With this issue, we are pleased to introduce an occasional feature giving space for ISR scholars to discuss their current research on contemporary religion. For this month, we contacted Dr. Jeff Levin, University Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health and Director of the Program on Religion and Population Health at Baylor, about his current research on the prevalence of healing prayer among Americans.
In a recent study based on an analysis of the Baylor Religion Survey, you find that Americans engaging in healing prayer are very widespread– almost three-quarters of Americans have prayed for the healing of others, and over half have participated in prayer groups. Do you think there has been a steady percentage of Americans engaging in these practices all along, or has it grown in recent years?
Possibly both, but it’s hard to say. Based on data from a few national health surveys since the 1990s, use of spiritual healers seems to be on the uptick. This isn’t the same thing, of course, as personally praying for one’s own healing or for others, but it suggests perhaps a rise in interest in making use of spiritual resources for purposes of healing. This would track with the rising popularity of complementary medicine as a form of primary care, and with continued interest in nonconventional expressions of spirituality. At the same time, the lifetime prevalence numbers are so high that it’s hard to imagine this all just emerged, out of nowhere, in the recent past.
You also find unexpectedly that over a quarter of Americans have experienced or have engaged in the “laying on of hands” in healing prayer. Could the growth of small groups and charismatic and Pentecostal churches in the past few decades have spread these types of practices to more people?
Both critics and supporters have recognized that Pope Francis’s new document Amoris Laetitia stands out from previous papal pronouncements for its flexible approach on such matters as the reception of church sacraments among the divorced and remarried. But what, if anything, will this document change in the relationship between the Vatican and world Catholicism on […]
Although actually joining the Amish and other “plain” Anabaptist groups may be “one of the rarest religious experiences in America,” interest in these groups is growing, approaching almost a state of fandom on the Internet, reports the online magazine Atlas Obscura (March 29). The emergence of what author Kelsey Osgood refers to as “wishful Amish” is […]
Since its founding in 2013, the Satanic Temple movement has gained considerable publicity in its drive for strict church separation and de-Christianization, but its political effectiveness is uncertain, and it is just as likely to provoke a backlash, writes sociologist Joseph Laycock in the web magazine The Conversation (April 19). In its latest publicity campaign, the […]
Appeals to science and academia are being put to use in Jainism both by reformers who challenge religious authorities and by supporters of traditional views, with the authority of science being “paradoxically challenged by references to science and academia,” writes Knut Aukland (University of Bergen, Norway) in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion […]
University of Notre Dame researchers find that the rise in the non-affiliated, or “nones,” in the U.S. may be related to the strong in-group ties that non-affiliated individuals may form at the onset of young adulthood, especially in a religious environment. In the current issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (December), […]
The Catholic Church may not be a strong force in challenging the Castro regime in Cuba, but it is increasingly serving as an incubator of capitalism and enterpreneuralism, writes Tim Padgett in the Jesuit magazine America (April 25). The Catholic Church has made a strong comeback in Cuban society since Pope John Paul first visited […]
The Alawite sect in Syria is seeking to reform its identity and is distancing itself from the regime of Bashar al-Assad, reports BBC News (April 3). The Alawites emerged in the 10th century in Iraq and were similar to other Shia Muslims in claiming that Ali, the son-in-law and cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, was […]
The report Religion, Media, and the Digital Turn, published by the Religion and the Public Sphere Program of the Social Science Research Council, provides an in-depth examination of the way the digitalization of religious scholarship changes the message and the audience of such research. While not exactly a new development (the authors note that digital […]
1) The establishment of the Multifaith Campus at a mainline Protestant church on Long Island, New York, represents a novel experiment in different religions sharing the same worship space and using the experience as a source of interfaith education. The Brookville Reformed Church hosts the Muslim Reform Movement Organization, the New Synagogue of Long Island, […]