• One of the first cross-national studies on abortion and religion finds that the religious or secular character of nations’ cultures has more influence on abortion attitudes than religious affiliation. The study, conducted by sociologist Amy Adamczyk of the City University of New York, was presented at a seminar at New York’s Columbia University in mid-February, which RW attended. Adamczyk, author of the forthcoming book, Fetal Positions, based on her research, analyzed waves 5, 6, and 7 of the World Values Survey (WVS), which has a sample size of 11,317 respondents from 88 countries, as well as using data from the Pew Research Center and collecting qualitative data comparing China and the U.S. She said that because the WVS dataset has only one abortion question, it has been difficult to get a handle on international abortion attitudes and their relation to religion.

    Source: American Life League | Flickr (

    The weak effect Adamczyk found in the correlation between religious affiliation and abortion attitudes was only partially offset by respondents’ Catholic affiliation, with an increase in abortion disapproval appearing in Catholic countries, but there was no such effect for dominant religious groups in other countries. But she found it was the country effects (the influence of the surrounding religious or secular culture) that had as much impact on abortion attitudes as personal beliefs. In comparing abortion attitudes in China and the U.S., Adamczyk and researchers conducted 40 expert interviews (comprising such professionals as journalists, researchers, and doctors) and found a wide chasm between the two countries on the issue. In China, there was no effect of religion and spirituality on abortion attitudes, aside from an individual belief in karma with collective implications, while the pervasive Christian presence in the U.S. kept abortion prominent in public life. But in her interviews, Adamczyk found religious overtones to several respondents, ranging from views that confession can help women in coping with the loss caused by abortion to the belief that through reincarnation the couple could have another chance to have children.

  •     Source: GetArchive/Pixabay

  • A new study finds that only about a third of those LDS members who claim to attend church weekly in surveys actually do. While there are several different estimations of Church of Latter-day Saints church attendance, the new estimates by economist Devin Pope of the University of Chicago are unique as they are based on a larger project that tracks the cellphones of 2.1 million Americans over nearly a year (from April 2019 to the pre-pandemic month of February 2020). In her blog for Religious News Service, Flunking Sainthood (February 16), Jana Reiss reports that in his study Pope took circumstances such as illness and travel into consideration, designating members as “weekly attenders” if they went to church at least 36 weeks out of the year. But even with such allowances, the researcher found that 0.29 percent of the U.S. population actually attend as compared to the 0.87 percent who claim to be weekly attenders. “Surely we’re seeing some social desirability bias,” Pope said, “where people want to claim that they are weekly attenders and they’re just not.”

    Yet LDS members overreport at a lower rate than other religious adherents; Catholics, Muslims, Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses showed higher rates of discrepancy. And even if the total is only one-third of LDS claims to weekly attendance, Mormons remain some of the most stalwart weekly attenders in America: about 15 percent of U.S. Latter-day Saints appear to be weekly attenders, which is triple the national average of 5 percent. Other singularities that Pope finds among the LDS is that they lack the spikes in holiday attendance of other Christians, which is another sign that most of the just under 2 million people in the pews on a given Sunday are regular attenders. He finds LDS congregations to be the least economically diverse of all religious groups. Even when controlling for geography, thinking that the Intermountain West’s high rate of homogeneity (especially Utah) was skewing the results, Pope still found that the LDS “remains one of the least diverse places of worship.”

  • While religious countries are often viewed as resistant to compromise on territorial issues because of their ideological inflexibility, a recent study finds that such regimes are more likely to embrace bilateral negotiations than less religious countries in engaging over religiously salient issues. In the study, published in the Journal of Global Security Studies (9:1), Ariel Zellman, Florian Justwan, and Jonathan Fox compare highly religious societies to moderately religious and secular ones on how they deal with interstate territorial issues, measuring religiously salient claims in internationally disputed territories from the new Peaceful Resolution of Territorial Disputes dataset. They find that highly religious regimes, as illustrated in the cases of Northern Ireland and the conflict between Jordan and Israel, have gained the legitimacy among their constituents that gives them the latitude to engage in risky diplomatic ventures. For example, despite the continued unpopularity over the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, the latter country has been able to soothe domestic discontent by demonstrating its “religious bona fides” by extracting Israeli concessions over symbolic issues. Yet Zellman, Justwan, and Fox also find that foreign policy executives in highly religious states are also particularly hesitant to give up their decision-making authority regarding religious disputes to outside mediation or arbitration.

    Source: Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Wikimedia)

    The researchers find that secular regimes “lack both religious legitimacy and political motivation to engage over religious issues given their much broader constituencies, such as that their dispute resolution forum preferences are unaffected by religious salience.” In contrast, moderately religious regimes, such as seen in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, “are caught in the middle. Unlike secular regimes, their domestic politics and institutions are substantially informed by religious interests and agendas, so non-engagement over religiously salient disputes is unlikely. Yet their dearth of religious legitimacy compared to highly religious regimes implies a substantial risk of domestic religious outbidding and consequent negotiation failure when they do engage,” the researchers write. This results in moderately religious regimes avoiding dispute resolution “rather than engagement of any kind,” they add.

    (Journal of Global Security Studies,

  • While Northern Ireland remains a Christian dominated country with a strong evangelical Christian presence, it might surprise Protestant stalwarts in the country that a significant minority of Catholics also claim the “evangelical” label, according to two surveys. In the blog Brainstorm (February 27), sociologist Gladys Ganiel of Queens University Belfast reports on the two recent surveys that complicate the picture of evangelicalism, one a representative poll of the public across Northern Ireland conducted by the firm Savanta, the other an Internet survey by the Evangelical Alliance. Church attendance has declined significantly in the country since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, when 77 percent of Catholics and 52 percent of Protestants attended church services on an at least monthly basis. By 2019, attendance for both Protestants and Catholics was down to 46 percent—still towering over attendance rates in the Irish Republic and in England.

