It has been a terrific year for Religion in Public. We worried that the enthusiasm for writing posts would wane and so would our readership. Both fears turned out to be completely unfounded. In 2018 we ran 76 posts (one post less than in 2017) from a variety of authors including a number of guest posts from scholars doing interesting work in the sociology of religion. Our overall traffic increased in size by nearly 30% to 30,000 views, with the total number of visitors up over 35% from our 2017 numbers. We saw our search traffic increase dramatically, as well, with nearly nine thousand queries leading to our site in 2018. We also see a ton of traffic from different universities’ LMS all across the United States and the world. It’s clear that we are being viewed as a resource for information on religion and society.
We added two features this year that have become assets to our community. First, Andrew Lewis launched a “Books to Watch For” regular feature. His first post contained several noteworthy books that were published in 2018. Look for another edition in early 2019. The other is an archive of syllabi that we sent out a call for this year. We were pleased with the response, receiving over 30 syllabi at both the graduate and undergraduate levels and from a variety of school types, approaches, and backgrounds. We hope that this is a valuable resource and will continue to add submissions to our repository.
There were lots of interesting posts in 2018, but here are five we found notable:
One in Three Mormons Have Had Coffee Recently, Another Quarter Drink Alcohol By Benjamin Knoll and Jana Riess
Ben and Jana had the great fortune of surveying a Mormon sample on specific topics of relevance to that faith community. This post indicates that 45% of Mormons had remained faithful to the Word of Wisdoms prohibitions against a variety of substances including coffee, tea, alcohol, and nicotine. The post was easily the most popular on RiP this year and still gets dozens of hits a week even eight months after it first appeared
One of the biggest stories in the Protestant Christian landscape in the last few years is the rise of non-denominational Protestant Christianity. Almost every community has one of these churches now with a catchy name and a pastor that wears jeans on Sunday morning. Ryan’s post tries to understand how these churches differ from their evangelical cousins, the Southern Baptists. The data indicates that they are remarkably similar. Nondenominational churches tend to be slightly more racially diverse, and somewhat younger, but theologically are very similar. The analysis got a nice boost from coverage by the Christian Post.
What is a Mainline Protestant? By Ryan Burge and Paul Djupe
The idea for this post came from feedback we received the first year of writing. When we would include the term “mainline Protestant” people would ask what that term meant. After googling we were unsatisfied with what had been written on the subject. So, we decided to put together a concise, and data-centric description of this key religious group. The post paints a nuanced picture of mainline Protestants that do tend to be more liberal on social issues, but they are also getting much older and losing their influence on American Christianity. This post has been an SEO dream. It got five times more clicks in November than it did when it first ran in June and it continues to be read by dozens of people on a weekly basis.
On Islam’s compatibility with liberal democratic principles By Mario Peucker (guest post)
We love guest posts on Religion in Public and Mario’s was especially timely. The data point that drove his inquiry came from a Pew survey in 2017 which indicated that 44% of the respondents see ‘a natural conflict between Islam and democracy’. Mario explores why so many Americans would hold such a view when hardly any of them believe that evangelical Christianity is incompatible with democracy, for instance. He notes that tens of millions of Muslims live peacefully under democratic rule in dozens of countries throughout the world and research indicates that Islamic religious practice drives Muslims to be more engaged in their community and political process.
An Episcopal diocese just resolved to avoid just using masculine pronouns for God. Here’s why it matters By Erin Cassese and Mirya Holman (guest post)
An Episcopal Diocese in Washington resolved to use more gender inclusive language from the pulpit early this year, in a dramatic break from Christianity history that has long used male pronouns to describe the Divine. Erin and Mirya insightfully note that, “belief in a masculine God relates to preferences for traditional gender roles and that these two sets of beliefs strongly relate to political conservatism, especially among women.” Thus, this change in language may have far reaching impacts. They write, “the change might catalyze expanded roles for women in multiple spheres, including political life.” It will be fascinating to see if other organizations begin to adopt gender inclusive language in the future.
Keep sending us notes about notable findings, applications of research to current events, posts covering new research, notices about new books, and syllabi that should be posted. If you’re still unsure why you might do that, see our post about what we’ve learned after 1 year for some commentary.
We’re looking forward to 2019!