social science

social science

Atlantic Article Misrepresents Catholic Take on Contraception

Atlantic, Catholic, contraception, social science, women No comments

A recent Atlantic article used fatally flawed data to misrepresent Catholic women’s support of the contraception mandate.

According to author Patricia Miller, debate over the Affordable Care Act has mischaracterized women’s healthcare interests. Miller cites a study led by Elizabeth Patton of the University of Michigan to assert that, although a small cohort of Catholic leaders may oppose contraception and abortion, Catholic women are very supportive. There is just one problem: Patton’s study relies on a disastrously biased sample of Catholics.  

According to Ms. Patton’s breakdown of religious service attendance by religious affiliation, zero percentnot one—of the surveyed Catholic women attend Mass weekly. It hardly takes an experienced demographer to realize that Patton’s sample does not accurately represent the Catholic population. A central component of Catholicism includes weekly celebration of the Eucharist, which means going to Mass. However, 190 of the 198 Catholics Patton queried disregard this core tenet of their Faith.  (Eight women surveyed were found to attend Mass more than once a week.) Patton’s 190 women do not represent how practicing Catholic women feel; rather, they represent how women indifferent to the Catholic Faith feel.

So, Patton’s survey essentially interviews Catholic women who are apathetic to their Faith. It is not surprising that this class of Catholics (“nominal” Catholics?) is apathetic to whether their Church is forced to provision abortifacients and contraceptives. Sociologically relevant studies would rather measure how the average Catholic—indifferent or not to her Faith—feels about the mandate. Such unbiased data would represent Catholic women and more honestly shape public debate.

According to a Pew study, 63 percent of weekly church-going Catholics – men and women – believe religiously affiliated institutions should be exempted from the HHS Mandate.  (Only 25 percent say their Church should be required to cover contraceptives; 11 percent respond “Other/ Don’t Know.”)  Importantly, 48 percent of Catholics who do not attend Mass weekly (about half of those Catholics) still oppose mandated coverage. Scientifically sound data indicates that the majority of Catholics do, indeed, oppose the contraception mandate. (This majority feeling is the averaged feeling of all Catholics, indifferent or not to their Faith.)

Patricia Miller’s conclusion that Catholic women support contraception coverage, and that only Catholic pundits oppose it, cannot be held. Ms. Miller has made a career on asserting that “good Catholics” (her phrase) can support contraception and abortion despite the Church’s teaching.  Unfortunately for her assertions, the data show the opposite:  It is the most lax, the most cherry-picked, Catholics that agree with her.

Understanding Homosexuality

abstinence, Christianity, conscience, culture, news, Rick Warren, same-sex attraction, social science 1 comment

By Maria Reig Teetor, Intern 

Last Tuesday, evangelical pastor Rick Warren appeared on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” to discuss the controversial question whether people are born gay or develop gay attractions.

With the recent political campaign we have heard this topic covered in the media as gay activists are pushing for same sex marriage to be legal. As of November it is legal in 9 different states.

After listening to Rick Warren’s statement I realized that at the core of the debate is our understanding of what it means to identify as gay. We need to talk about this issue and not just fight the legal battles. Talking helps plant the seed that will start people thinking about what it means to have gay attractions versus acting upon those attractions.

The first step in talking about it is to make a clear distinction about what sexual orientation means, as Peter Sprigg explains in “Debating Homosexuality: Understanding Two Views.” Sexual orientation is an umbrella term for three different aspects of sexuality: sexual attraction, when one is sexually attracted to someone of the opposite sex, the same sex, or both; sexual conduct, whether the individual chooses to act upon that attraction; and self-identification, whether the individual thinks of himself as “gay,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” or “straight.”

Gay lobbyists assume that all three are consistent with one another, but based on the research, that is clearly not true.

Should an individual who feels attracted to someone of the same sex (because of the environment he or she has been exposed to, peer pressure, loneliness, or some internal self-identification) act upon these attractions? No, not necessarily.

We all have tendencies that aren’t in accordance with our God-given nature, but it doesn’t mean we choose to engage them.  As Pastor Rick Warren explained, “I have all kinds of feelings in my life and it doesn’t necessarily mean that I should act on every feeling. Sometimes I get angry and I feel like punching a guy in the nose. It doesn’t mean I act on it.”

So, what if someone responds, “I was born this way, I cannot change my attractions”? To this we can answer, first, that the research has not found any “gay gene” or related biological issue that proves someone is born with gay attractions, but that it’s a result of a complex mix of developmental factors. For instance, MARRI research shows that a young woman is more likely to experiment with a lesbian partner if she was raised in a non-intact family.

Second, as Pastor Rick mentioned, we can all be drawn to something that is not good for us or that is not according to our nature, but that doesn’t make it right. He gave the following example: “Sometimes I feel attracted to women who are not my wife. I don’t act on it. Just because I have a feeling doesn’t make it right.”

