Friday, October 28, 2011

Better sex without religion, survey shows

"Uh oh. Sex. As America's "war on sex" once again heats up as the country slides toward another presidential election, a new Sex and Secularism study conducted by Kansas University undergraduate Amanda Brown and Dr. Darrel W. Ray is bound to raise some hackles among the religiously faithful. Controversy abounds.

After surveying over 14,500 secularists about their sex lives the study's key findings were as follows:

    Sex improves dramatically after leaving religion.
    Sexual guilt has little staying power after leaving religion.
    Those raised most religious show no difference from those raised least religious in their sexual behavior.
    Those raised most religious experience far more guilt but have just as much sex.
    Religious parents are far worse at educating their children on matters of sex.
    Religious guilt differs in measurable amounts according to denomination.

The authors admit the study was not perfect. It was conducted online, with respondents self-reporting their responses to questions posed, and all of the participants self-identified as currently secular, which could imply a certain motivation on their part to paint a rosy picture of post-religion sexual bliss. The authors feel the sheer number of respondents goes a long way to make up for its methodological weaknesses, and the authors freely admit the purpose of the study was to test six specific hypotheses that can be found on the link bottom of this piece.
 The study's authors state:

    "Most religions preach strongly against pornography so it is reasonable to think that porn use would be less among the more religious. This survey found that porn use is quite high in all groups and is a key source of sex education for religious teens. The most religious teens said they got their sex education from porn 33% of the time, the less religious 25.2% of the time. The survey found that 90% of men were using pornography by age 21 with no significant difference between those most and least religious. For women, over 50% were using porn by age 21 and 70% at age 30, with little difference between most and least religious."", 25 May 2011

Intuitive people are more likely to believe in God, study shows

"In a series of studies, researchers at Harvard University found that people with a more intuitive thinking style tend to have stronger beliefs in God than those with a more reflective style. Intuitive thinking means going with one's first instinct and reaching decisions quickly based on automatic cognitive processes. Reflective thinking involves the questioning of first instinct and consideration of other possibilities, thus allowing for counterintuitive decisions.


Participants who gave intuitive answers to all three problems were 1 ½ times as likely to report they were convinced of God's existence as those who answered all of the questions correctly. That pattern was found regardless of other demographic factors, such as the participants' political beliefs, education or income. "How people think - or fail to think - about the prices of bats and balls is reflected in their thinking, and ultimately their convictions, about the metaphysical order of the universe," the journal article stated.

Participants with an intuitive thinking style also were more likely to have become more confident believers in God over their lifetimes, regardless of whether they had a religious upbringing. Individuals with a reflective style tended to become less confident in their belief in God. The study also found that this pronounced link between differing thinking styles and levels of faith could not be explained by differences in the participants' thinking ability or IQ. "Basic ways of thinking about problem solving in your everyday life are predictive of how much you believe in God," Rand said.", 23 Sep 2011
 I'm tempted to say: "So, they really are more stupid, then?".But that's just my intution which could be wrong.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

In U.S., Increasing Number Have No Religious Identity

"Americans have become increasingly less tied to formal religion in recent decades, with the percentage saying they do not have a specific religious identity growing from near zero in the 1950s to 16% this year and last.


An additional measure Gallup has tracked over time asks Americans if they believe that religion can answer all or most of today's problems, or if they believe religion is largely old-fashioned and out of date.



Bottom Line
Gallup surveys confirm a downward drift in religious identity among Americans, as well as a slight increase in the number of Americans who view religion as old-fashioned and out of date.", May 21, 2010

In U.S., 3 in 10 Say They Take the Bible Literally

"Three in 10 Americans interpret the Bible literally, saying it is the actual word of God. That is similar to what Gallup has measured over the last two decades, but down from the 1970s and 1980s. A 49% plurality of Americans say the Bible is the inspired word of God but that it should not be taken literally, consistently the most common view in Gallup's nearly 40-year history of this question. Another 17% consider the Bible an ancient book of stories recorded by man.", July 8, 2011
Odd fluctuation in recent years.
See the article for lots of other numbers on this issue.

