Cities on a Hill News Letter Spring 1999
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Social Scientists Agree: Religious Belief Reduces Crime Summary of the First Panel Discussion Panelists for this important discussion included social scientists Dr. John DiIulio, professor of politics and urban affairs at Princeton University; David Larson, M.D., President of the National Institute for Health care Research; Dr. Byron Johnson, Director of the Center for Crime and Justice Policy at Vanderbilt University; and Gary Walker, President of Public/Private Ventures.* The panel focused on new research, confirming the positive effects that religiosity has on turning around the lives of youth at risk. From left to right: Midge Decter, John DiIulio, David Larson, Byron Johnson and Gary Walker.
Dr. Larson laid the foundation for the discussion by summarizing the findings of 400 studies on juvenile delinquency, conducted during the past two decades.* He believes that although more research is needed, we can say without a doubt that religion makes a positive contribution.* His conclusion: “The better we study religion, the more we find it makes a difference.”Previewing his own impressive research, Dr. Johnson agreed.* He has concluded that church attendance reduces delinquency among boys even when controlling for a number of other factors including age, family structure, family size, and welfare status.* His findings held equally valid for young men of all races and ethnicities. Gary Walker has spent 25 years designing, developing and evaluating many of the nation’s largest public and philanthropic initiatives for at-risk youth.* His experience tells him that faith-based programs are vitally important for two reasons.* First, government programs seldom have any lasting positive effect.* While the government might be able to design programs that occupy time, these programs, in the long-term, rarely succeed in bringing about the behaviorial changes needed to turn kids away from crime.Second, faith-based programs are rooted in building strong adult-youth relationships; and less concerned with training, schooling, and providing services, which don’t have the same direct impact on individual behavior.* Successful mentoring, Walker added, requires a real commitment from the adults involved – and a willingess to be blunt.* The message of effective mentors is simple.* “You need to change your life, I’m here to help you do it, or you need to be put away, away from the community.”* Government, and even secular philanthropic programs, can’t impart this kind of straight talk.Walker is working on a pilot project with Dr. DiIulio and Rev. Eugene Rivers to implement a faith-based mentoring system in 10 cities around the country.* But the project faces some daunting challenges, as Mr. Walker sees it.* Can faith-based mentoring, which usually works on a small-scale, informal basis, be successfully bureaucratized, even by private organizations?* And can faith-based mentoring overcome resistance from government and philanthropic funders in order to grow and thrive?
People smart in different ways
Attending services is the most significant factor in predicting charitable giving. Robert Wunthnow, Acts of Compassion, Princeton University Press, 1991.
 Attending services is the most significant factor in predicting volunteer activity. Ibid.
*  Sixth through twelfth graders who attend religious services once a month or more are half as likely to engage in at-risk behaviors such as substance abuse, sexual excess, truancy, vandalism, drunk driving and other trouble with police. Search Institute, "The Faith Factor," Source, Vol. 3, Feb. 1992, p.1.
*  Churchgoers are more likely to aid their neighbors in need than are non-attendees. George Barna, What Americans Believe, Regal Books, 1991, p. 226.
*  Three out of four Americans say that religious practice has strengthened family relationships. George Gallup, Jr. "Religion in America: Will the Vitality of Churches Be the Surprise of the Next Century," The Public Perspective, The Roper Center, Oct./Nov. 1995.
*  Church attendance lessens the probabilities of homicide and incarceration. Nadia M. Parson and James K. Mikawa: "Incarceration of African-American Men Raised in Black Christian Churches." The Journal of Psychology, Vol. 125, 1990, pp.163-173.
*  Religious practice lowers the rate of suicide. Joubert, Charles E., "Religious Nonaffiliation in Relation to Suicide, Murder, Rape and Illegitimacy," Psychological Reports 75:1 part 1 (1994): 10 Jon W. Hoelter: "Religiosity, Fear of Death and Suicide Acceptibility." Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, Vol. 9, 1979, pp.163-172.
*The presence of active churches, synagogues, or mosques reduces violent crime in neighborhoods. John J. Dilulio, Jr., "Building Spiritual Capital: How Religious Congregations Cut Crime and Enhance Community Well-Being," RIAL Update, Spring 1996.
*  People with religious faith are less likely to be school drop-outs, single parents, divorced, drug or alcohol abusers. Ronald J. Sider and Heidi Roland, "Correcting the Welfare Tragedy," The Center for Public Justice, 1994.
*  Church involvement is the single most important factor in enabling inner-city black males to escape the destructive cycle of the ghetto. Richard B. Freeman and Harry J. Holzer, eds., The Black Youth Employment Crisis, University of Chicago Press, 1986, p.354.
