Same-Sex Marriage? Well, the data say. . .

The most recent Economist has, as usual, a helpful chart summarizing Americans’ attitudes towards same-sex marriage, using Pew Center data from 2008 on.  The data show that, for the first time, a majority of Americans approve of same-sex marriage, with the most significant movement (towards more favorable attitudes) occurring among White Catholics and White “mainstream” Protestants.

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How many “nones” make a secular nation?

What is the relationship between rates of church attendance and national identity? When more than 50 percent of a country’s population does not attend religious services, is that the tipping point that makes for a secular nation?

The Economist just published a very short notice reporting on an analysis of the European Social Survey from 2008 and 2009. It’s not terribly surprising. In many of the countries surveyed, well over 40 percent of respondents say they “never” attend religious services except for special events (like weddings); in most, the figure is well over 30 percent.

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Generic crisis or defining moment?

Crisis talk is the currency of the mass (and niche) media, and it can lead to a mentality that is paradoxically anxious (always attuned to the next crisis) and numbed (unable to distinguish the crises that lead to serious and long-term problems from those of momentary urgency — or the events that are merely outrageous or scandalous).  Sometimes a crisis becomes a turning point, for an individual or a group, but for this to happen, there needs to have been an already-established potential, and openness to the possibility of a new direction, an awareness of the problems and tensions in old approaches.

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When the personal keeps on being political

Susan Jacoby is, indeed, a “spirited atheist,” and a very smart one.  Her most recent post for On Faith,the religion blog that is a joint venture of Newsweek and The Washington Post, is biting, and one of the best statements I’ve seen in opposition to the “mamma grizzly” feminism of Sarah Palin et alia.

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The prescient Ms. Palin

You have to hand it to Sarah Palin. She knows how to make a splash.

I was surprised at the fuss that erupted when Ms. Palin started giving speeches calling for “mama grizzly” feminists on the Right to organize and . . . (okay, so the “and” is a bit unclear to me). But to organize, anyway, and take back the feminist label. (A good overview from a range of perspectives is available at The Week’s website.)

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The church as source of emotional support (part 2)

To understand how religious support fits with other aspects of individuals’ lives, we performed a 2-step analysis. First, we used a statistical technique called latent class analysis that can analyze patterns of responses across survey questions; using this technique, we could understand how religious sources of emotional support were combined with other sources into an overall profile of emotional support. 

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The church as source of emotional support (part 1)

Robert Putnam, the influential political scientist, has argued that religion undergirds the well-being of individuals and promotes healthy, strong communities, because it provides “social capital” -- relationships of trust and care-taking. Religious capital can be either bridgingcapital, which links individuals to others who are socially (racially, economically, ideologically) dissimilar, and bridging between the world of the congregation and the larger social context. Or it can be bonding capital, which primarily builds relationships of trustwithin the congregation among those who are probably very similar in terms of race, education, and income.

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The pig is not the problem

The originating and continuing impetus behind sociological inquiry into religion has been a sense that religion is “at odds” with modernity, continually undermined by ongoing rationalization. Secularization theory was modified and elaborated, but remained essentially unchallenged until the late twentieth century, when a conjunction of theoretical developments and a world-wide revival of religious identification and public religious discourse led to a reconsideration of the secularization thesis. The most influential statement in opposition to the secularization perspective in sociology has been the market theory of religion, including both a strict rational choice account and a “new paradigm” account that uses the market as a metaphor for the voluntarism, pluralism, and choice characteristic of religion in modern societies.

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Work and Careers

When you hear the term Baby Boomers, most likely a bundle of characteristics comes to mind that makes them distinctive—they are iconoclasts, activists, authors of the therapeutic revolution, spiritual explorers, restless entrepreneurs. Likewise, we associate the Great Generation with the hardships of growing up in the Depression and the sacrifices they made during World War II. Are today’s emerging adults a distinctive generation, and will they put their own stamp on our culture and institutions? 

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