Thursday, January 23, 2014

Book Club - God is Back #2 - Winter 2014

Part One of the book makes a few important arguments.  Rather than going into detail into all of them here, I will draw your attention to two of them.

The first argument is that the United States and Europe have carried out two very different paths of the relationship between religion and state.  What are those paths?  Why were they so different?

A second argument is that the different paths have different implications for the degree of religiosity in those two regions.  What is the logic of this claim?  What reasons do the authors give in making the argument?

Be sure to understand these arguments.  You may want to go back and read through the book again to reinforce the important ideas.  You might also want to look at blog posts for prior years on the God is Back book.

Man Church

The first sentence of this article from the Detroit Free Press give the punchline:
A church in Canton is starting a new program called Man Church aimed at encouraging men to get involved in their congregations and in society.
The church is the Connection Church, a Pentecostal congregation with about 1500 weekly attendees.  While the program is meant to help solve social ills, it is also meant to reach out and pull more men into church.  During their meeting on January 18 (the date the article was first published), the group discussed a book titled "Why Men Hate Going to Church."

Reaching out to under-churched populations is a common thing in churches.  Many church leaders try various--sometimes extremely creative--ideas in expanding the membership and influence of their churches.  In this case, the program is meant to appeal to under-churched men, and the very name "Man Church" may give a hint at the kind of man they are looking for.

This reminds me of prior creative endeavors by religious leaders that have made it to this blog in earlier posts:  Drive-in Church and Pet Church.  Religious leaders frequently innovate in their attempt to reach and influence a broader set of people.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book Club - God is Back #1 - Winter 2014

The introduction to Micklethwait and Wooldridge's God is Back provides a number of provocative facts, ideas, and claims.  Some of them include:
  • The world's major religions are currently engaged in a "scramble for China" (p. 5).
  • One ruse is to set up trading companies in China that are really missionary outposts (p. 6).
  • The biggest problem for the prophets of secularization is that the surge of religion is being driven by the same two things that have driven the success of market capitalism: competition and choice (p. 21).
  • The American model of religion--one that is based on choice rather than state fiat--is winning (p. 25).
Yet, it is another of their claims that is particularly interesting in light of the recent Pew report (mentioned here).  Micklethwait and Wooldridge claim that:
It now seems that it is the American model that is spreading around the world:  religion and modernity are going hand in hand, not just in China but throughout much of Asia, Africa, Arabia, and Latin America.
But should this claim above remain true given the recent Pew report that regulation of religion is on the rise in many countries around the world?  Is the Pew finding too recent to have been noticed by the God is Back authors?  Or are both going on, i.e., we see a growth in religious freedom in many countries while simultaneously seeing a decline in religious freedom in others?  What other questions come to your mind as you read this chapter?

An Increase in Hostility Toward Religion

A new report on hostility toward religion around the world has recently been released by the Pew Research Center.  A nice overview of the report is found here (the much longer full report is found here).  Some of the findings include:
  • The share of countries with a high or very high level of social hostilities involving religion reached a six-year high in 2012.
  • A third of the 198 countries/territories had high religious hostilities.
  • The sharpest increase was in the Middle East and North Africa, but there were also significant increases in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • The share of countries with high or very high levels of government restrictions on religion stayed about the same.
  • Restrictions on religion, whether social or by government, are high or very high in 43% of countries.
In our class, we will discuss these measures of hostility toward religion and discuss how they might affect religiosity.