Current Research November 2017

For all the talk about the growth of “nones,” a core of active young Christians has remained constant in American society, although such young believers are more ethnically diverse than in the past, according to research by Timothy Clydesdale. In a survey of 1880 young adults, the researchers found active twenty-something Christians represented about 30 percent of the Christian total, with evangelicals at 47 percent, mainline Protestants at 19 percent and Catholics at 22 percent. Survey research suggests that there are twice as many “devout” people in their 20s than “deliberately unaffiliated” young people. The highest percentage of young active mainline Protestants were under 25; after that age they tended to drop out at a higher rate than the evangelicals and Catholics. Clydesdale and colleagues found that it is married twenty-somethings that were the most devout, especially evangelicals, of whom 40 percent were married. Latino youth represented about half of all active young Catholics, while there is a substantial mix of blacks among active young evangelicals.

Two-thirds of the young active Catholics and evangelicals prayed daily, while less than half of mainline Protestants prayed that often. Clydesdale speculated that mainline Protestant emphasis on good works and social action may shift the young people’s idea of devotion away from such practices. Among most of these active Christians, there was a strong sense of belonging to a tradition, with most claiming a sense of purpose and meaning. The researchers also found that young evangelicals were more a part of “closed networks and tribes,” with 85 percent of these Christians being “socially encapsulated.”

Eastern Orthodox parishes that are more diverse in ethnic makeup tend to draw more members and converts to the faith while having strong religious education programs and more community involvement, according to research by Alexei Krindatch. In a paper presented at the meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in Washington, Krindatch based his findings on a 2016-2017 survey of parish leaders about demographic trends, leadership, and internal and external church dynamics. Krindatch finds that aside from a significant growth in converts and members, diverse parishes had more converts as priests and that priests in general had longer tenure at their parishes. The priests in ethnically diverse parishes also shifted their understanding to a greater extent from “running programs and administration” toward being good role models, teachers, and preachers for parishioners.

The study found that half or a dominant majority of parishioners are actively involved in all areas of parish life in these churches as compared to “normal,” more homogenous parishes where only a small core group is involved. In diverse parishes, outreach and evangelism is seen a way the parishioners see the church as compared to normal churches that are geared around a “program” approach where evangelism is carried out by a group for that purpose. Krindatch also found that a “conciliar” model of church governance is found in diverse parishes, where decisions are made by consensus. Community involvement and impact in diverse parishes is expressed through members’ involvement in community events while normal parishes are known through ethnic events (festivals, food-sales) they hold. These parishes tend to be more ecumenically involved on a broader range of activities (joint services and social action programs) than the normal parishes’ focus on charitable events and participation in local clergy associations.

Pew research reports that tor the first time, a majority of Americans — 56 percent — say it is possible to be a good person without a religious belief. Based on two polls conducted among about 5,000 American adults, The belief that religious belief is not a prerequisite for good values and morality was associated with the spike in the share of Americans who are religious ‘nones,’”says Greg Smith, Pew’s associate director of research. Even Protestants and Catholic showed some gains in this view, with 45 percent of them agreeing that God is not necessary for personal morality, up from 42 percent in 2011. White evangelicals have also showed some change. In 2011, one quarter of them (26 percent) said it was possible to be good without God, while now almost a third (32 percent) say so.

(Pew Fact Tank,

Even while religious and ethnic diversity is increasing in the UK, the rate of inter-religious marriage is decreasing among all generations, according to a paper by demographer David Voas of University College-London. At the recent meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in Washington, Voas presented a study of ethno-religious intermarriage based on 2011 Census Microdata, looking at the differences between 2001 and 2011. Intermarriage is generally considered a key indicator of ethnic minorities integrating into society, although there are some socially integrated groups (for instance, modern Orthodox Jews) who have low rates of intermarriage. Taking intermarriage to mean not only marriage between partners of different religions but also cases where one spouse with no religion (but of a Christian heritage) and the other is of a different religion and a different ethnicity, Voas found 31.4 percent include a “none” partner.

But ignoring marriages involving “nones” only 1.5 percent of marriages are religiously mixed. Religious homogamy is high among Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. Mixed marriage is higher for some ethnic groups (Indian), people born outside the UK, younger generations, and the more highly educated. Areas of the UK where there is less diversity (such as Westminster, Kensington, and Chelsea in London) showed higher rates of intermarriage while some areas with very diverse populations (such as Leicester and Bradford) have relatively low prevalence of mixed marriage. Voas also found that children of intermarriage are more likely to be classified as nones. Voas concludes that the incidence of intermarriage is growing in society among young adults are marrying outside their faith, but “the relative frequency of mixed marriages has not risen across generations in religious minorities.”  But even for the well-educated members of religious minorities, the frequency of mixed marriages has halved.

