Unaffiliated Does Not Mean Irreligious

A recent study by the Pew Research Center noted a sizable increase in the number of Americans identifying themselves as “religiously unaffiliated,” a group dubbed the “Nones.” Looking carefully at the available data, Peter Berger notes that the Nones are a very diverse group, not at all congruent with the secular or irreligious; 68 percent of them say they believe in a deity, and 18 percent consider themselves religious. Berger comments:

One [solution] would be to differentiate the “Nones” from the “Buts”—that is, from those who will say something like “I am Catholic, but . . . ,” this preamble then being followed by a list of items where the respondent cannot accept the teachings or the actions of his church. There are very many such people in most religious communities today. They fit into the first of two categories based on the work of the distinguished British sociologist Grace Davie—“belonging without believing”—that is individuals who do not disaffiliate from their religious community, thus cannot be called “Nones,” but do stay in with a degree of dissent or inner distance. The other category, “believing without belonging,” does fit the description of “Nones”—they form the very large group of unorganized practitioners of Asian meditation techniques or informal charismatic gatherings, and of course individuals who construct their religious idiosyncrasies all by themselves. . . .

What we have here is a religious landscape that is highly diverse, colorful, and volatile. It is the result of the combination of pluralism (the coexistence of different religions, worldviews, and value systems in the same society) and religious freedom (where the state refrains from imposing or re-imposing religious or ideological uniformity). . . . [W]e don’t live in a secular age, but in a pluralist age.

Read more at American Interest

More about: American Religion, Demography, Pluralism, Religion & Holidays, Secularization

Iran’s Program of Subversion and Propaganda in the Caucasus

In the past week, Iranian proxies and clients have attacked Israel from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, and Yemen. Iran also has substantial military assets in Iraq and Syria—countries over which it exercises a great deal of control—which could launch significant attacks on Israel as well. Tehran, in addition, has stretched its influence northward into both Azerbaijan and Armenia. While Israel has diplomatic relations with both of these rival nations, its relationship with Baku is closer and involves significant military and security collaboration, some of which is directed against Iran. Alexander Grinberg writes:

Iran exploits ethnic and religious factors in both Armenia and Azerbaijan to further its interests. . . . In Armenia, Iran attempts to tarnish the legitimacy of the elected government and exploit the church’s nationalist position and tensions between it and the Armenian government; in Azerbaijan, the Iranian regime employs outright terrorist methods similar to its support for terrorist proxies in the Middle East [in order to] undermine the regime.

Huseyniyyun (Islamic Resistance Movement of Azerbaijan) is a terrorist militia made up of ethnic Azeris and designed to fight against Azerbaijan. It was established by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps . . . in the image of other pro-Iranian militias. . . . Currently, Huseyniyyun is not actively engaged in terrorist activities as Iran prefers more subtle methods of subversion. The organization serves as a mouthpiece of the Iranian regime on various Telegram channels in the Azeri language. The main impact of Huseyniyyun is that it helps spread Iranian propaganda in Azerbaijan.

The Iranian regime fears the end of hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan because this would limit its options for disruption. Iranian outlets are replete with anti-Semitic paranoia against Azerbaijan, accusing the country of awarding its territory to Zionists and NATO. . . . Likewise, it is noteworthy that Armenian nationalists reiterate hideous anti-Semitic tropes that are identical to those spouted by the Iranians and Palestinians. Moreover, leading Iranian analysts have no qualms about openly praising [sympathetic] Armenian clergy together with terrorist Iran-funded Azeri movements for working toward Iranian goals.

Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

More about: Azerbaijan, Iran, Israeli Security