• Latino Protestant growth in the U.S. is being fueled by new congregations that include people who are new to the country, a recent survey finds. The study, conducted by evangelical research firm Lifeway, found that less than nine percent of Hispanic congregations trace their history to before 1950, with the majority (54 percent) having been established since the turn of the millennium and 32 percent founded since 2010. Half of the churches are located in large metropolitan areas with populations of 100,000 or more. The survey also found that over a third of the congregations (35 percent) consist of members under the age of 30. These members tend to be newcomers to the U.S., with the majority (58 percent) reported to be first-generation Americans who wereborn outside of the country. This explains why 53 percent of the congregations conduct their services only in Spanish, while 22 percent are bilingual. The study surveyed 692 pastors of Hispanic congregations; only churches that were at least 50 percent Hispanic were included in the survey.(The study can be downloaded from:


  • The dramatic increase in the U.S. of “deaths of despair,” those deaths caused by suicides and diseases of substance abuse, may be driven in part by the decline in organized religion over the past two decades. In a working paper (30840) for the National Bureau of Economic Research, reported on in The Economist (February 27), Tyler Giles, Daniel Hungerman, and Tamar Oostrom note how these deaths of despair have a unique character that may be related to religious trends. Over the past two decades, the death rate from drug poisonings in the United States has tripled while the suicide rate has increased by 30 percent, with rates of alcoholic liver disease increasing as well. Especially dramatic has been the high rate of these deaths among middle-aged white Americans—a rate that increased at the turn of the century after decades of decline. This raises the question of why it is largely white Americans who have been so adversely impacted by this trend, even though conditions for non-whites have been far worse and of a longer duration. The researchers show that the rise of these deaths of despair in the U.S. was preceded by a large decline in organized religious participation, and that both trends were driven by white middle-aged Americans. “We know of no other cultural phenomenon involving such large, widespread changes in participation prior to the initial rise in US mortality, nor do we know of any other phenomenon that matches the seemingly idiosyncratic patterns observed for mortality: seen for both men and women, but not in other countries, and in both rural and urban settings, but driven primarily by middle-aged, less educated white individuals. The decline in religiosity matches mortality trends in all these characteristics.” Looking at state-level data, the researchers find that “religiosity and deaths of despair are negatively correlated; states with high levels of religiosity have suffered less from mortality due to alcohol, suicides, or drug poisonings. This negative relationship also holds when we consider that states that experienced larger decreases in religiosity have had the largest gains in the rate of deaths of despair.” They note that this decline was driven by changes in formal religious participation as opposed to changes in religious belief. Giles, Hungerman, and Oostrom argue that this phenomenon has taken place before in American history and may explain the mechanism for this relationship. Using historical data on the repeal of blue laws (which restricted business activity on Sundays), the researchers find that lifting these laws caused “negative shocks” to religious practice that resulted in similar deaths of despair. Although legalizing alcohol sales on Sundays may explain part of this trend, the largest increase in mortality came from suicides. The authors conclude that reversing this trend will be difficult. “…Even if these trends were reversible, the literature suggests that the primary benefits of religious participation for life satisfaction are difficult to replicate with other forms of social engagement.”

    (The paper can be downloaded from:

  • A new study finds that megachurches are most likely to flourish in cities that have significant suburban growth, a large evangelical population, a growing immigrant Christian community and, to a lesser extent, cultural pluralism and the presence of mainline Protestants. Why megachurches grow in certain cities and not others has been a puzzle, underlying the broader question of why megachurches have flourished in cities when urbanism has been associated with secularization by social scientists. Sociologist Insa Pruisken (University of Bremen), in a study published in Sociological Forum (online in February), analyzed megachurches in 22 metropolitan areas, comparing the urban characteristics of each, and found that the most important factors for megachurch expansion were population growth between 1980 and 2010 and a higher degree of suburbanization.

        Source: Owlocation.

    Pruisken found that along with these factors, there were four urban paths to megachurch establishment, the most frequent one consisting of having a large presence of evangelicals and Christian fundamentalists (as in Dallas, Atlanta, and Houston), followed by population growth and a large presence of Hispanics (in Miami, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Phoenix). At least in the U.S., Pruisken found that megachurches also grow in cities that are characterized by a high degree of cultural pluralism, Seattle being the main example. In this third path, there is the conjunction of tolerant educated groups and evangelical or mainline Protestant groups, as well as population growth. The fourth and weakest path for the success of megachurches is in areas with a tolerance of homosexuality and mainline Protestants, often consisting of black and mainline Protestant megachurches (such as in Washington, DC, Baltimore, and Minneapolis-St. Paul). But this path is also marked by competitive pressure from secular forces and lower population growth.

    (Sociological Forum,


  • A new survey that uses improved measures for capturing religious identity has confirmed the multiple religious belonging of many East Asians. The survey, published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (online in February) and conducted by Fenggang Yang and Brian McPhail of Purdue University among East Asian international students at an American college, was unique for allowing respondents to identify with none, one, or multiple religions. Yang and McPhail found that 75 percent of respondents self-identified with no religion, about 20 percent self-identified with one religion, and only 4.34 percent identified with

        Source: Quakers in Britain.

    more than one religion. Yet more than 56 percent believe in one or more religions and almost 47 percent practice one or more religions. Thus among the religiously unaffiliated people, 43 percent believe in one or more religions, and more than 32 percent practice one or more religions. The researchers write that the “confession-based measure of exclusive religious belonging using a single question would have failed to uncover many believers and practitioners who do not belong to any religion. Indeed, the respondents in this sample of international students at an American university tend to be part of an age group that is less religiously engaged than the general population. If we conduct the survey in East Asian societies, the inclusive religiosity is likely to be more pronounced.”


  • The rise of Green parties in both Western and Eastern Europe has been fueled in part by the changing religious and secular landscape, although this phenomenon has received scant attention next to the growth of populist-right parties. The Greens have surprised observers in recent years, with good showings at the polls; in the 2019 European Parliament elections, Greens won 10 percent of the vote and 74 seats, an increase of 24. In a study published in Society (online in February), Samantha Whitley, Brent Nelsen, and James Guth analyze the latest European Election Study (2019), finding that religiosity “works significantly against Green choices among Catholics, Orthodox, and other Christians. A positive effect of religiosity among Protestants just misses statistical significance, as does a negative effect of biblical authority across the sample.” The unaffiliated, the unobservant, and non-believers are most congenial to these parties, sharing their support of environmental and gay rights, free speech, and opposition to traditional values. In Eastern Europe, these patterns are similar (although pro-gay rights outshines pro-environmental values as a priority), with both biblical authority and greater religiosity having significant and solid negative impacts on affinities with the Greens. The researchers forecast that “more Green parties may grow in Eastern Europe as organized religion and traditional values decline, raising the demand for parties catering to the progressive voter.”


    Source: MapPorn / Reddit.