While surveys of attitudes towards Jews have consistently shown that anti-Semitism in the UK remains relatively low (about 10 percent) when compared to other European countries, about half of British Jews perceive antisemitism to be a problem. British Politics and Policy (October 1), a blog from London School of Economics, tries to unravel this puzzle by parsing the responses to a large survey of anti-Semitic attitudes in Britain, conducted in late 2016 and early 2017 by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research. The study found that a negative opinion of any religious group is a minority position in Britain. The most favorably viewed group is Christians, perhaps unsurprisingly so, given the Christian heritage on Britain. The least favorably viewed group is Muslims (15 percent) with Jews and Hindus feature in-between. But when it comes to anti-Semitic views (such as Jews are too powerful), at least 30 percent of the British hold at least one such view. Thus Daniel Statesky argues that while only a small proportion of the British can be called anti-Semitic, there is a broader diffusion of anti-Semitic ideas and attitudes in society. “With this we make a shift from counting anti-Semites to quantifying antisemitism, which may appear subtle, but it is very important for a proper understanding of Jewish anxieties.”

(British Politics and Policy,

Catholicism plays a role in how European countries are dealing with the massive influx of immigrants, though the various national Catholic churches are dealing with immigration in very different ways. A study of the churches in Italy and Croatia presented at the meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in mid-October shows how Catholicism can be adapted to cultures that either accepting and more resistant to immigration. Sociologists Sinisa Zrinscak and Giuseppe Giordan studied coverage of immigration issues in Catholic publications in Croatia and Italy as well as interviewed leaders of Caritas and other Catholic organizations working on immigration. In the Catholic media coverage, they found that 41 percent of the articles in the Italian publications gave positive treatment to immigration as compared with 21 percent of the Croatian publication. In Croatia, 73 percent of the articles were neutral compared with 58.5 percent in Italy. In interviews with Catholic immigration organization leaders, in Croatia, the emphasis was on immigration as a disaster and a humanitarian approach; there was not much attention paid to human rights or questioning the closed transit routes that immigrants faced in the country. There were also concerns about the long-term consequences of immigration on the Christian identity of Europe.

In Italy, the accent was on human rights, dialogue, and the reality of immigration as a permanent change in the country. Along with a message of “solidarity,” Italians also acknowledged the utilitarian concern of needing more workers in a society undergoing a population decline. Zrinscak and Giordan conclude that the different human rights approaches of these countries may reflect the Eastern and Western European realities. Because human rights were used selectively during the communist era in such countries as Croatia (or the former Yugoslavia), cultural issues, such as the role of the church as a guardian of Croatian identity, still holds strong. In Italy, Catholicism is still seen as a factor in integrating a fragmented nation, and “social Catholicism” is seen in opposition to “xenophobic” political parties.


The annual projections for global Christianity for 2018 and beyond are featured in the International Bulletin of Missions Research (online October) and includes continuing decline of Middle East Christians and an estimate of an average of 90,000 Christians martyred each year. Researchers Todd M. Johnson, Gina A. Zurlo, Andrew W. Hickman, and Peter F. Crossing find that by 2018, Christians in the Middle East will have dipped to 4 percent and will likely continue to decline to under 3 percent by 2050. The article defines martyrs as those believers in Christ who die prematurely in situations of “witness” as a result of human hostility.  The authors estimate that on average, 90,000 Christians have been martyred each year during this past decade.

This figure has been criticized because it includes those Christians who were not killed specifically because they were Christians. But the researchers point to places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where most of the recent killings by rebel forces were Christians “living out lives of witness, thereby, by definition, making their deaths martyrdom.” The article concludes that “the world in 2018 is more religious than it was in 1970. In the same period, the percentage of all Christians who live in countries 80 percent or more Christian has declined from 76 percent to 53 percent. Christianity continues to spread out more evenly around the world, further evidence of the decline of `Christendom.’”

(International Bulletin of Missions Research,

Clergy statistics contrast from one Orthodox church to another, but the shortage of priests is reported to be serious in Bulgaria, where there are only 800 priests, while 2,500 would be needed in order to cover all the church’s needs, according to The Sofia Globe (October 7). According to the head of the Union of Church Workers in Bulgaria, the situation is uneven from one diocese to another in this country, where around 75 percent of the population is—at least nominally—Orthodox. Applications to study at the seminary have reportedly decreased, while 30 percent of the priests are retired. The main cause of this situation seems to be low pay, leading some priests to get secular, sometimes occasional or part-time jobs, in order to support themselves and their families. Priests living in large cities can supplement their income with fees received for baptisms or weddings, but this isn’t an option for those residing in poorer, rural areas. In 2012, it had been reported that their income level placed a majority of Bulgarian Orthodox priests below poverty level, according to (February 1, 2012).