Friday, June 27, 2008

Review of UnChristian: Comparing the image of Christianity to other groups I

(Part 7 in a series)

This post follows-up on yesterday's by comparing attitudes toward Christianity with those of other religions, i.e., adding a comparison group.

UnChristian states that Christianity has an image problem, especially, but not exclusively, among young people outside of the church.

There are various ways of examining this issue using existing data. If indeed Christianity has an image problem, then we would expect it to be thought of less well than other religions.

One source of data comparing attitudes toward religions comes from studies of prejudice. If we think of prejudice as having negative attitudes toward a group and its members, than data about religious prejudice captures negative images of religion.

Here are data from two different studies on this issue, and generalizing from them,
Muslims and Atheists have much worse "image problems" in American than do Christians.

1) Political support and religion.

Given that this is an election year, here are some data about religion in politics.

If American Christianity has an image problem, we might expect that this would translate into less support of a candidate with Christian beliefs.

A 2007 study by Pew asked respondents if they would more or less willing to support a presidential candidate based on the candidate's religious beliefs. The chart below indicates what percentage of the sample would be *less* likely to support a presidential candidate of that religion. (E.g., 61% were less likely to support a candidate if that candidate was an atheist).

2) Religion and dating.

Another way that negative attitudes toward religions manifests itself is in attitudes toward social closeness and intimacy. Zogby, in their July 2007 report "American Prejudice" asked a question that echoes classic measures of prejudice. It asks that if your child were dating someone from a religious group different than yours, which would concern you most?

Obviously most the respondents are Christian, so they will name a non-Christian religion. Still, most Americans are Christian, and this affects attitudes toward religion in America.

Next: More comparing the image of Christianity to other groups

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