“World first” PhD in snowboarding really a sociology of religion PhD

I saw this story yesterday: the first man in the world to receive a PhD in snowboarding. But the story is actually a little more complicated: this was actually a PhD in the sociology of religion having to do with having spiritual experiences while snowboarding.

A vicar has become the first person to be awarded a “PhD in snowboarding” after studying at Kingston University.

The Rev Neil Elliot’s doctorate in the sociology of religion involved analysing the relationship between spirituality and snowboarding in his thesis.

A snowboarder for 15 years, he was inspired to research the area after hearing fellow fans of the sport describe moments of “Zen” while on the slopes – and concluded that despite church attendance falling, spirituality is still important in youth culture…

He interviewed 35 snowboarders who described spiritual moments they had experienced. “Riders found it sometimes all went silent and it was just them and the snow,” he said. “Even the sensation of constant turning disappeared.”

This could be less about snowboarding and more about how younger generations find spiritual experiences in non-traditional activities. It would be interesting to hear how these experiences are discussed, spread, and promoted within the snowboarding community.

And who wouldn’t want a vicar termed “Dr. Soulride”?

Gallup examines the link between religion and income

New figures from Gallup examine the link between religion and income. Based on results from asking the question “Is religion an important part of your daily life?”, it appears that religion is more important to the daily lives of those in poorer countries:

This reflects the strong relationship between a country’s socioeconomic status and the religiosity of its residents. In the world’s poorest countries — those with average per-capita incomes of $2,000 or lower — the median proportion who say religion is important in their daily lives is 95%. In contrast, the median for the richest countries — those with average per-capita incomes higher than $25,000 — is 47%.

Why exactly this is the case is briefly explored:

Social scientists have put forth numerous possible explanations for the relationship between the religiosity of a population and its average income level. One theory is that religion plays a more functional role in the world’s poorest countries, helping many residents cope with a daily struggle to provide for themselves and their families. A previous Gallup analysis supports this idea, revealing that the relationship between religiosity and emotional wellbeing is stronger among poor countries than among those in the developed world.

However, there are several countries that don’t fit the relationship:

The United States is one of the rich countries that bucks the trend. About two-thirds of Americans — 65% — say religion is important in their daily lives. Among high-income countries, only Italians, Greeks, Singaporeans, and residents of the oil-rich Persian Gulf states are more likely to say religion is important.

Figures like these provide more data to be interpreted within the secularization debate in sociol0gy. Briefly put, the theory of secularization suggests that the importance of religion in institutional life and personal life diminishes as a society or people become more modern. On one hand, this trend Gallup finds seems to support the theory: as countries become wealthier and generally join the industrialized/developed world, the need for religion diminishes. On the other hand, there are countries that don’t fit the trend. The United States is usually discussed as the primary exception but there are other nations with other religious traditions that also don’t fit.

For a graphical representation of the data, check out this New York Times piece.