Reverts. The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life reports that about half of Americans will switch religions at least once in their lives, and about 9 percent will return to the religion of their youth after first turning away from it. A recent Religion News Service article calls these people not "converts" but "reverts." Roman Catholics are taking advantage of the phenomenon with a "Catholics Come Home" campaign launched in 2008. Jewish congregations are implementing a similar strategy with its Synagogue 3000 program, which targets 20- and 30-something Jews. These campaigns appear to be having some success, and they raise questions about conventional evangelical wisdom that says young people are losing their faith and permanently leaving the church. What appears to be happening is that the mobility of 20-somethings, not a true loss of faith, is at least part of the reason why they leave the church. When they get married and start having kids, "de-churched" young adults appear to be coming back to church at nearly the same rates as past generations. Further supporting this view is the fact that belief in God among Americans hasn't really changed that much. In 2011, Gallup reported that 92 percent of Americans believed in God. In 1947, the first year Gallup asked that question, 94 percent said yes. Why aren't such data more widely reported? Sociologist Bradley Wright, an evangelical who has studied the data, told me, "You can sell more newspapers with bad news than good news." More magazines and website page views, too, or so I've been told.
Battle for the Bible. Louisiana College trustees and administrators have won what could be the last battle in a long war over the school's adherence to its biblical foundation. On March 28, a Louisiana District Court judge dismissed a suit brought against the school by four professors who claimed defamation and infliction of emotional distress in a disagreement with school leaders over the inerrancy of Scripture. Judge Mary Doggett ruled that because the disagreement was about theology, secular courts had no jurisdiction. During depositions, the professors, according to Doggett's ruling, "candidly testified that their errant view of the Bible was in conflict with the inerrant beliefs of the [school] administration." All four professors have since retired, but they can nonetheless appeal the ruling.
No surprise here. William Jeynes, a professor at California State University, discovered two common denominators for academic success among minority students: an active personal faith and a strong family unit. Because of the importance faith plays in minority communities, taking the Bible out of the classroom actually makes it harder for minority students to succeed. "African-American and Latino children are the most disadvantaged by the absence of the Bible in public schools," said Jeynes. Why do an active faith and a strong family make a difference? Jeynes said the effect is due in part to the strength the children draw from religion and in part to parental involvement.
Not so settled. Proponents of the idea that climate change is man-made are fond of saying "the science is settled and that no reputable scientist disputes the idea." Not so fast, say a group of 50 former NASA scientists. They sent a letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden Jr. asking him to make sure NASA and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) stop advocating for global-warming alarmism. "We believe the claims by NASA and GISS, that man-made carbon dioxide is having a catastrophic impact on global climate change, are not substantiated, especially when considering thousands of years of empirical data," write the signers, who are former astronauts, engineers, and mission support specialists with 1,000 years of combined experience. "With hundreds of well-known climate scientists and tens of thousands of other scientists publicly declaring their disbelief in the catastrophic forecasts … it is clear that the science is NOT settled." The group called NASA's advocacy of such an "extreme" position "inappropriate," adding, "At risk is damage to the exemplary reputation of NASA, NASA's current or former scientists and employees, and even the reputation of science itself."