Why do Americans still dislike atheists?

"A growing body of social science research reveals that atheists, and non-religious people in general, are far from the unsavory beings many assume them to be. On basic questions of morality and human decency — issues such as governmental use of torture, the death penalty, punitive hitting of children, racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, environmental degradation or human rights — the irreligious tend to be more ethical than their religious peers, particularly compared with those who describe themselves as very religious.

Consider that at the societal level, murder rates are far lower in secularized nations such as Japan or Sweden than they are in the much more religious United States, which also has a much greater portion of its population in prison. Even within this country, those states with the highest levels of church attendance, such as Louisiana and Mississippi, have significantly higher murder rates than far less religious states such as Vermont and Oregon."

Washington Post, Gregory Paul and Phil Zuckerman, April 30

Is religion good for society? See how God's own country compare.

"Take homicide, which is way higher in the United States than in any other advanced country. Same with incarceration – we have more people in prison than China does, and China is four times our size. In no other first world state do so many die as children. Life spans are notably shorter than in other nations. Abortion rates are higher. Also high are gonorrhea and syphilis infections, which are dozens of times lower in parts of Europe. Out of wedlock teen pregnancy? We’re #1. Divorce? Only the Swedes beat us out. Illicit drug use is exceptionally high. As is mental illness. The not a total societal basket case, we are typical in suicide rates and alcohol consumption, and score high on marriage rates and income. But when I tallied up the factors used in my Evolutionary Psychology paper on a zero-10 scale American scored a meager three, while the most atheistic democracies scored up to a remarkable eight (none reached 10, there being no utopias.


So the line that societies cannot help but go to hell in a handcart if they do not follow the dictates of a God is nothing more than a great big lie. Instead, it is the most atheistic democracies, where few ask what Jesus would do, that enjoy the best overall lifestyle conditions. The same trends hold up within the U.S, too: The Northeast is already as secular as parts of Europe and enjoys less dysfunction than the Southeast which is the most conservative Christian; life spans are actually decreasing in the Bible belt. "

Washington Post, Gregory Paul, 10/17/2011

See the full report here: The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity upon Dysfunctional Psychosociological Conditions

Saturday, October 22, 2011

70 percent of scientists believe religion and science are sometimes in conflict

"They interviewed a scientifically selected sample of 275 participants, pulled from a survey of 2,198 tenured and tenure-track faculty in the natural and social sciences at 21 elite U.S. research universities. Only 15 percent of those surveyed said they view religion and science as always in conflict. Another 15 percent said the two are never in conflict, while 70 percent said they believe religion and science are only sometimes in conflict.


The study was supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation with additional funding from Rice University.


Many of those surveyed cited issues in the public realm (teaching of creationism versus evolution, stem cell research) as reasons for believing there is conflict between the two. The study showed that these individuals generally have a particular kind of religion in mind (and religious people and institutions) when they say that religion and science are in conflict.

Other findings in the study:

    Scientists as a whole are substantially different from the American public in how they view teaching “intelligent design” in public schools. Nearly all of the scientists – religious and nonreligious alike – have a negative impression of the theory of intelligent design.

    Sixty-eight percent of scientists surveyed consider themselves spiritual to some degree.

    Scientists who view themselves as spiritual/religious are less likely to see religion and science in conflict."

Beliefnet, September 23, 2011
I've seen this survey cited in a number of places and nearly all of them has a headline indicating that science and religion are not in conflict, while the numbers clearly state that 70 per cent thinks religion and science are sometimes in conflict. Only 15 per cent thinks religion and science are never in conflict.

Youths are less religious

"In a survey released last year, it was found that 72 percent of millennials were "more spiritual than religious." According to Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, the group that conducted the study. Rainer explained to USA Today that young adults today do not pray, worship, or read the Bible.

In studying the data of 1,200 18-29 year olds, Rainer found that among the 65 percent who described themselves as Christians, "many are either mushy Christians or Christians in name only; most are just indifferent," said Rainer. "The more precisely you try to measure their Christianity, the fewer you find committed to the faith," he added.

