On January 22, 1973, the United States Supreme Court handed down its decision regarding Roe v. Wade. Forty years later, the decision remains a hot-button topic in the news but, as this Pew study points out, there has been remarkable consistency in public opinion over the last two decades:
“More than six-in-ten (63%) say they would not like to see the court completely overturn the Roe v. Wade decision, which established a woman’s constitutional right to abortion at least in the first three months of pregnancy. Only about three-in-ten (29%) would like to see the ruling overturned. These opinions are little changed from surveys conducted 10 and 20 years ago.
White evangelical Protestants remain outliers in this respect:
[They] are the only major religious group in which a majority (54%) favors completely overturning the Roe v. Wade decision. Large percentages of white mainline Protestants (76%), black Protestants (65%) and white Catholics (63%) say the ruling should not be overturned. Fully 82% of the religiously unaffiliated oppose overturning Roe v. Wade.
However, the U.S. public continues to be divided over whether it is morally acceptable to have an abortion:
“Nearly half (47%) say it is morally wrong to have an abortion, while just 13% find this morally acceptable; 27% say this is not a moral issue and 9% volunteer that it depends on the situation. These opinions have changed little since 2006.”
For a more in-depth discussion about the nuances of this conversation, I recommend listening to this conversation I produced for On Being with David Gushee, a Christian ethicist who advocates a “consistent ethic of life,” and Frances Kissling, a long-time abortion-rights activist, who reveal what they admire in the other side and discuss what’s really at stake in this debate.
What Will the Muslim Population Look Like in 2030?
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Projected distribution of Muslim population by country and territory in 2030. Click image for higher resolution version with data. (source: Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life)
A study released this week by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life titled “The Future of the Global Muslim Population” is worthwhile reading for many reasons, if not simply for the informational graphs and some of the bullet points in the executive summary:
- By 2030, Pakistan is expected to surpass Indonesia as the country with the single largest Muslim population;
- In 20 years, more Muslims are likely to live in Nigeria than in Egypt;
- The Muslim birth rate is shrinking but still growing significantly faster than the non-Muslim population (twice the rate);
- The Palestinian territories are the exception to the rule when it comes to the number of years of education (14 years) for women and the average number of children born (4.5 per female). Fertility rates in nine countries with a Muslim majority where women receive the most years of education average 2.3 children per female.
(source: Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life)
What are other points that stood out out to you? What does it mean?
“Spiritual But Not Religious”
Nancy Rosenbaum, associate producer
“I think in a way that kind of cliche ‘spiritual but not religious,’ which apparently is a thing more and more people say to describe themselves, is in a way an attempt to reconcile in some cases with science. In other words…if I say I believe in this highly anthropomorphic God, if I’m religious and too old-fashioned in a sense, or buy into specific claims of revelation, that might not sit well with the modern scientific intelligence.”
—Robert Wright, author of The Evolution of God (February 2, 2010)
New research from the Pew Forum on Public Life reveals that a sizable slice of the Millenial population (people born after 1981) does not affiliate with a particular religious denomination or faith. We’re aware that people of all ages are defining themselves under the expansive umbrella of “spiritual but not religious.” We see this, in part, through the weekly listener emails that flow into our inbox.
Our contact form includes a question: “What faith tradition, if any, do you belong to?” Here are examples of some recent responses we’ve received:
- none now
- I defy labels ;)
- Christian, Baptist… though I refer to myself as a “recovering evangelical” currently not affiliated
- atheist, with emerging theory of spirituality
- the teachings of Christ, the Buddha, and my dog, not necessarily in that order
As you can see, it’s quite a spread. In his recent public conversation with Krista, Robert Wright provided some helpful insights about how this “spiritual but not religious” trend might relate to a concern with what he calls “modern scientific intelligence.”
If you consider yourself “spiritual but not religious,” can you help us understand what this term actually means to you? Does science have something to do with it? Is it primarily a youthful Millennial trend, as the Pew Forum report suggests? Are there other terms that you would add to the list above to describe yourself on this “spiritual but not religious” continuum?
The Unaffiliated Generation
Kate Moos, managing producer
New data from the Pew Forum may be unsurprising to some of us, but it amplifies what we have probably assumed to be true and seems relevant to our projects at Speaking of Faith:
“Compared with their elders today, young people are much less likely to affiliate with any religious tradition or to identify themselves as part of a Christian denomination. Fully one-in-four adults under age 30 (25%) are unaffiliated, describing their religion as “atheist,” “agnostic” or “nothing in particular.” This compares with less than one-fifth of people in their 30s (19%), 15% of those in their 40s, 14% of those in their 50s and 10% or less among those 60 and older. About two-thirds of young people (68%) say they are members of a Christian denomination and 43% describe themselves as Protestants, compared with 81% of adults ages 30 and older who associate with Christian faiths and 53% who are Protestants.”
Any insights you draw from this latest report?
Joy to 30% of the World
Kate Moos, managing producer
For apparently the first time ever, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has gathered global data on religious freedom — and the lack of religious freedom — around the world. It makes for disturbing reading.
Seventy percent of the world’s population suffer restrictions on religious liberty. The study points out that not all religious oppression is conducted by the prevailing governments. Private individuals, non-governmental organizations, and social groups also persecute and restrict religious practice.
Since I’ve worked at Speaking of Faith, I’ve become used to being challenged by people who think the only worthwhile thing to say about religion is that it has caused a tremendous amount of injustice and human suffering. I understand that point of view and can find it emotionally persuasive. But what has always drawn me to this work is the idea that religion and faith are also the repositories for some of our most important knowledge, and our highest moral aspirations. Data such as these should give people of all faiths pause.
What would it look like to live in a world where all were guaranteed religious freedom? As 2010 approaches, it is astonishing that so few people in the world know what that is.
Giving Visual Life to Pew’s Polls
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor
USA Today has produced a nifty interactive feature in which they’ve taken data from the Pew Forum’s U.S. Religious Landscape Survey and represented it graphically. The “topography of faith” section is a simple map that provides a breakdown of religious and denomination affiliations by state. I scrolled over my home state of North Dakota (yes, I’m a tad bitter that they statistically lumped it together with South Dakota as if it were a territory…) and was surprised to see the large percentage of Evangelical Protestants. And, as you canvas the states, take notice of the gold “unaffiliated” bar.
The section breaking down religious beliefs gives you an integrated comparison of how different faith traditions and denominations within American Christianity responded to specific questions. Tip: use the sort by button.
Some of my interpretive observations about the subtleties of responses:
- People are optimistic, or, if you prefer, more willing to believe they’ll be rewarded for their good deeds rather than being punished for their bad acts. More than 74% of the total population believed in a heaven where good people living good lives are rewarded; but 58% of the total population subscribed to the idea of hell where bad, unrepentant people are eternally punished.
- Only a majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses (80%) and Mormons (57%) believe their religion is the one true path to eternal life.
- One group, the Buddhists, had a simple majority who believed that people should adjust their beliefs and practices in light of new circumstances.
- Almost all groups (sans the unaffiliated) pray regularly, with more than three-quarters of Evangelicals, Black Protestants, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses praying every day.
- Less than half of Hindus, Black Protestants, Muslims, Evangelical Protestants, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses
do notaccept homosexuality.
- Buddhists were the only group who didn’t have a majority believing there are absolute standards for right and wrong.
Take a look and tell me what caught your eye.