Monday, November 8, 2010

Why religious Austrians have more children

FFRF takes bus campaign to Kent State campus

Posted: 05 Nov 2010 03:33 PM PDT

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, working with a nontheist student club at Kent State University, is taking its irreverent bus signs to Ohio for the first time.

The Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., has placed 4 different exterior bus ads on buses serving the campus. Two “king” ads say:

• “The United States is not founded on the Christian religion. – President John Adams”
• “Keep Religion Out of Government”

Two smaller exterior ads say:
• “Imagine No Religion” (with a stained-glass window motif)
• the humorous “Sleep in on Sundays”

There are 20 interior designs, too. One features evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, author of the blockbuster, The God Delusion,saying: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction.” The other features atheist and actress Katharine Hepburn: “I’m an atheist and that’s it. I believe that there is nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people.” The sign was tailored to the university’s famous Katharine Hepburn fashion exhibit.

“We also want to thank our Lifetime Member Dianne Centa for underwriting the cost of the interior advertisements,” said Foundation co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor, “and the student Freethinkers Association for joining our campaign and making this possible.”

FFRF launched a national billboard campaign in late 2007, and has reached nearly 50 cities and 25 states since then with a variety of thought-provoking billboards. Last year, it began a bus campaign as well, and has placed freethinking bus signs in Madison, Wis., Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago.

“We’re taking our campaign to the unmassed masses via the mass media,” Gaylor added. “We also think it’s nice that our advertising, in this case, helps subsidize and encourage mass transit.”

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Why religious Austrians have more children

Posted: 05 Nov 2010 03:22 PM PDT

On average, the more religious you are, the more kids you’ll have. It’s a widespread phenomenon, seen across pretty much all of the modern world.

The problem is, no-one really knows why this happens.

It could be something about religious beliefs. Maybe they make you more attractive to potential mates, or maybe they drive you to have more kids once you have found your mate.

Or maybe they encourage traditional, rather than modern, approaches to relationships. The traditional role for women is to stay at home and raise children, while hubbie has a career (and the independence and money that goes with it). It works (in theory at least) because divorce is not allowed, meaning that women cannot be left financially adrift.

Women who chose a more modern, more independent lifestyle have to juggle several competing needs. They need to invest time in their own career, and they need to guard against the financial consequences of divorce. In the absence of social structures to give them this security, they will have less time to devote to child rearing.

Could this be what lies behind reduced fertility among the less religious? To find out, Caroline Berghammer, at the Vienna Institute of Demography, took a look at data from the Austrian Generations and Gender Survey. This included 1250 men and women aged 40-45 – i.e. pretty much at the end of their reproductive career.

For each them, the dates of key life events were recorded – the times when they were cohabiting with a partner, when they were married, when they had each child, and when they divorced.

From these data, Berghammer was able to define each individual’s ‘life trajectory’. You can see some examples in the figure.

Click for larger image.

Take the top row. It describes the life path of someone who was single until age 23, then cohabited for a year before getting married. After a year of marriage, they had their first child and, a couple of years later, their second and final child. This sequence was the most common life trajectory, followed by 12% of those surveyed.

The second row describes an individual who remained single and childless. The third an individual who went straight into marriage, without first cohabiting.

Of course, every individual’s life trajectory is different. But certain patterns emerged, and so Berghammer was able to assign each individual to one of several ‘typical’ trajectories.

The most important of these were the ‘modern’ life (a period of cohabitation before marriage ,but children after marriage) and the ‘traditional’ (marriage without previously cohabitation).

Berghammer found that people following the ‘traditional’ lifestyle were more to have 3+ children than those following the ‘modern’ lifestyle. What’s more, traditionalist individuals were more likely to be religious (all Catholic in this analysis).

But – and this is the crucial bit – among those who followed a traditional life path, there was no relationship between their depth of religious belief, or their Church attendance, and the number of children they had.

Exactly the same was seen for those following a modern life path. Although this was more popular among non-religious women, those religious women who did follow this trajectory had no more children than the non-religious.

There was also no difference between the religious and non religious in the chances of remaining single and childless.

Berghammer concludes from this that the critical factor in determining fertility is the choice of life trajectory. Once this has been decided, then religiosity has no further effect on fertility.

So this explains why religious Austrians have more children. It’s because they are more likely to play traditional roles, in which women value childbearing over independence.


ResearchBlogging.orgBerghammer, C. (2010). Family Life Trajectories and
Religiosity in Austria European Sociological Review DOI: 10.1093/esr/jcq052

Creative Commons LicenseThis article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.

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“Bad Faith” awards — Vote today!

Posted: 04 Nov 2010 07:13 PM PDT

The New Humanist has opened voting for its annual “Bad Faith” awards, and you can vote online!

The “Bad Faith” award honors the person who has most horribly misused or abused his or her religion in the past year. Sponsored by the British New Humanist magazine, there’s definitely a Brit twist to the candidates. Cherie Blair’s sister, Prince Charles, and Pastor Terry Jones may be familiar to Americans, but many of the others will be unknowns.

Never fear, the magazine has thoughtfully provided a brief synopsis of each candidate’s trip down Crazy Lane for your review and consideration.

After a nomination period that saw you put forward those you feel have made the most egregious contributions to irrationalism and superstition during the course of this year, we’ve whittled them down to a shortlist of eight. Now all that’s left for you to do is vote for the person you think should take the Bad Faith crown from last year’s winner, Pope Benedict XVI.

The poll and list are available HERE.

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