellbeing than non-religious youth and that there was an increasing gender gap both in religiousness and in wellbeing. Boys were both more religious and had a higher sense of wellbeing than girls, and religiosity among boys was growing. The researcher found that boys’ belief in God grew markedly from about 36 percent in 2019 to 59 percent in 2023, with a growth of spirituality and religiosity in the younger cohort (those born in the 1990s to 2002). Meanwhile, girls’ belief in God remained stable over the same period of time (going from around 35 percent to 37 percent), with religiosity and spirituality declining in the younger cohort. Tervo-Niemela noted that these are unusual findings, since women have been seen as the traditional standard-bearers of religion and spirituality. The sharp growth in Christian faith among boys also raises questions about the effect of the pandemic on faith and, as one young male respondent indicated, the possibility that Christianity may offer an affirmation of masculinity that is missing in the rest of Western society.

    Confirmation Camp in Finland (source: The Blessed Wilderness, 2015).


  • For the first time, a majority of Hungarians—56.6 percent—failed to identify with a faith tradition, with 16.5 percent declaring “no religion” and a further 40.1 percent choosing not to answer the question at all, according to the country’s official census of religious identity. Alex Faludy reports in the National Catholic Reporter (October 25) that while all of the “country’s main denominations were hit badly, results for the Roman Catholic Church, historically the nation’s majority tradition, were worst of all—a drop of 1.1 million (nearly 30 percent), compared to 2011. The numbers went from an estimated 3.69 million people identifying as Catholics in 2011 to 2.6 million today. Combined with a smaller loss between 2001 and 2011, Hungary’s Catholic population has shrunk an astounding 50 percent this century, to just 27.5 percent of the population.” Faludy adds that these figures “contrast starkly with the rhetoric of Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s far-right prime minister, who has described ‘Christian Hungary’ as a supposed bulwark against immigration of Muslims and other religious minorities into Europe.” The new statistics may pose questions about state support of churches. In recent years, large sums of public money and many state services have been transferred to the churches, with the government supporting the building or refurbishing of about 3,000 places of worship and more than doubling the number of church schools (publicly funded at a level estimated at 3:1 relative to secular equivalents). The large percentage of those not responding to the survey question (as opposed to declaring non-belief) has caused some commentators to wonder if specific problems in Hungary’s faith communities may have contributed to this decline in identifying with a religion.
    (National Catholic Reporter,


  •      Australian Catholic women echoing the
          global call for church reform (source: The
         University of Newcastle, September 2023).

    Australians’ responses to the International Survey of Catholic Women, one of the most extensive surveys of Catholic women ever undertaken, show a rift between older respondents who were more supportive of reform and change and their younger counterparts who hold more conservative attitudes, according to The Pillar (September 29), a Catholic newsletter. Commenting on the age-based differences, report co-author Tracy McEwan told the Sydney Morning Herald: “There has been a push back towards conservatism. I think that’s been impactful for young adults in the Church.” The responses from the 1,769 women in Australia who took part in the survey in 2022 showed a broad pattern of frustration with the pace of reform in the church, but the different age groups did not interpret church reform in the same way. The older respondents referred to reform as changing the church and its teachings in dialogue with ordinary Catholics and the secular world. In contrast, a smaller and younger cohort tended to reject any modernization of the church and understood reform as a return to orthodoxy and tradition, including reviving the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM).
    While a majority of respondents supported the priestly ordination of women, “older respondents were a lot more likely to agree with the ordination of women than younger respondents,” reports The Pillar article. The younger respondents were also significantly less likely to support the use of gender-inclusive language in the liturgy and church documents. “Some young respondents spoke passionately about the importance of traditional practices and the impact of the TLM on their faith,” the report’s authors noted. Older respondents were significantly more likely to support the full inclusion of LGBTIQA+ people into church life. While older respondents also supported Catholic social teachings as a good resource for social justice efforts, the younger respondents criticized Catholic social teaching and action as a politicization of faith and doctrinal teaching.
    (The Pillar,