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Items of interest from various sources of religious news and opinion, in print and on the web.

The Secularization of America . In an article for The Conversation , sociologist Phil Zuckerman cited three numbers that show the accelerating secularization of American society. According to recent research, “the percentage of people who believe in God has dropped from 98% in the 1950s to 81% today; among Americans under 30, it is down to an unprecedented 68%. Congregational membership, too, is at an all-time low. In 2021 Gallup found that, for the first time ever, fewer than half of Americans – 47% – were members of a church, synagogue or mosque. Yet another crucial measure of institutional religion in the U.S., the percentage of people identifying as religious, is also at a low: About 1 in 5 adults now say they have no religious affiliation, up from 1 in 50 in 1960. In short, when it comes to three key realms of religious life – belief, behavior and belonging – all are lower than they have ever been in American history.” Zuckerman, Phil. “3 big numbers that tell the story of secularization in America.” Ethics and Religion ., 23 Feb. 2023. Web. 17 Mar. 2023.

Christianity Gaining Ground In . . . Israel ? “The Christian population of Israel has increased to around 182,000 people, according to a census report from the government statistics bureau. Christians make up 1.9 percent of citizens. Nearly 13,000 live in Jerusalem, but the largest Christian communities are in Nazareth (21,100) and Haifa (16,700). More than three-quarters of the Christians are Arab. The largest denomination is the Byzantine Rite Greek Catholic Church, but there are an estimated 20,000 Messianic Jews, 7,000 Anglicans, and 900 Baptists. Few, however, are converts. All but 1 precent of Christians in Israel were raised in Christian households.” Silliman, Daniel. “Israel: Christian community grows.” News ., 13 Mar. 2023. Web. 17 Mar. 2023.

U.S. Administration Ignores Plight of Nigerian Christians. Christians make up nearly half of Nigeria’s population of 200 million. Sadly, Nigeria is the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian. The World Index of Christian Persecution states that Nigeria is where 89% of Christian killings throughout the world took place over the last several years. In 2022, 5,621 Christians worldwide were killed for their faith, with 90% of these killings occurring in Nigeria, according to a Jan. 17 report by Open Doors, a watchdog that tracks Christian persecution. Despite these numbers and the brazen bombings of churches, however, the Biden administration omitted Nigeria as a “country of particular concern” in its 2021 and 2022 International Religious Freedom Reports, an annual blacklist of countries where faith-based persecution is widespread. In explaining the decision, Secretary of State Antony Blinken argued that the slaughter of Christians was not religious persecution, but “a result of a conflict over resources exacerbated by climate change.” Crabtree, Susan. “Biden Faces Pressure To Help Nigerian Christians.” Religious Liberty Around the World ., 13 Feb. 2023. Web. 17 Mar. 2023.

Lutheran Spokesman