The study found that 65 percent rarely or never pray with others, and 38 percent almost never pray by themselves. In addition, 65 percent rarely or never attend worship services, while 67 percent don not read the Bible or sacred texts."

The Christian Post, Sep. 22 2011

I really can't stand the word "spiritual" but I guess in this case it's better than being religious.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says

"A study using census data from nine countries shows that religion there is set for extinction, say researchers.

The study found a steady rise in those claiming no religious affiliation.


The team took census data stretching back as far as a century from countries in which the census queried religious affiliation: Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland.


"The idea is pretty simple," said Richard Wiener of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, and the University of Arizona.

"It posits that social groups that have more members are going to be more attractive to join, and it posits that social groups have a social status or utility.


Dr Wiener continued: "In a large number of modern secular democracies, there's been a trend that folk are identifying themselves as non-affiliated with religion; in the Netherlands the number was 40%, and the highest we saw was in the Czech Republic, where the number was 60%."


And in all the countries, the indications were that religion was headed toward extinction."

BBC News, 22 March 2011

Even in Ireland!

Religious people has higher blood pressure

"Religiosity appears to have little affect on preventing hypertension, or high blood pressure, and those study participants proclaiming to be the most religious were actually the most likely to have hypertension. The study was conducted by medical students at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and presented on April 30 at the meeting of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine in New Orleans.

Although a small study presented at a small meeting, it is yet one more report that chisels away at the notion that prayer and belief alone offer significant health benefits.

Many studies indeed have shown that those who attend weekly religious services or participate in church activities have at least marginally better health than non-participants. Yet these studies have focused primarily on physical participation: getting out of the house to a weekly service and being part of a community.


Marginally significant results aside, these earlier studies could not tease apart what it was about religion — the spiritual act of believing or the physical acts of participating and interacting with neighbors — that provided the purported benefit.

The Loyola study focused more on the spiritual, not whether a person merely attends church but whether they "carry [their] religion over into all other dealings in life," as cited in the study. Those who were most religious in this regard were the least healthy in terms of high blood pressure.

Other recent studies have focused on spirituality, too, to see if that alone could lower blood pressure, perhaps through mechanisms such as stress reduction. Yet prayer and spirituality were associated with higher blood pressure in a study of more than 3,000 adults published in January 2009 in Social Science Medicine; and they offered no benefit for preventing hypertension for approximately 1,600 women in a study published in June 2009 in Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

Even a life of the cloth seems to provide little protection. The obesity rate among United Methodist clergy is 40 percent, about 10 percent higher than the national rate, as reported in the September 2010 issue of Obesity.

Meanwhile, just about anything that gets someone out of the house can be helpful. Playing bingo, for example, even in a non-religious setting, is associated with a 40-percent reduction in death risk and 65-percent reduction in disability among the elderly, according to a study published in June 2009 in the Archives of Internal Medicine."

LiveScience, Christopher Wanjek, 05 May 2011
I quote this article at length, because it points to a very important effect of religion, the social aspect. So there aren't any metaphysical effects or effects from belief itself, only the effect that getting out of the house provides. Maybe atheists should gather once a week too.

On a personal note, not long ago I actually had fairly high blood pressure. I could hear the blood pumping when I was laying on my bed with the ear to the pillow. Then I started to excercise once a week, and that helped. Now I can't hear the blood pumping anymore.  No need for spirituality, just common sense.

If you believe in a loving god you're more likely to cheat

"Belief in God doesn't deter a person from cheating on a test, unless that God is seen as a mean, punishing one, researchers say.
On the flip side, psychology researchers Azim F. Shariff at the University of Oregon and Ara Norenzayan at the University of British Columbia found that undergraduate college students who believe in a caring, forgiving God are more likely to cheat.


No differences in cheating were found between self-described believers in God and non-believers."

ScienceDaily Apr. 20, 2011
Fairly interesting. As the saying goes: "We're not perfect, we're forgiven". It must be noted, however, that people who believe in a vengeful god may cause a lot of other problems.

Irreligious countries are happier

"Circumstances predict religiousness," he said. "Difficult circumstances lead more strongly to people being religious. And in religious societies and in difficult circumstances, religious people are happier than nonreligious people. But in nonreligious societies or more benign societies where many people's needs are met, religious people aren't happier -- everyone's happier."

