Research Shows Religion Plays Greater Role in Lives of Blacks

Article excerpt

From Sunday to Sunday, black Americans attend religious services, pray and read religious materials more often than white Americans, a group of university researchers say.

Researchers at three universities studied stacks of research from over the past 20 years to come up with that report. Although several studies have documented the importance of religion and religious institutions in the lives of black Americans, little research focused on racial differences in religious participation. The new survey is published in the current issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

Even allowing for factors such as income and regional differences, researchers found blacks are more involved in their churches and say religion is important in their lives, the journal article reported. The report did not surprise some African-American pastors in the area, but it disturbed others. "I can't deem if we are more religious than white Americans, but African-Americans have had to seek Christ out of their need, since our need has been so great," said the Rev. Dr. Sammie Jones, pastor of Mount Zion Missionary Baptist Church on South Compton Avenue. "God has always been the only place we could go for consolation." The study showed that as children both blacks and whites have the same amount of religious education and have similar confidence in organized religion. But the way they perceive their own interest in religion differs. For example, in a 1978 survey, 30 percent of blacks said they were very "religious minded," compared with 16 percent of whites. A 1986 Americans' Changing Lives study found 39 percent of black respondents read religious materials at least once a week; 23 percent of white respondents said they read religious materials that often. In the same study, 80 percent of blacks and 52 percent of whites said religion was very important. "There is a real race effect here," said Robert Joseph Taylor of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan. Taylor and Linda M. Chatters of the University of Michigan, Rukmalie Jayakody of Pennsylvania State University and Jeffrey S. Levin of Eastern Virginia Medical School examined six national studies done between 1976 and 1987 at the Institute for Social Research at Michigan and the annual General Social Surveys of 1972 to 1990, collected by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. …