    The recent Savanta poll confirms a continued high level of belief and practice, even if attendance has declined to 36 percent for monthly or more attenders. But more noteworthy was the wide appeal of the evangelical designation: “47 percent of Protestants and a startling 38 percent of Catholics who consider themselves practicing self-identified as evangelicals,” Ganiel writes. Those considering themselves “evangelical” in both surveys stood out from the general population in their support for pro-life measures and opposition to same-sex marriage. But Ganiel concludes that “the two surveys confounded some stereotypes of evangelicalism.” Eighty-one percent of the Evangelical Alliance respondents agreed that asylum seekers and refugees should be supported in practical ways and made to feel welcome, compared to just 56 percent of the general population. The surveys also showed that 82 percent of the general population and 83 percent of Evangelical Alliance respondents agreed that more effort is needed to promote peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.


  • Major media and the German government have claimed that antisemitic acts have been largely committed by right-wing Germans, but evidence points more in the direction of extremist Islamic groups and individuals, according to an analysis by Andrew Hammel in Quillete (February 13). Recently Susan Neiman, director of the Einstein Forum in Berlin, wrote in the New York Review of Books that “police statistics show that over 90 percent of antisemitic hate crimes are committed by white, right-wing Germans.” Hammel writes that Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (the Bundeskriminalamt or BKA) tracks crimes that appear to be motivated by political or religious ideology and issues annual reports on them. He notes that under a controversial policy implemented in 2001, the BKA by default classifies all unsolved antisemitic incidents as being perpetrated by “extreme-right” actors. Since most antisemitic incidents are never solved (only 42 percent of politically motivated crimes, including antisemitic hate crimes, were solved in 2022), this means that the majority of antisemitic crimes classified as right-wing are not based on evidence. There is an exception to this rule when the circumstances surrounding an unsolved crime indicate that it was motivated by religious or ethnic bigotry or a “foreign ideology.” But Hammel adds that even in those cases, the BKA may still classify the crime as “right-wing.” He cites cases of Muslim extremists giving Nazi salutes and painting swastikas on a Jewish-owned business being classified as right-wing unless the police find the perpetrator.

    Source: Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (Montecruz Foto via Jewish Policy Center).

    An alternative to the much-cited BKA numbers is to be found in surveys of Jews in Germany and Europe, which find that “most incidents of violence or harassment are committed by Muslim immigrants of whatever generation.” Among others, he cites a 2018 survey of Jewish residents in 12 European countries conducted by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, finding that the most frequent offender category identified by victims of antisemitic harassment was “someone with a Muslim extremist view,” which accounted for 30 percent of all incidents in the 12-country study and 41 percent of incidents in Germany. The 12-country average for “someone with a right-wing view” was 13 percent (the figures for “someone with a left-wing view” were 21 percent). “This is the same figure found by a 2022 study by the independent Research and Information Clearinghouse for Antisemitism. Hammel adds that, “according to the best studies we have, only 10–15 percent of antisemitic incidents in Germany are motivated by right-wing ideology—a statistic comparable to the number of antisemitic incidents traceable to extreme-left-wing ideologies. These results hold true for all other European countries with significant Muslim populations, including France and Sweden.”


  • Nigeria witnessed its most violent year of Islamist attacks against Christians in 2023, with more than 8,000 killed, according to a new report by the Catholic-inspired NGO, the International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law. Crux (February 16), the Catholic news website, cites the report as finding that the combined forces of government-protected Islamic Jihadists and the Nigerian Security Forces (NSFs) were directly and indirectly responsible for hacking to death no fewer than 8,222 Christians between 2023 and 2024. The killings were carried out by a broad range of actors, including Jihadist Fulani herdsmen who were responsible for at least 5,100 Christian deaths, Boko Haram and their allies with 500 deaths, Jihadist Fulani bandits with 1,600 deaths, and “Islamic inspired” security forces with 1,000 Christian deaths. The killings marked “the deadliest [period] in recent years,” the report states, citing the failure of the Nigerian government and the security forces to “rise to the occasion…Nigeria has become the second deadliest Genocide-Country in the world [after Syria] accounting for more than 150,000 religiously motivated defenseless civilian deaths since 2009.” The report adds that about 100,000 Christians were among the 150,000 killed, while moderate Muslims accounted for about 46,000 and members of other religions accounted for the remaining 4,000 defenseless civilian deaths.

    Source: Lausanne Movement (

    Crux writer Ngala Killian Chimtom cites the report as showing that the killings and related violence resulted in the destruction of tens of thousands of civilian homes, more than 18,500 Christian places of worship, 1,000 religious shrines, and 2,500 Christian/traditional education centers. During the same period, over 59,000 square kilometers of land that belonged to native Christians and non-Muslims were taken over and their inhabitants displaced. “Between 2016 and 2023, a period of eight years, more than 30,000 defenseless civilians were abducted by Islamic Jihadists and, some say, ‘Islamic inspired’ security forces in Nigeria,” the report states. It adds that “the most shocking of it all is that the Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen operate freely and unchallenged with impunity and reckless abandon, with the Nigerian Security Forces (NSFs), widely accused of being ‘Islamic-inspired,’ turning blind eyes or looking the other [way], except when it comes to protection of Fulani cows and their herders or arresting members of the victim communities and their leaders, labeling them ‘bandits.’”