*  Attending services at a church or other house of worship once a month or more makes a person more than twice as likely to stay married than a person who attends once a year or less. David B. Larson and Susan S. Larson, "Is Divorce Hazardous to Your Health?" Physician, June 1990. Improving Personal Well-Being
 Most happy people are also religious people.
96% of people who say they are generally happy agree that "My religious faith is the most important influence in my life." George Gallup, Jr. "Religion in America: Will the Vitality of Churches Be the Surprise of the Next Century?", The Public Perspective, The Roper Center, Oct./Nov. 1995.
 Most people who find their work exciting and fulfilling are religious people.
<65% of people who say their occupation is exciting and fulfilling say that they find "comfort and support from my religious beliefs." Ibid.
 Most people who are excited about the future are religious people.
>80% of those who say they are "excited about the future" agree that they find "comfort and support from my religious beliefs." Ibid.
 Most people who feel close to their families are religious people.
94% of people who "feel very close" to their families agree that "my religious faith is the most important influence in my life." Ibid.
 Eight in ten Americans say religious beliefs help them respect themselves. Ibid.
 More than eight in ten say that their religious beliefs lead them to respect people of other religions. Ibid.
 Regular church attendance lessens the possibility of cardiovascular diseases, cirrhosis of the liver, emphysema and arteriosclerosis. George W. Comstock amd Kay B. Patridge:* "Church attendance and health."* Journal of Chronic Disease, Vol. 25, 1972, pp. 665-672.
* Regular church attendance significantly reduces the probablility of high blood pressure.* David B. Larson, H. G. Koenig, B. H. Kaplan, R. S. Greenberg, E. Logue and H. A. Tyroler:* " The Impact of religion on men's blood pressure."* Journal of Religion and Health, Vol. 28, 1989, pp.265-278.* W.T. Maramot:* "Diet, Hypertension and Stroke." in* M. R. Turner (ed.) Nutrition and Health, Alan R. Liss, New York, 1982, p. 243.
* People who attend services at least once a week are much less likely to have high blood levels of interlukin-6, an immune system protein associated with many age-related diseases.* Harold Koenig and Harvey Cohen, The International Journal of Psychiatry and Medicine, October 1997.
* Regular practice of religion lessens depression and enhances self esteem. *Peter L. Bensen and Barnard P. Spilka:* "God-Image as a function of self-esteem and locus of control" in H. N. Maloney (ed.) Current Perspectives in the Psychology of Religion, Eedermans, Grand Rapids, 1977, pp. 209-224.* Carl Jung: "Psychotherapies on the Clergy" in Collected Works Vol. 2, 1969, pp.327-347.
* About half of religious people "have a lot of stress" in their lives, but only half of these "often get depressed." George Gallup, Jr. "Religion in America: Will the Vitality of Churches Be the Surprise of the Next Century?" The Public Perspective, The Roper Center, Oct./Nov. 1995.
* Church attendance is a primary factor in preventing substance abuse and repairing damage caused by substance abuse.* Edward M. Adalf and Reginald G. Smart:* "Drug Use and Religious Affiliation, Feelings and Behavior." * British Journal of Addiction, Vol. 80, 1985, pp.163-171.* Jerald G. Bachman, Lloyd D. Johnson, and Patrick M. O'Malley:* "Explaining* the Recent Decline in Cocaine Use Among Young Adults:* Further Evidence That Perceived Risks and Disapproval Lead to Reduced Drug Use."* Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Vol. 31,* 1990, pp. 173-184.* Deborah Hasin, Jean Endicott, * and Collins Lewis:* "Alcohol and Drug Abuse in Patients With Affective Syndromes."* Comprehensive Psychiatry, Vol. 26, 1985, pp. 283-295. * The findings of this NIMH-supported study were repilcated in the Bachmen et. al. study above.
* This data is reprinted from RIAL Update which is edited by Robert B. Lennick and published twice a year by Religion In American Life.* Reprinting of any material in this copyright publication requires written permission from the editor.
W.K. Kay and L.J. Francis Drift from the Churches: attitudes towards Christianity during childhood and adolescence, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1996, pp x + 266Key words: attitudes - Christianity - children - adolescents - empiricalMedium: authored bookSummary:
How and why do some young people become religious?* Are religious people happier than others?* Do church schools help pupils to develop a positive attitude toward Christianity?* What part does personal religious experience play in shaping religious attitudes?*
Twenty-five years of empirical psychological and sociological research on young people in relation to Christianity is presented here in a set of interrelated studies which show how attitude toward Christianity in young people is linked with schooling, cognitive development, masculinity and femininity, church attendance, religious experience, science, well-being, mental health and the Eysenckian model of personality.