ScienceDaily Aug. 8, 2011
This should settle the discussion on religiousness and happiness. Irreligious people has a harder time in religious countries, but if irreligious people are the majority, then everyone's better off. The map in this post (which I think is from the Gallup poll this study is based on) is also pretty self-explanatory.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

More divorces in the Bible belt

"A recent U.S. Census report shows the Northeast - and New Jersey in particular - has the lowest divorce rate in America, trailed closely by New York.

The Bible Belt, meanwhile, home to Southern hospitality, church telethons and country music, has more "shotgun" weddings and the most divorces.

"People assume that people in the Northeast divorce easily because they're less religious, but that's not the case," said Deborah Carr, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University.

In the Northeast, 7.2 per 1,000 men and 7.5 per 1,000 women got divorced. In the South, the rates were 10.2 for men and 11.1 for women.

New Jersey's rates were 6.1 for men and 6 for women, according to the 2009 American Community Survey, which released the data in August.


The South sees more divorce for several reasons, Carr said:

First, Southerners tend to marry young.

Second, couples don't usually move in together while unwed, a trend tied to religious beliefs. They often frown upon birth control, and are "more likely to have nonmarital pregnancies, which ... then trigger 'shotgun' marriages."

Third, there are simply more marriages in the South. New Jersey had the second-lowest marriage rates, just above Maine. The Census survey reported New Jersey's marriage rate is 14.8 for men and 13.3 for women.", September 29, 2011
If you're not married you can't get divorced.

A rough decade for American congregations

"A new decade-long survey of American congregations shows religious health and vitality are weaker than they were 10 years ago.


Congregations are also having hard times financially, the survey found.  In 2000, 31% of survey participants reported excellent financial health.  In 2010, that number plummeted to just 14%.


Roozen writes that a variety of factors led to the decline, but overall, there are fewer Americans in the pews, and "... more than 1 in 4 American congregations had fewer than 50 in worship in 2010, and just under half had fewer than 100. Overall, median weekend worship attendance of your typical congregation dropped from 130 to 108 during the decade, according to the FACT surveys."


The decline hit across religious and denominational lines, sparing no one, Roozen wrote. He said that "no single category or kind of congregation ... was exempt from the decadal downsizing of worship attendance."

The data came from Faith Communities Today surveys and represents 11,077 congregations and 120 denominations of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions, the institute said."

CNN Belief Blog, September 20th, 2011

Religion in retreat in Britain

"A large-scale survey of British attitudes has been carried out by YouGov–Cambridge (a collaboration between pollsters YouGov and the University of Cambridge’s Department of Politics and International Studies) has some revealing statistics on religion. A representative sample of 64,303 adult Britons aged 18 and over responded.

78% (82% of the over-55s) agreed and 12% disagreed that religion should be a private matter and had no place in politics

In response to the question “What is your religion?” 40% of adults professed no religion, 55% were Christian and 5% of other faiths – age made a major difference, with only 38% of the 18–34s being Christian and 53% having no religion, whereas for the over-55s the figures were 70% and 26% respectively

35% described themselves as very or fairly religious and 63% as not very or not at all religious – there were no big variations by demographics (even by age), but Londoners (41%) did stand out as being disproportionately religious, doubtless reflecting the concentration of ethnic minorities in the capital

79% agreed and 11% disagreed that religion is a cause of much misery and conflict in the world today

72% agreed and 15% disagreed that religion is used as an excuse for bigotry and intolerance, with a high of 81% inScotlandwhere sectarianism has often been rife

35% agreed and 45% disagreed that religion is a force for good in the world, dissenters being more numerous among men (50%) than women (41%)


Full tables can be seen here."

National Secular Society, 23 Sep 2011
Lots more numbers in the article.

