Declining Religiosity Is a Problem for America. But It’s Not Inevitable

Noting the quickening decline of religious faith and practice in the U.S., Karl Zinsmeister warns of dire social consequences and urges creative philanthropic solutions:

Even the non-religious should worry about this shift, because society benefits from religiously inspired humanitarian behavior. Those with a religious affiliation give several times as much money to charity as other Americans. The ratio of Americans doing volunteer work in a typical week is 45 percent among weekly churchgoers and 27 percent among non-churchgoers. Decades of research have shown that a greater proportion of religious people get involved in community groups. They have stronger links with their neighbors and are more engaged with their families. . . .

Religious participation also has salutary effects on personal behavior. One classic study found that black males living in inner-city poverty tracts were far less likely to engage in crime and drug use if they attended church and likelier to succeed in school and the workforce. The religious are less poor and less suicidal; they have stronger families. . . .

Concerned citizens should take some cues from the charter-school movement. [For instance, donors could make] investments to beef up the best seminaries, plus fresh approaches like night classes and video instruction that can reach unconventional candidates for the ministry—such as those with job and family responsibilities. . . .

And just as with charters, American civil-society leaders could boost religious behavior by making investments in facilities. Many of the grand, visually inspiring cathedrals and synagogues in the cores of U.S. cities are now occupied by vestigial congregations. . . . Private efforts offering purchase or renovation funds to enable a reallocation of [such houses of worship] from waning religious communities to growing ones would be a boost to social well-being in cities.

Read more at City Journal

More about: American Religion, American society, Civil society


Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict