Spiritual 'resurgence' rises, falls in US; more in Europe identify as religious
After Sept. 11, many signs pointed to a resurgence in faith among Americans - overflowing houses of worship, booming sales of scriptures, sober public consideration of the deeper questions of life. What has been the lingering impact on people's religious beliefs and practices? Barna Research Group of Ventura, Calif., sought the answer to that question in a nationwide survey released this week.
Despite heightened concern for the future, the report says, participation in a variety of religious activities - from Bible reading to church attendance - is back to usual levels. One change of note: Church participation by atheists has tripled, from 3 percent in August to 10 percent in November.
And while crises tend to spur shifts in faith, "spiritual beliefs remain virtually unchanged," except for a slight decrease in belief in an all-powerful, perfect Creator - and in the devil as a real being. "The most startling shift" reported relates to views on absolute moral truths. In January 2000, 38 percent of Americans believed in moral truths that do not change, while only 22 percent do today.
Contrary to long-standing assumptions, "a spiritual revival" is occurring in Western Europe's major cities, according to Ecumenical News International. The Rev. Paul Zulehner, a University of Vienna researcher, compared trends in cities of more than a million inhabitants based on data from 1990 and 1999 European Value Systems studies. In Brussels, for example, those calling themselves "religious" rose from 48 to 59 percent; in Lisbon, from 51 to 82 percent. The only exception was Paris, which declined from 55 to 48 percent. Some 67 percent of urban and rural Western Europeans now call themselves religious.
More than 50 years after their discovery in the caves of Qumran, Israel's Antiquities Authority has announced publication of the ancient scrolls in 37 volumes, titled "Discoveries in the Judean Desert." Access to the scrolls was limited until 1990 over concern about what they might reveal. But scholars now say nothing in them is likely to have a negative impact on Judaism or Christianity, as some had feared.