Monday, February 25, 2008

Americans Change Faiths at Rising Rate, Report Finds


WASHINGTON — More than a quarter of adult Americans have left the faith of their childhood to join another religion or no religion, according to a new survey of religious affiliation by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The report, titled “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey,” depicts a highly fluid and diverse national religious life. If shifts among Protestant denominations are included, then it appears that 44 percent of Americans have switched religious affiliations.

For at least a generation, scholars have noted that more Americans are moving among faiths, as denominational loyalty erodes. But the survey, based on interviews with more than 35,000 Americans, offers one of the clearest views yet of that trend, scholars said. The United States Census does not track religious affiliation.

The report shows, for example, that every religion is losing and gaining members, but that the Roman Catholic Church “has experienced the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes.” The survey also indicates that the group that had the greatest net gain was the unaffiliated. More than 16 percent of American adults say they are not part of any organized faith, which makes the unaffiliated the country’s fourth largest “religious group.”
Detailing the nature of religious affiliation — who has the numbers, the education, the money — signals who could hold sway over the country’s political and cultural life, said John Green, an author of the report who is a senior fellow on religion and American politics at Pew.
Michael Lindsay, assistant director of the Center on Race, Religion and Urban Life at Rice University, echoed that view. “Religion is the single most important factor that drives American belief attitudes and behaviors,” said Mr. Lindsay, who had read the Pew report. “It is a powerful indicator of where America will end up on politics, culture, family life. If you want to understand America, you have to understand religion in America.”

In the 1980s, the General Social Survey by the National Opinion Research Center indicated that from 5 percent to 8 percent of the population described itself as unaffiliated with a particular religion.

In the Pew survey 7.3 percent of the adult population said they were unaffiliated with a faith as children. That segment increases to 16.1 percent of the population in adulthood, the survey found. The unaffiliated are largely under 50 and male. “Nearly one-in-five men say they have no formal religious affiliation, compared with roughly 13 percent of women,” the survey said.
The rise of the unaffiliated does not mean that Americans are becoming less religious, however. Contrary to assumptions that most of the unaffiliated are atheists or agnostics, most described their religion “as nothing in particular.” Pew researchers said that later projects would delve more deeply into the beliefs and practices of the unaffiliated and would try to determine if they remain so as they age.

While the unaffiliated have been growing, Protestantism has been declining, the survey found. In the 1970s, Protestants accounted for about two-thirds of the population. The Pew survey found they now make up about 51 percent. Evangelical Christians account for a slim majority of Protestants, and those who leave one evangelical denomination usually move to another, rather than to mainline churches.

To Prof. Stephen Prothero, large numbers of Americans leaving organized religion and large numbers still embracing the fervor of evangelical Christianity point to the same desires.
“The trend is toward more personal religion, and evangelicals offer that,” said Mr. Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University, who explained that evangelical churches tailor many of their activities for youth. “Those losing out are offering impersonal religion and those winning are offering a smaller scale: mega-churches succeed not because they are mega but because they have smaller ministries inside.”

The percentage of Catholics in the American population has held steady for decades at about 25 percent. But that masks a precipitous decline in native-born Catholics. The proportion has been bolstered by the large influx of Catholic immigrants, mostly from Latin America, the survey found.

The Catholic Church has lost more adherents than any other group: about one-third of respondents raised Catholic said they no longer identified as such. Based on the data, the survey showed, “this means that roughly 10 percent of all Americans are former Catholics.”

Immigration continues to influence American religion greatly, the survey found. The majority of immigrants are Christian, and almost half are Catholic. Muslims rival Mormons for having the largest families. And Hindus are the best-educated and among the richest religious groups, the survey found.

“I think politicians will be looking at this survey to see what groups they ought to target,” Professor Prothero said. “If the Hindu population is negligible, they won’t have to worry about it. But if it is wealthy, then they may have to pay attention.”

Experts said the wide-ranging variety of religious affiliation could set the stage for further conflicts over morality or politics, or new alliances on certain issues, as religious people have done on climate change or Jews and Hindus have done over relations between the United States, Israel and India.

“It sets up the potential for big arguments,” Mr. Green said, “but also for the possibility of all sorts of creative synthesis. Diversity cuts both ways.”

Friday, February 22, 2008

Open discussion...why do we find it so difficult to trust God completely?

