Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Growth of Unpaid Clergy

This article at the Religion News Service discusses a rise in the incidence of unpaid clergy in both mainline and evangelical congregations that have traditionally used paid clergy.  A obvious primary reason for having unpaid clergy is that it is less expensive, but the article mentions other pros as well as cons.  The unpaid clergy must often also have a paying, secular job.  Of course, other religious groups have traditionally used unpaid clergy, so this is not an innovation.  But it demonstrates how some religious groups are adapting in the face of financial pressures.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Another Research on Religion Podcast Interview

The Research on Religion Podcast, a weekly podcast series conducted by Tony Gill, Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington, recently interviewed me about my research on religious authority. The podcast is now up; click here to listen.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Branding Religion Online

This article reviews the web sites of the 20 most populous religious group in the U.S.  In addition to providing brief comments about each site, the article gives some summary findings:

What you’ll find may be surprising. I found that of the top 20 Christian churches, only 3 actively use images of Jesus Christ on their site. Most churches don’t visually emphasize church doctrine or principles, but rather emphasize recent news in the church or upcoming conventions, concerts, and speaking series. Most of the churches choose to advertise programs or other websites and they promote their bookstores and other products for purchase. Some churches emphasize healthy living, taking care of the poor, and providing relief during disasters. Some have a really strong emphasis on the leadership of their church, directing readers to church hierarchy and important people.
One thing you’ll want to notice from each church is whether or not they are incorporated. You’ll find an interesting connection between the churches that have a “.com” website address and their visual emphasis on money-making conventions. The .org sites tend to be focused more on doctrinal and faith-based issues (but not all).

Thursday, May 2, 2013

USCIRF 2013 Annual Report

The latest USCIRF Annual Report can was released this week.  It can be found here.

The following eight countries were recommended that the following eight countries be re-designated
as Countries of Particular Concern (CPC): Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Uzbekistan.

Other countries were recommended for CPC status:  Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.

The following countries are near CPC status:  Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, Russia.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Catholic and Amish Economics of Religion on Planet Money

NPR's Planet Money recently released two podcasts on the Catholic Church and Amish business practices.  Each is approx. 20 minutes long.

"An Economic Makeover for the Catholic Church"

"Business Secrets of the Amish"

Friday, January 11, 2013

First Freedom Video

Back on 18 December 2012, PBS aired a video First Freedom: The Fight for Religious Liberty.  The video tells of the history behind the First Amendment, going back to the early pilgrims and tracing the development of religious freedom amidst religious persecution in the colonies.  You can watch it here.

The video shows how the religious freedom that emerged in colonial America is strikingly different from the European experience.  It also shows how certain aspects of colonial America, such as religious pluralism across the colonies, created conditions under which laws protecting religious freedom could emerge.

The video does less well in examining certain subtleties.  For example, religion, just like speech and other protected rights, are still regulated to some degree.  Do religious persons have the right to avoid taxes, avoid military service, educate their children outside of the public education sector, wear any kind of clothing, or sacrifice animals as part of their religious practice?  These kinds of behaviors can be challenged.

So use the video for historical background on the First Amendment but not for a more general examination of religious freedom.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Religious None Growing More Slowly?

A new Gallup poll suggests that growth of Americans claiming no religious affiliation is slowing.  Remember that this category includes anybody who does not claim a religious affiliation, many of whom are religious but just not affiliated.

Predicting the future growth of this category is tricky.  Many of the people are younger and religious but just not affiliated.  You might expect religious entrepreneurs to engage these people, thus potentially slowing or even reversing the growth.  However, the very notion of affiliation may be shifting.  Individuals may be happy practicing religion or going to church while not creating formal affiliations.  These growth in the religious nones is one of the biggest changes in American religion, but there is still much to be learned.