Judaism Hub

STUDY: Number of People Calling Themselves 'Christians' Dives Over The Past Decade


A new study conducted by the Pew Research Center finds that the number of adults who identify as Christian in the U.S. is steadily falling reports The New York Times. Pew's study finds that the number of identifying Christians fell eight percent since 2007; a decline of five million adults across various denominations, age and race.

The study doesn't reveal an exact explanation behind the decline of identifying Christians, but the low numbers of identifying Christians among millennials and educated youth indicates that a religiously unaffiliated generation is rising. The study shows that the number of the religiously unaffiliated increased to 56 million, up from 36 million in 2007; a 16 percent increase. Notably, ex-Christians, or those who left the faith, now represent 19 percent of adults.

Another trend in the data shows that as time goes on, younger millennials are more likely to be less affiliated with religion than their older cohorts. Many argue that the declining number of Christians amongst youth is a result of political backlash against Republicans and conservatives' religious association with political values; Mike Hout, a professor of sociology at New York University, concurs with the findings:

"The two are now intertwined. You can't use one to predict the other, because if the Republicans switched to more economic or immigration issues, then perhaps the rise of the unaffiliated will slow down."

However, non-Christian faiths within the U.S. remained relatively unaffected, with Judaism, Islam and Hinduism either remaining relatively unchanged or experiencing slight growth. Islam grew the most experiencing a .5 percent increase in practitioners and followers.

Central Conference of American Rabbis Installs First Openly Lesbian Leader

The Central Conference of American Rabbis, the rabbinical arm of Reform Judaism, has installed its first openly gay leader, Rabbi Denise L. Eger, Philly.com reports:

EgerEger, 55, who grew up in Memphis, Tenn., said she sees this moment not as a triumph for her alone, but for all those who have supported her and LGBT causes along the way.

"It's a wonderful tribute to all those LGBT colleagues and allies who worked so hard to channel hearts and minds and to work for equality and to cast the widest open tent for Judaism," she said.

Her installation also comes as the organization celebrates the 25th anniversary of its resolution calling for ordination of gay rabbis. And this year the board of trustees unanimously passed a resolution calling for the inclusion of transgender rabbis and gender expression, Eger said.

The AP adds:

Eger, founding rabbi of Congregation Kol Ami in Los Angeles County, isn’t the first openly gay or lesbian clergy to lead an American rabbinic group.

In 2007, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association chose Rabbi Toba Spitzer, a lesbian, as its national president. But Reform Jews, with 2,000 rabbis and 862 American congregations, make up the largest movement in American Judaism and have a broader role in the Jewish world.

Mensch vs. Meshuggah: Jewish Male Pinup Calendar Competition Gets Litigious

Naughty and Nice Jewish Pinup

There are not one, but two Jewish male pin-up calendars available for purchase to fulfill your need for some kosher beef. First, there's Adam Cohen's "Nice Jewish Guys," which he started in 2011 and fills with pictures of charming, smiling, fully-clothed Jewish men, showing the sweeter side of God's chosen people. Then came Duncan Pflaster's "Naughty Jewish Boys" featuring young men, yarmulkes, and little else which Pflaster created to counter the "emasculating" stereotypes and discouraged outward sexuality of Jewish men and plans to release it this fall.

Despite the discrete tastes between the two calendars, Cohen felt that the name of Pflaster's calendar too closely resembled his own and had his lawyer issue a letter to Pflaster, requesting that he cease infringing on Cohen's trademark. Pflaster has countered that he doesn't think that consumers will be confused by the two calendars, calling the claim of trademark infringement "weak" and has no plans to stop making his calendar. Cohen has not commented further on the dispute, but his lawyer said that they consider the issue ongoing.

Oregon Family Council Compares Gays to Neo-Nazis

A spokeswoman for the Oregon Family Council is under fire after using an analogy about neo-Nazis while discussing the issue of whether businesses in the state should be required to serve gay weddings.

Teresa Harke, who filed a ballot initiative last week that would give religious groups the right to discriminate against gays, said that forcing Christians to provide services for same-sex weddings would be the same as expecting "a Jewish bakery to serve a neo-Nazi who wanted a cake with a swastika on it." The Oregonian reports:

OregonThat comment sparked a letter from 13 Oregon rabbis as well as leaders of the Jewish Federation of Greater Portland and the Oregon Area Jewish Committee.

The letter, written by Rabbi Michael Cahana of Congregation Beth Israel in Portland, said the comment was an "insult to the memory of those who perished" in the Holocaust "to use one of history's greatest atrocities to forward your political agenda."

"It really is using an illustration that is so offensive," Cahana said in a telephone interview. "Here you're making a comparison between a hate group that supports the elimination of Jews in the world and a couple that wants to sanctify their marriage."

The Oregon Family Council, in an email from Jack Louman, the group's president, defended Harke's use of the comparison, saying the comments "were made in the context of an example of rights of individual conscience."

A 2014 ballot initiative is in the works that would bring marriage equality to Oregon.  


Rabbi's Marriage Equality Support Provokes Walk-outs At California Synagogue

RabbiWhile conservative religious bigots have already voiced their opposition to the recent pro-equality Supreme Court decisions, it remains to be seen how moderate and progressive religious organizations will handle the new reality of gay visibility.

When David Wolpe, rabbi of the well-known Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, announced in a letter to his synagogue that gay marriages would be performed in the temple as a result of the Prop 8 decision, a sizeable opposition emerged from members of his Conservative Jewish congregation. The Sinai Temple, famous for its wealth and its large population of Persians who fled Iran after the fall of the shah, has splintered in response to the rabbi's decision.

From The New York Times:

Celebrating same-sex marriages is hardly a new stand for Conservative Jewish congregations. But the decision in this distinctive synagogue has set off a storm of protest in recent days, particularly from Persian Jews, reflecting not only the unusual makeup of the congregation but also the generational and cultural divisions among some Jews over how to respond to changing civil views of homosexuality.

"To officiate a union that is expressly not for the same godly purpose of procreation and to call such a relationship 'sanctified' is unacceptable to a sound mind," M. Michael Naim, an architect, said in an open letter to other Iranian members of the congregation. "Homosexuality is explicitly condemned in Scripture and has been categorically and passionately rejected by all classical Jewish legal and ethical thinkers as a cardinal vice in the same category as incest, murder and idolatry."

Rabbi Wolpe said that based on letters he had received, and comments voiced to him as he walked the aisles of the sprawling, sunny sanctuary on Wilshire Boulevard during Saturday morning service, close to half of the congregation of 2,000 families, which is about half Persian, was unhappy with the new policy.

As many as 10 families have already announced their intention to leave the congregation. Wolpe, however, remains unfazed by any potential backlash. He sees the decision as one of fairness and in line with the best tradition of the Conservative movement, which views the Torah as a living document that allows room for new understandings and approaches.

"As we have modernized the role of women and many other practices, the demand on the part of our brothers and sisters who are gay to be able to live in a sanctified relationship is a call to our conscience and our responsibility as Jews."

Wolpe later added, "I've been wanting to do this for a long time"



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