Have you ever had a moment in your life when you found it a bit difficult to trust God completely on one or several issues? I'm in one of those moments now....and I've been asking myself WHY? Why am I finding it so hard to completely and totally trust God on these issues? Why is it so difficult to take Him completely at His Word? I know what the Word says....I go to God in prayer armed with His Word....I have seen God move in miraculous ways in my life countless times...I recall past victories in my life and tell myself God has not changed....He is the same God...He is the All-sufficient Almighty God...I go on and on confessing the Word regularly..."I stagger not at the promises of God through unbelief, but I am strong in faith, giving glory to God, being fully persuaded that what God has promised, He is also able to perform"....and on and on....but yet, sometimes I begin to waver in my trust...the simple evidence...worry and I began to critically examine myself (cos we all know there's nothing wrong with God) to find out why I was still worrying when I should be trusting...this self examination is still an ongoing exercise, but I have come up with one explanation...even though I'm looking up to God and declaring His Word, I am at the same time looking at my circumstances and seeing how everything seems bleak and we all know that the Bible says "We walk by faith and not by sight" what is happening here is that I'm trying to walk both by faith and by sight...and the 2 are clashing...if I am to really trust God completely, I have to take my eyes completely off what I can this is where the problem is. Hhmmm. So I was wondering if anybody has any similar experience with trusting God and what other explanations people have for not being able to trust God completely....or maybe I'm the only one experiencing this?? Please let us discuss this...looking forward to reading your comments.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Who's Your Valentine?

I woke up this morning to a sky so pink it’s hard to think. At every turn and every corner the shouting pink deafens your ears and the bright color blinds your sight.

"Love is in the air," is the shout blaring from my radio. From the T.V. comes images scary enough to make a righteous soul sick. The shopping malls are packed with men and women seeking the secrets of Victoria. The bill boards take on a life of their own beckoning with a sly of lies.

I’m not one that observes pagan holidays - for me one day is the same as the other. But seeing this day celebrated by many, even by Christians, as the day of love – the Valentine’s Day – it caused me to pause to feel the pulse of the Almighty God.

“Greater love hath no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Now, most people would not be willing to die even for a very good person or for a very good cause. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.

This day will pass and with it the fleeting urges of debased orgies. The pink roses will soon crumble as they succumb to the forces of nature and the red wine will soon lose its taste in a haste. The only thing that will remain is this very fact: “Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the LOVE of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Roman 8:39)

So if you must know to whom I owe this day, it is He who gave His life for my sake who's my Valentine today.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Song Of Solomon - 2

Young Woman
I am the spring crocus blooming on the Sharon Plain, the lily of the valley.

Young Man
Like a lily among thistles is my darling among young women.

Young Woman
Like the finest apple tree in the orchard is my lover among other young men. I sit in his
delightful shade and taste his delicious fruit. He escorts me to the banquet hall; it’s obvious

how much he loves me. Strengthen me with raisin cakes, refresh me with apples, for I am weak with love. His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me. Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and wild deer, not to awaken love until the time is right. Ah, I hear my lover coming! He is leaping over the mountains, bounding over the hills. My lover is like a swift gazelle or a young stag. Look, there he is behind the wall, looking through the window, peering into the room. My lover said to me, “Rise up, my darling! Come away with me, my fair one! Look, the winter is past, and the rains are over and gone. The flowers are springing up, the season of singing birds has come, and the cooing of turtledoves fills the air. The fig trees are forming young fruit, and the fragrant grapevines are blossoming. Rise up, my darling! Come away with me, my fair one!”

Young Man
My dove is hiding behind the rocks, behind an outcrop on the cliff. Let me see your face; let
me hear your voice. For your voice is pleasant, and your face is lovely.

Young Women of Jerusalem
Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the
grapevines are blossoming!

Young Woman
My lover is mine, and I am his. He browses among the lilies. Before the dawn breezes blow
and the night shadows flee, return to me, my love, like a gazelle or a young stag on the rugged mountains.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Prince Among Slaves

Documentary Reveals the True Story of an African Prince Enslaved in the American South

PRINCE AMONG SLAVES, the inspiring true story of an African prince who survived 40 years of enslavement in America before finally regaining his freedom, airs Monday, February 4, 2008, 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET (check local listings) on PBS. The documentary, part of PBS' tribute to Black History Month, is a presentation of the National Black Programming Consortium.
Winner of the Best Documentary at the 2007 American Black Film Festival, PRINCE AMONG SLAVES tells the compelling story of Abdul Rahman, an African Muslim prince, through feature-film styled re-enactments directed by Andrea Kalin and Emmy-Award-winner Bill Duke; contemporary artworks, archival letters and diaries; and on-camera interviews with distinguished scholars and experts. Narrated by actor and hip-hop artist Mos Def, PRINCE AMONG SLAVES is based on Dr. Terry Alford's biography of the same name.

Abdul Rahman was captured in 1788 and sold into slavery in the American South. He endured the horrific Middle Passage and ended up the "property" of a poor and nearly illiterate planter from Natchez, Mississippi, named Thomas Foster. Rahman remained enslaved for 40 years before finally regaining his freedom under dramatic circumstances, becoming one of the most famous men of his day. He returned to Africa, his royal status acknowledged. PRINCE AMONG SLAVES ends with a family reunion of Rahman's African and American descendents in Natchez, Mississippi.

"Abdul Rahman survived the harsh ordeals of slavery through his love of family and his deep abiding faith," says co-executive producer Michael Wolfe." The film depicts a universal story of perseverance and hope. Abdul endured unimaginable indignities and faced immeasurable odds, yet managed to survive his long fall from royalty with character and integrity intact."
"I was immediately attracted to this story because of its powerful message," re-enactment director and supervisory producer Bill Duke says. "Too many people continue to be enslaved by poverty, drugs and bad decisions. But like Abdul Rahman, they can come out of it and regain their dignity and respect."

