Century Marks

Century Marks

Txt msg

A Polish priest claims he is receiving messages on his cell phone from Satan after having failed to exorcise a demon from a teenage girl. One of the texts read: “She will not come out of this hell. She’s mine. Anyone who prays for her will die.” The priest said the devil and his followers aren’t shy about using technology, but often their actions aren’t identified as the work of the devil (Daily Mail, July 29).

Finding my religion

The conventional wisdom has been that going to college leads people away from organized religion, and that was true for those born in the first part of the 20th century. But it’s not true for recent generations, says sociologist Philip Schwadel at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. In fact, it’s the least-educated members of Generation X—people born roughly between 1965 and 1980—who are most likely to leave religion. “Americans born in the late 1920s and ’30s who graduated from college were twice as likely to drop out of religion than people who didn’t graduate from college,” said Schwadel. However, for the generation born in the 1960s, there’s no difference between those who did and those who did not go to college in their likelihood of religious affiliation. Among those born in the 1970s, “those without a college education are the most likely to drop out.” Schwadel did not include millennials—Americans roughly between the ages 18 and 30—in the study because, he said, it’s too soon to tell if they will settle on a religious identity (RNS).

Learning to care

A study conducted by Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd found that 80 percent of youths said their parents were more concerned about their achievements than whether they care for others. Weissbourd says children can and must be taught to be caring. He’s developed a five-point process for parents to teach and model caring for their children. Learning to care for others is like learning a sport: repetition helps. He recommends a daily ritual at bedtime, dinner, or while driving that expresses thanks for people who contribute positively in our lives. It’s also important to find ways of widening the circle of care to include people of other cultures and communities (Washington Post, July 18).

Public grief

The Internet seems to be making a difference in the way Americans think and talk about death, says Laura Arnold Leibman, who recently taught a college course on American Dead and Undead. Social media provide an outlet for people to mourn publicly and to receive sympathy and support. Leibman’s students admitted that they’re not entirely comfortable with such public expressions of grief, but they think the culture is in a time of transition in this area (Religion in American History, July 15).

Source criticism

Some of the most controversial and heavily edited articles on Wikipedia involve religious topics. Former president George W. Bush tops the list of the 100 most-altered articles on the open-source encyclopedia, but not far behind are the articles on Jesus (5) and the Catholic Church (7), with the Prophet Muhammad (35) and Pope John Paul II (82) farther down the list. The list also includes specific religions: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Islam, Christianity, and Scientology. In 2009 Wikipedia banned people using Church of Scientology computers from altering articles because it claimed the church’s members engaged in editing wars (RNS).