statistics

America Welcomes Christians, Jews; Atheists, Muslims Not So Much

LIfeWay Research / RNS
Graphic via LIfeWay Research / RNS

Americans are all for religious freedom — but disagree on who can claim it.

Diverse religious groups are recognized — but Christians and Jews are significantly more welcome than atheists, and many don’t see a welcome mat for Muslims. And not everyone means the same thing when speaking of a “Christian” nation.

So finds a new look at Americans’ religious self-image, detailed in a LifeWay Research survey released July 29.

Deep Divide Remains Between How Black and White Americans See Justice System

Image via PRRI, Religion & Politics Tracking Survey, May 2015
Image via PRRI, Religion & Politics Tracking Survey, May 2015

The percentage of white Americans (46 percent) who believe blacks and other minorities receive equal treatment to whites in the criminal justice system is exactly the same as it was in 1992 — the year of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, according to the Public Religion Research Institute. In contrast, only 17 percent of black Americans and 39 percent of Hispanic Americans agree. 

Elevating Our Cultural Competency: A Q&A with NPR’s Maria Hinojosa

Maria Hinojosa, left, speaks with Yolanda Sayres, right, about healthcare and education in Rochester, New York. Photo via ABTN.

“Behind every number, there’s a story.”

That’s what inspires Maria Hinojosa, host and executive producer of NPR’s Latino USA, to investigate the dramatic demographic changes taking place in the United States in her new PBS showAmerica by the Numbers. In a nation that will be majority non-white by 2043, Hinojosa’s storytelling focuses largely on the oft neglected experiences of immigrants and people of color.

Unafraid of what mainstream media too often neglects, Hinojosa’s America by the Numbers brings to life the tensions at the heart of a rapidly diversifying America. She examines not only the unjust treatment of underrepresented communities by the American government but also the cultural conflicts inherent within these communities. For Hinojosa, the conflicts between tradition and progress, community and individuality, white and non-white are not to be avoided, but rather spotlighted.

Last week, Sojourners chatted with Hinojosa about America by the Numbers and the role the media can play in welcoming these demographic changes. This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

What Do Americans Pray for? Themselves. And Maybe a Sports Team

“Among Americans who pray: People typically pray for…” graphic courtesy of LifeWay Christian Resources/RNS.

When Americans aren’t busy praying for themselves or their own needs — and most of them are — many are seeking divine intervention on behalf of a favorite sports team or the golden ticket in the lottery, according to a new survey.

About 13 percent of Americans who pray say they pray for sports teams, compared with about one in five (21 percent) who say they have prayed to win the lottery, the new survey from LifeWay Research suggests. 

A survey earlier this year from Public Religion Research Institute suggested that more Americans (26 percent) pray for their sports team, while more than seven in 10 (73 percent) say they have never done this.

Some of LifeWay’s new survey’s main findings include:

Religion Loses Clout: Why Many Say That’s a Bad Thing

Wedding-related businesses graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center/RNS.

More Americans today say religion’s influence is losing ground just when they want it to play a stronger role in public life and politics.

A new Pew Research Center survey finds 72 percent of Americans say religion’s influence is declining in society — the highest percentage since Pew began measuring the trend in 2001, when only 52 percent held that view.

“Most people (overwhelmingly Christians) view this as a bad thing,” said Greg Smith, associate director of Pew’s Religion & Public Life Project. “That unhappiness may be behind their desire for more religion and politics.”

Growing numbers want their politicians to pray in public and for their clergy to endorse candidates from the pulpit. And nearly half of Americans say business owners with religious objections to gay marriage should to be able to refuse wedding-related services to same-sex couples.

There are three ways to look at the findings, released Sept. 22:

 

Mindless Metrics

Church attendance board, SUSAN LEGGETT / Shutterstock.com
Church attendance board, SUSAN LEGGETT / Shutterstock.com

The go-to number in American religion is “ASA” — average Sunday attendance. Or as an irreverent colleague put it, “Fannies in the pews.”

It’s a meaningless metric, but it’s easy. Open the doors on Sunday, wait for the stragglers, then dispatch ushers to count the house.

Entire methodologies for church development have been built around this number, as if fanny count dictated how a church should behave. Problem is, ASA isn’t a useful measure of quantity, and it says nothing about quality.

A much better quantitative measure would get at “touches,” that is, how many lives are being touched by contact with the faith community in its various Sunday, weekday, off-site and online ministries — and then, for a qualitative measure, asking how those lives are being transformed.

Those are difficult metrics to track, of course, and that’s why many congregations stick to ASA and shun the harder work of measuring outcomes and impact.

Death by the Numbers

The Predator and Reaper drones in most common use by the CIA and U.S. military carry 500-pound GPS-guided bombs or Hellfire missiles. The bombs can destroy whole neighborhoods, while Hellfire missiles are designed to explode afterhitting their target, spewing shrapnel and “incendiary pellets” to “ensure target destruction.”

10,000+     
Weaponized drones in the U.S. arsenal

493 to 527    
Covert drone strikes by CIA and the U.S. military in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia (2002-13)

3,057 to 4,338         
Estimated total deaths by covert drone strikes

197 to 207    
Children reported killed in covert strikes

Sources: Defense Update;General Dynamics; The Guardian;The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Image: Drone aircraft launching a missile, Paul Fleet / Shutterstock.com

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Trials and Errors

Among democratic nations, the United States has the highest death penalty rate in the world. As the only G8 country to regularly use capital punishment, the United States joins China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, North Korea, and Yemen as the world's leaders in executions.

  • Since 1973, 141 people in 26 states have been exonerated from death row with evidence of their innocence.
  • 17 states and the District of Columbia have abolished the death penalty. However, the federal death penalty can still be enforced in every state.
  • The annual cost of California's current death penalty system is $137 million per year . The cost of a system that imposes lifetime incarceration rather than the death penalty would be $11.5 million per year.
  • Since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, 35 percent of those who have been executed have been African American (African Americans constitute about 14 percent of the U.S. population).

—Compiled by Elaina Ramsey

Sources: Amnesty International; Death Penalty Information Center; California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice; U.S. Census.

Image: Hands of a prisoner, BortN66 / Shutterstock.com

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Incarceration Nation

THE UNITED STATES has the highest incarceration rate in the world.  In fact, according to the most recent data, the U.S., while having only 4.5 percent of the world’s population, holds 21 percent of the world’s prisoners. The last few years have shown a slight decrease in incarceration rates, but law enforcement policies continue to both target racial minorities and to foster high recidivism rates.  And with the rise of private, for-profit prisons, putting Americans behind bars is becoming an increasingly lucrative business.

  • 2.3 million people are in prison or jail in the U.S.—and one in every 33 adults is behind bars or on parole (2010 figures).
     
  • From 2002 to 2010, the number of inmates held in for-profit prisons increased 37 percent, while the number detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in for-profit prisons increased 206 percent.
     
  • In 2011, 70 percent of people sentenced in federal criminal cases were people of color. More than 34 percent of prosecuted criminal cases were immigration-related, and 29 percent were drug-related. Fraud, the third most common offense, made up less than 10 percent of federal criminal cases.
     
  • Approximately 700,000 ex-offenders are released from prison each year, and more than 40 percent of them are reincarcerated within three years of their release.
     
  • The national unemployment rate is 7.8 percent, but even before the recession, unemployment was roughly 75 percent for ex-offenders in the year after release.

                                                                                                                                                         —Compiled by Dawn Araujo

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