Current Research February 2017

Even as American politics is embroiled over what has been called the “Muslim ban” in immigration, Americans have increasingly become more accepting of Muslim people, according to surveys from the Brookings Institution and Public Religion Research Center. Surveys conducted during the election year “reveal extraordinary, progressive and unexpected shifts that cannot be explained by events during that year,” according to the Brookings blog. Attitudes toward Muslim people became progressively more favorable from 53 percent in November of 2015 to 70 percent in October 2016. Even attitudes toward Islam (though generally more unfavorable than attitudes toward Muslims) showed improvement, with favorable views increasing from 37 percent in November of 2015 to 49 percent in October 2016—the highest level since 9/11. Some factors cited that may be behind this rapid shift are party politics; almost all the shifts came from Democrats and independents, not Republicans. Writer Shibley Telhami argues that Democrats significantly shifted in their attitudes about Muslims to challenge what was seen as the opposite view in the “dominant narrative” of then Republican candidate Donald Trump.


A study of British youth who are religiously non-affiliated finds a spectrum of views running from theism to atheism but also a fluidity that suggests that respondents might presents themselves differently in various contexts. The study draws on the Youth On Religion survey, which was conducted among 10,000 13- to 17-year-olds, along with an additional qualitative study of 157 teens aged 17 to 18. In the Journal of Youth Studies (December), researchers Nicola Madge and Peter J. Hemming find that of the 20 percent of British youth reporting no religion, only half said they did not believe in God. The largest subgroup (25.3 percent) of the remainder said they were unsure of the existence of God; another 5.3 percent expressed belief in some form of a higher power. Ten percent said they believed some of the time, 6.1 percent believe with some doubts, and only 2.5 percent are sure of the existence of God. A smaller but still noteworthy 7.2 percent of those believing in God sometimes and 24.2 percent of those sure of God’s existence attended services. Madge and Hemming also found considerable fluidity in their religious practices depending on where they were and whom they were with. For instance, participants would present themselves differently when with friends than with families and members of their nominal faiths.

(Journal of Youth Studies,

While there are signs of Jewish migration from Europe to Israel, there has not been an exodus of Jews leaving the continent over the concern of anti-Semitism and their future, according to a recent study of six European countries. The survey, conducted by the Institute of Jewish Policy Research, found that while there is an increase in Jewish migration, especially from France, Belgium, and Italy, levels of migration in Britain, Germany, and Sweden have not significantly increased, according to a report in The Guardian (January 12). The reality of a Jewish exodus, which is defined as the migration of 30 percent or more of the Jewish population, has not been approached, with only four percent of Jews from Belgium and France leaving for Israel between 2010 and 2015. The proportions leaving from the U.K., Germany, and Sweden were between 0.6 percent and 1.7 percent.

A recent rise in the number of reported atheists in Greece is taking place mainly among those raised in nominally Greek Orthodox homes who during their process of “deconversion” move away from an anti-Orthodox stance toward a more “positive atheist” identity, according to a recent study. In NSRN Online (January 16), the blog of the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network, Greek sociologist Alexandros Sakellariou notes that back in 2006, atheists registered at a low two percent of the population in Greece. But a recent survey found that while 81.4 percent are still Orthodox Christians, 14.7 percent claimed to be atheist.

Sakellariou conducted qualitative interviews with 63 self-identified atheists and found that only a few were raised in secular families. Most grew up where Greek Orthodoxy was the predominant religion, although respondents tended to characterize their families as nominal or below average in practice. They frequently framed “their prior religious identity as something forced upon them by the family rather than a genuine religious belief,” he adds. The process of deconversion was gradual, usually occurring in adolescence or childhood and before their twenties. While some cited science and technological advancements as their main belief, most say they now “worship freedom,” even if in metaphorical sense, Sakellariou writes. But after an initial stage of holding anti-Orthodox attitudes, they “moved towards a positive formation of an atheist identity.”

(NSRN Online,