Most Protestant churchgoers define and practice tithing—giving 10 percent of one’s income for religious purposes—in a variety of ways, according to a new survey by LifeWay Research. About 50 percent of respondents said they could give their tithes to a Christian ministry instead of a church, and one in three said tithes could go to help a person in need, while more than one in six said their funds could go to a secular charity. “For many churchgoers, tithing is just another term for generosity,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. The survey was conducted among 1,010 Americans who attended a Protestant or nondenominational church at least monthly and 1,000 Protestant senior pastors. Pastors were less likely than people in the pews to view tithing as a continuing biblical command, with 83 percent of churchgoers saying tithing was a current requirement and only 72 percent of pastors agreeing.

(LifeWay Research,

A new Pew survey finds a higher percentage of Western Europeans identifying as Christian than might be expected from their low levels of religious activity. Despite the region’s secularization, a median of 71 percent of the 24,599 adults surveyed across 15 countries still identified as Christian, even if a median of only 22 percent said that they attended services at least once a month. Non-practicing Christians made up the largest single group in the survey, with a median share of 46 percent of the population across the region, compared to the non-affiliated, whose median share stood at 24 percent. These non-practicing Christians displayed a mix of religious and social views, some closer to those of their churchgoing neighbors and others to those of the unaffiliated. This enduring level of Christian identity can have political effects as well, for example in the growing debate over Muslim immigration to Europe. “Christian identity remains a meaningful marker in Western Europe, even among those who seldom go to church. It is not just a ‘nominal’ identity devoid of practical importance,” according to the Pew researchers.

(Pew Research Center,

State registration requirements for religious organizations are sharply increasing and are a strong predictor of increased restrictions on religion, particularly for minority faith groups, according to a new study.
Writing in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (online in May), Roger Finke, Jonathan Fox, and Dane Mataic used trend data from three global collections as well as case studies of five nations—France, Russia, China, Azerbaijan, and Austria—to understand the relationship of registration to religious restrictions. They found a dramatic increase in the use of religious registration as well as growing requirements for those registering, and an increase in the number of nations openly discriminating against unregistered groups (for instance, 27 percent of the countries studied had no registration requirement in 1990, but by 2012 this was the case for only 10 percent). The researchers highlighted the consequences of this increased use of registration requirements through the various ways in which their five cases used the registration process to deny religious freedoms, including by using complex and poorly defined procedures and policies, submitting to local religious and cultural pressures, imposing higher standards for minority religions, and denying privileges and rewards granted to other religions. They also found that the proportion of Muslims was a significant predictor of increased restrictions on minorities, and that government funding of religion increased the restrictions on all faith groups.

(Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion,

The Hadza, a hunter-gatherer tribe from Tanzania, has been considered the least religious people in the world (and, in fact, are hailed by atheists as proving that religion is not a universal trait), but a study in the journal Religion, Brain & Behavior (May) suggests that the group’s low rate of religiosity may be a factor in their lack of altruism toward outsiders.
Psychologist Coren Lee Apicella writes that “Anthropologists have described the Hadza as having either no religion or a minimal form of religion since there are no religious structures, leaders, ceremonies, or belief in an afterlife.” In Apicella’s interviews with the Hadza, he did find that many had vague ideas about a deity, such as in describing the sun and the moon as gods. In an experiment to test the group’s altruism toward those outside their camp, he gave tribe members two incentive-based economic games where they rolled dice to decide how to share resources between two people, one from the game-player’s own camp and the other being a Hadza living in a distant camp. Apicella writes that the tribe showed among the highest cross-cultural levels of favoritism (“rule-bending”) toward members in their own camps. This was unexpected since the Hadza, like most hunter-gatherer groups, have a high degree of egalitarianism, sharing and cooperation between individuals. Apicella concludes that the Hadza lack the incentive to promote the spread of cooperation without a belief in an interventionist and omniscient deity who cares about how people treat each other.

(Religion, Brain & Behavior,

A study of young people who left Western societies to join jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq and their families and friends finds a pattern of individuals experiencing “acute emerging adult identity struggles” that are resolved by religious beliefs of world change and strengthened by small group dynamics and the influence of charismatic leaders.
The study from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue was conducted by Amarnath Amarasingan and Lorne L. Dawson among 43 parents, siblings, and friends of 30 men and women who traveled to Syria and Iraq to join these groups, said to be among the largest of such samples yet studied. Most of the young adults in the sample did not come from dysfunctional homes and were considered “good kids”—if often “strong-willed.” But the reasons why these future fighters left their homes mystified their parents and friends, even though the latter tended to notice changes in their behavior before their parents did. Nevertheless, nearly three-quarters of the fighters maintained communication with their families and friends, though a few families never received a call from their children once they left. These emerging adults had experiences of marginalization, often related to their religious identity, which served as triggers for radicalization. The researchers conclude that the “choice to become a foreign fighter is the result of a perfect storm of diverse factors operating in somewhat different ways and to different degrees in each case.”

(The study I Left to be Closer to Allah can be downloaded at: