Polls Show Growth In Religious Belief

FEW research by the Rev. Andrew Greeley, the Roman Catholic sociologist and author, shows belief in God to be stronger than ever in many parts of the Judeo-Christian world, though not in the Netherlands and eastern Germany.

According to Reuters, researchers from the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago surveyed almost 19,000 people in Britain, Germany, Hungary, the Irish Republic, Northern Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, and the United States. The study found that substantial majorities of those surveyed in almost all the countries say they believe in God: Nine out of 10 in the US and Irish Republic, 8 out of 10 in Italy, and more than 2 out of 3 in Is rael, Britain, and New Zealand. In the Netherlands, the figure was a little more than half, while in eastern Germany, less than 25 percent told pollsters they believe in God.

"In some countries, most notably Ireland ... Poland, and the United States, religious devotion is high, arguably higher than it has ever been in human history," Fr. Greeley writes. Religion seen gaining in US

Meanwhile, Gallup Poll findings appear to indicate that the percentage of Americans who believe religion is important is on the rise. According to the Princeton Religion Research Center, there has been a slow but steady increase since 1987 in the number of Americans surveyed who say that religion is important in their lives. From a low point of 53 percent in 1987, the percentage rose in 1991 to 58 percent, where it stayed in 1992. But it's still far below the record-high 75 percent of those surveyed in 1 952 who said religion was important to them.

Gallup also finds an increase in the percentage of those surveyed who claim to be church members. In 1992, 70 percent of those surveyed said they were church or synagogue members, up from 65 percent in 1990. The highest percentage ever recorded was 76 percent in 1947. Interestingly, the West continues to lag significantly behind the rest of the country, with only 57 percent of those surveyed claiming church membership, compared with 73 to 74 percent in other regions. A gender gap persists; 76 percent of women surveyed, versus 64 percent of men, said they were church members.

According to the Gallup data reported by the Princeton center, 40 percent of Americans polled said they attended church the previous week. This number has been "remarkably constant" since 1939, the center says, except during the 1950s, when the percentage peaked at 49 percent. Parliament of World's Religions centenary

Adherents of the principal world religions and ecumenical groups will gather in Chicago Aug. 28 to Sept. 5 for the Parliament of World's Religions to foster interfaith cooperation. The event commemorates the 1893 parliament, which is known primarily for having introduced Hinduism and Buddhism to the West, but which also saw the beginning of the ecumenical movement and recognition of the young Christian Science Church.

Represented will be the Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian (Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, and others), Confucian, Hindu, indigenous, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, native American, Shinto, Sikh, Taoist, Unitarian, and Zoroastrian religions. Participants in this year's parliament will include the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, and Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Roman Catholic archbishop of Chicago. Sir John Templeton will award the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion to Charles Colson. How to help the homeless

Many people want to help the homeless but don't know what to do. So Rabbi Charles Kroloff, senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Westfield, N.J., and vice president of the Interfaith Council for the Homeless, has published a list: "54 Ways You Can Help the Homeless." Among his suggestions: Carry fast-food gift certificates to give to panhandlers to ensure the gift is used for food; donate a bag of groceries to a food drive; ask local papers and church or synagogue bulletins to publish information on shelter s. The book is published by Hugh Lauter Levin Associates and Behrman House, distributed by Macmillan, and sells for $1.95.

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