The film contains insight from a distinguished and diverse group of experts such as Terry Alford, whose historical biography inspired the film; best-selling journalist and popular historian Adam Hochschild; K. Anthony Appiah, professor of philosophy at Princeton University; the late novelist Bebe Moore Campbell; Sylviane A. Diouf, renowned scholar and author; Michael Gomez, professor of history at NYU; historian David S. Dreyer; Artemus Gaye, a descendant of Abdul Rahman; and Hamza Yusuf Hanson and Zaid Shakir, Islamic scholars at the Zaytuna Institute.

Can You Sleep While The Wind Blows?

Years ago, a farmer owned land along the Atlantic seacoast. He constantly advertised for hired hands. Most people were reluctant to work on farms along the Atlantic. They dreaded the awful storms that raged across the Atlantic, wreaking havoc on the buildings and crops. As the farmer interviewed applicants for the job, he received a steady stream of refusals. Finally, a short, thin man, well past middle age, approached the farmer. "Are you a good farm hand?" the farmer asked him. "Well, I can sleep when the wind blows," answered the little man. Although puzzled by this answer, the farmer, desperate for help, hired him. The little man worked well around the farm, busy from dawn to dusk, and the farmer felt satisfied with the man's work. Then one night the wind howled loudly in from offshore. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a lantern and rushed next door to the hired hand's sleeping quarters. He shook the little man and yelled, "Get up! A storm is coming! Tie things down before they blow away!". The little man rolled over in bed and said firmly, "No sir. I told you, I can sleep when the wind blows." Enraged by the response, the farmer was tempted to fire him on the spot. Instead, he hurried outside to prepare for the storm. To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks had been covered with tarpaulins. The cows were in the barn, the chickens were in the coops, and the doors were barred. The shutters were tightly secured. Everything was tied down. Nothing could blow away. The farmer then understood what his hired hand meant, so he returned to his bed to also sleep while the wind blew.

When you're prepared, spiritually, mentally, and physically, you have nothing to fear. Can you sleep when the wind blows through your life? The hired hand in the story was able to sleep because he had secured the farm against the storm. We secure ourselves against the storms of life by grounding ourselves in the Word of God. We don't need to understand, we just need to hold His hand to have peace in the middle of storms.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Goals Are Tools, Not Golden Calves

By David Allen
What we focus on changes what we notice.
Let me describe a recent example of how I've observed that principle at work.
I was facilitating a senior level discussion in a medical technology corporation, where participants were grappling with the issue of the role of Research and Development, and how to "fill the pipeline" with new products that would keep them competitive. As one top executive proposed some aggressive goals for the number of new products created and developed within the next 18 months, another equally top executive challenged: "Why set goals for R&D? What difference will it make? What will anyone do differently because some committee gave them a number like that to produce?"

It is not unusual to find many people jaded at best about the value of goal-setting, given the stress created by what are often perceived as artificial expectations decreed from on high.
There is always the dilemma of trying to set targets that are low enough to be realistic but high enough to be galvanizing, exciting, challenging (and sometimes required!).

This is a topic for endless business books and motivation pundits. I just want to highlight one perspective I've found very useful over the years. The value of goals is not in the future they describe, but the change in perception of the reality they foster.

So as I said at the top -- what we focus on changes what we notice. Our brains filter information, seeing one thing in a situation instead of something else, based on what we identify with, what we have our attention on. In one meeting, optometrists notice who's wearing eyeglasses, acoustical engineers notice the sounds, and interior designers notice the color schemes.

Similarly, if you stop for a minute and give yourself permission to imagine five years from now, if your life could be as fabulously spectacular as you could possibly imagine, what might a Sunday afternoon be like? Reading great reviews of your best-selling book? Sailing the ocean in your own boat? Feeling relaxed, inspired, and having great fun with plenty of free time to read, play with your kids, explore new hobbies....?

Now imagine how good it could be ten minutes from now . . . Likely there will be different images that you will generate or perceive.

Both are exercises in fantasy. Each will give instructions to our minds to search for information that will be relevant to the pictures. Which is better? Depends on whether you'd like to start noticing sailing magazines, ideas for a book, or creative ways to have more discretionary time. That information is all around you, all the time. But if you're not wired up to perceive it with a focus that opens you to it, you'll think it doesn't exist.

The reason for long-term goals is the permission they give us to identify with the greatest value we can, which changes our filtered perceptions. The future never shows up. (Have you noticed? -- it's always today!) But playing with it as a working blueprint can be a remarkably useful tool to see things, and how to do and have them, that you never saw before. The most innovative people and companies are the ones with the biggest goals.

The future is an illusion, but an extremely handy one.

You can find out more about David Allen and GTD at The David Allen Company is a professional training, coaching, and management consulting organization, based in Ojai, California. Its purpose is to enhance performance and improve the quality of life by providing the world's best information, education, and products in the fields of personal productivity and work/life balance.