Hygiene more important than religion to mothers survey shows

I came across this international survey via NSS:
It shows that religion has the lowest priority among mothers and fathers whereas hygiene has the top priority.
Here's the full report (page 22). (See also for more information about who produced the survey).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Doing good is not the preserve of the religious

"This point was demonstrated yet again last week by the latest figures from the government's citizenship survey. In terms of civic engagement and formal volunteering, the figures show no significant difference between those with a religion and those with no religion (57% and 56% respectively). There is scarcely any difference in participation between those with no religion and self-described Christians (56% and 58%). At 44%, the proportion of Hindus and Muslims participating in civic engagement and formal volunteering is actually lower than the proportion of non-religious people doing so, and the lowest of all groups. This is no flash in the pan – it is a continuing feature of the figures over a number of years. 

The figures supplement other data that makes the same point, not only from previous years' citizenship surveys. In 2007, Faith and Voluntary Action, from the National Council of Voluntary Organisations found that "religious affiliation makes little difference in terms of volunteering", and as a matter of simple numbers, the overwhelming majority of the voluntary, community and charity sector in the UK are secular., Andrew Copson, 26 September 2011
Just as I've been thinking but it's really nice to have the statistics now.

The shrinking [Christian] majority

"Britain is still a Christian country but the drift towards secularism continues. 


The headline figures suggest that the United Kingdom remains a predominantly religious and mostly Christian country. Almost seven in ten (68.5 per cent) identify themselves to researchers as Christians -- far more than the 15 per cent who regularly attend church. Less than a quarter (23 per cent) profess no religion at all (although in Wales, the figure is considerable higher, at close to one in three. Of the population as a whole, 4.4% is Muslim -- more than all other minority faiths put together -- but still less than one person in 20. (The full IHS figures can be found here.) 
This picture of stability may be something an illusion, however. The last time this survey was conducted, in 2009-2010, the figure for Christian affiliation was 71.4 per cent and for no religion was just 20 per cent. A movement of 3 per cent from a Christian identity to a non-religious one in a single year is potentially a dramatic one. The annual population survey, which has included a religion question since 2004, records what looks like a consistent pattern. In 2004-2005, the figures stood at around 78 per cent Christians and less than 16 per cent having no belief. " 

New Statesman, Nelson Jones, 29 September 2011

America's secular revival

"Five signs that, despite the GOP's efforts, religion's impact on U.S. politics will soon decline

1. American religious belief is becoming more fractured 


2. Non-belief — and acceptance of non-belief — on the rise 
Last month was the first time atheists were knocked from the top of America’s most hated list, an honor that now belongs to the Tea Party. While this development may have more to do with the fact that the mainstream media’s love affair with the Tea Party is not shared by most Americans, it also dovetails with increased visibility and acceptance of atheism. 


3. Growing numbers of young people who do not identify as religious  
As recently as 1990, all but 7 percent of Americans claimed a religious affiliation, a figure that had held constant for decades. Today, 17 percent of Americans say they have no religion, and these new “nones” are very heavily concentrated among Americans who have come of age since 1990. Between 25 percent and 30 percent of twentysomethings today say they have no religious affiliation — roughly four times higher than in any previous generation. 


4. Hate group that exploited religion to bash gays hemorrhaging funds 
In 2008, Focus on the Family had to cut its staff by 18 percent. Last week, FOTF had to do another round of cuts, again citing a drop in donations (though it claims the lower funding is a result of tough economic times). 


5. Getting married by friends 
A study last year by and showed that 31 percent of their users who married in 2010 used a family member or friend as the officiant, up from 29 percent in 2009, the first year of the survey."
Salon Mag/Alternet Sep 29, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Rising atheism in America puts 'religious right on the defensive'

"The exact number of faithless is unclear. One study by the Pew Research Centre puts them at about 12% of the population, but another by the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College in Hartford puts that figure at around 20%. Most experts agree that the number of secular Americans has probably doubled in the past three decades – growing especially fast among the young. It is thought to be the fastest-growing major "religious" demographic in the country. 


There are other indications, too. For a long time studies have shown that about 40% of US adults attend a church service weekly. However, other studies that actually counted those at church – rather than just asking people if they went – have shown the true number to be about half to two-thirds of that figure.", Saturday 1 October 2011

Feelgood article in The Guardian.