Those individuals who feel same-sex attractions should be treated with the same respect and kindness we treat any person, but that does not mean we should embrace their actions. We must fight to defend an understanding of sexuality that is in accord with our human nature and human dignity.

In order to do that we must first understand the core of homosexuality: attractions exist, but attractionsare not actions. This is especially important for helping adolescents who are confused by a false explanation of same-sex attraction or caught up in homosexual behaviors. Young people should be educated about the moral nature of every decision they make, including their sexual decisions.

The Benefits of Religious Worship: Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!

MARRI, religion, social institutions, social science No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

U.S. federal surveys repeatedly show the benefits of weekly religious worship of God (one of the five main institutions or tasks of society). Worship’s rewards flow over to all the other major institutions of the nation: to the family, to education, to the marketplace and income, and to government…Furthermore, the more frequently people worship, the more they profit. If the social sciences say anything clearly about God, it is that the more people take heed of Him, the more He takes care of them.

The publication contains data on all sorts of social and personal outcomes, such as educational attainment, family strength, sexual chastity, and more. Across all categories, it is clear that weekly worship contributes to the strongest outcomes.

This publication is comprised of graphics that originally appeared in the MARRI Mapping America series, which are derived from data from the largest national and federal surveys on family issues, such as the General Social Survey, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, the National Survey of Children’s Health, and the National Survey of Family Growth.

We hope that the findings shown here encourage our readers, in this holiday season, to worship weekly and to reap the advantages that consistent religious practice offers to families, individuals, their communities, and the nation.

Pew Report Shows Percent of Married Americans is at a Record Low

MARRI, marriage, news, social institutions, social science No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

Barely half of all adults in the United States—a record low—are currently married, and the median age at first marriage has never been higher for brides (26.5 years) and grooms (28.7), according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data…In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51% are. If current trends continue, the share of adults who are currently married will drop to below half within a few years.

The full report states that approximately 44% of 18- to 29-year-olds agree that marriage is “becoming obsolete,” compared to 41% of 30- to 49-year-olds, 34% of 50- to 64-year-olds, and 32% of those 65 and older. Blacks and Hispanics were more likely to believe that marriage was becoming obsolete than whites, and those without a college degree (some college: 41%, high school or less: 45%) were far more likely to agree that marriage was becoming obsolete than Americans with a college degree (27%).

However, the report also states that “attitudes toward the institution of marriage do not always match personal wishes about getting married. Asked whether they want to get married, 47% of unmarried adults who agree that marriage is becoming obsolete say that they would like to wed.”

In its reporting on this Pew publication, the Washington Post included an interactive map showing the family structure and population density of the United States by county and state. The map showed that 44% of residents in the District of Columbia live alone, 14.1% are married with no children, 10.6% are single parents, and a mere 7.9% are married with children.

For more on marriage trends and on the economic and social need to preserve marriage, see the Pew Research Center’s series The Decline of Marriage and MARRI Original Research papers “Decline of Economic Growth: Human Capital & Population Change,” “Our Fiscal Crisis: We Cannot Tax, Spend and Borrow Enough to Substitute for Marriage” and “Marriage, Contraception & The Future of Western Peoples.”

Kicking Bad Habits: Does Fatherhood Help?

crime, family, fathers, men's health, social science No comments

By Anna Dorminey, Staff

Science Daily reported that a 19-year study published recently in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that becoming a father lessens a man’s likelihood to consume alcohol or tobacco or to commit crimes, apart from the process of maturing with age.

The authors found that men who became fathers well into their 20s or 30s were more likely to kick their habits than men who became fathers in their teens or early 20s.

One of the authors, assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University David Kerr, said they drew encouraging information from their research: “This research suggests that fatherhood can be a transformative experience, even for men engaging in high risk behavior…This presents a unique window of opportunity for intervention, because new fathers might be especially willing and ready to hear a more positive message and make behavioral changes.”

Greetings!

Australia, MARRI, Pat Fagan, religion, social policy, social science, Travels No comments

Welcome to my blog! My name is Pat Fagan, and I am the Director and Senior Fellow of the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI), a project of the Family Research Council. We at MARRI are working to equip scholars, parents, pastors, journalists, and the educated layman with social science products they can use to reshape the debate on where our county is heading in its social capacities. We are interested in equipping all with the data needed to defend and win full freedom for faith and family.

On this blog, I will  discuss new social science books and research, as well as our latest synthesis papers and other research from MARRI. Our goal at MARRI is to bring the two great loves to the fore in the social sciences—the love of spouses for one another (closest neighbor) and the love for God. These two loves drive society’s growth or decay, and therefore have profound public policy implications. Our federal data system permits us to track these (somewhat primitively, but we track them nonetheless). 

I’ll be heading to Australia in two days for the annual national conference of the Australian Family Association and to meet with Australian family leaders in Melbourne, Sydney, and Brisbane. Stay tuned for stories, photos, and information from down under!