The first large-scale study of clergy working outside of congregations finds that this trend has not changed greatly over the past four decades, although today such clergy tend to be female, live in a city, and have an advanced degree. The study, published in the Review of Religious Research (online in October) and conducted by Cyril Schleifer and Wendy Cadge, analyzed data from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey from 1976 to 2016. While the researchers were surprised by the stability of the proportion of clergy working outside congregations on a national scale—15 percent—the percentage was found to be higher in the northeast and western regions of the U.S. This may be because of the higher cost of living in these areas leading clergy to take extra-congregational jobs. But Schleifer and Cadge note that the lower religious involvement in these regions may also have driven down the demand for congregational clergy. Another trend of interest concerns the family characteristics of these clergy; single male clergy are almost three times more likely than married male clergy to work outside of congregations, while there is a decreasing proportion from earlier years of married female clergy with children in such settings (although married female clergy without children and single female clergy with children are the most likely to land in such positions).

(Review of Religious Research,

Political secularization “took place gradually over the long nineteenth century, accelerated after World War II, and peaked in the 1970s or 1980s,” remaining stable ever since, according to a study in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (September). Political scientist Davis Brown, defining “political secularization” in this context as referring to the degree to which nations show a declining religious influence in their political life, finds that most of the secular changes took place several decades ago. The most noticeable decline took place between the years 1957 and 1963. In terms of the adoption of a specific “atheist government ideology,” Brown finds that secularization begins in 1881, peaks a century later, and then modestly declines. Starting in 1978, there was a modest increase in governments’ favoring of religion. Brown compiled a “Government Religious Preference” data set, measuring governments’ favoring or disfavoring of 30 religious denominations, including atheists, from the 1800s to 2015. The data set offers the first long-term quantitative measurement of political secularization. Against claims that the world’s nations have seen a process of “desecularization,” Brown sees few signs of such religious revitalization occurring in politics. Rather, the world seems neither to have significantly secularized nor desecularized since 1992. In fact, it may be the case that “preferred and non-preferred religions have reached stalemate in an ongoing contest in which each is trying to overcome the will of the other,” Brown writes.

(Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion,

Residents living in religiously diverse communities in Africa show less intolerance toward their LGBTQ neighbors than those in more homogenous neighborhoods, according to a new study. In the research, published in the journal Politics and Religion (online in October), Sarah K. Dreier, James D. Long, and Stephen J. Winkler used cross-national Afrobarometer survey data from 33 countries that included an index of religious concentration according to districts. They found a 50 percent increase in respondents’ likelihood of expressing tolerance toward their homosexual neighbors in more religiously diverse neighborhoods compared to more homogenous areas. Tolerance toward homosexuality was measured by such variables as active opposition to having a homosexual as a neighbor. The researchers controlled for such variables as the presence of specific religious affiliations within diverse religious communities, respondents’ religiosity, and other factors at the national or more local or individual levels (including just greater social tolerance in general).

LGBTQ tolerance was also not just a byproduct of greater exposure to sexual minorities due to city living or greater access to information about them. The researchers theorize that living in religiously diverse areas exposes residents to different religious and moral worldviews, possibly engendering a “greater openness to social out-groups [that] community members would have otherwise rejected.” They conclude that identifying religious diversity as a promising venue for tolerance provides a window of opportunity and a challenge to policy-makers and activists concerned about patterns of intolerance and violence against LGBTQ people, though they caution that religious diversity alone is unlikely to change the landscape for such sexual minorities quickly because of the slow-changing nature of religious affiliation.

(Politics and Religion,