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View Full Version : Poll Finds a Fluid Religious Life in U.S.


Jenson71
02-25-2008, 11:36 PM
By NEELA BANERJEE
Published: February 26, 2008

WASHINGTON — More than a quarter of adult Americans have left the faith of their childhood to join another religion or no religion, according to a survey of religious affiliation by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The report, titled “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey,” depicts a highly fluid and diverse national religious life. If shifts among Protestant denominations are included, then it appears that 44 percent of Americans have switched religious affiliations.

For at least a generation, scholars have noted that more Americans are moving among faiths, as denominational loyalty erodes. But the survey, based on telephone interviews with more than 35,000 Americans, offers one of the clearest views yet of that trend, scholars said. The United States Census does not track religious affiliation.

It shows, for example, that every religion is losing and gaining members, but that the Roman Catholic Church “has experienced the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes.” The survey also indicates that the group that had the greatest net gain was the unaffiliated. Sixteen percent of American adults say they are not part of any organized faith, which makes the unaffiliated the country’s fourth-largest “religious group.”

Detailing the nature of religious affiliation — who has the numbers, the education, the money — signals who could hold sway over the country’s political and cultural life, said John Green, an author of the report and a senior fellow on religion and American politics at Pew.

Michael Lindsay, assistant director of the Center on Race, Religion and Urban Life at Rice University, echoed that view. “Religion is the single most important factor that drives American belief attitudes and behaviors,” said Mr. Lindsay, who had read the Pew report. “It is a powerful indicator of where America will end up on politics, culture, family life. If you want to understand America, you have to understand religion in America.”

In the 1980s, the General Social Survey by the National Opinion Research Center indicated that 5 percent to 8 percent of the population described itself as unaffiliated with a particular religion.

The Pew survey, available on the Web at http://religions.pewforum.org/, was conducted between May and August of 2007. The margin of sampling error ranges from plus or minus one percentage point for the total sample to two points for Catholics and eight points for Hindus.

In the Pew survey 7 percent of the adult population said they were unaffiliated with a faith as children. That segment increases to 16 percent of the population in adulthood, the survey found. The unaffiliated are largely under 50 and male. “Nearly one in five men say they have no formal religious affiliation, compared with roughly 13 percent of women,” the survey said.

The rise of the unaffiliated does not, however, mean that Americans are becoming less religious. Contrary to assumptions that most of the unaffiliated are atheists or agnostics, most described their religion “as nothing in particular.” Pew researchers said later projects would delve more deeply into their beliefs and practices and would try to determine if the unaffiliated remained so as they aged.

The other groups that have gained the most people, in net terms, are nondenominational Protestant churches, which are largely evangelical and, in many cases, megachurches; Pentecostals; and the Holiness Church, also an evangelical denomination.

While the ranks of the unaffiliated have been growing, Protestantism has been declining, the survey found. In the 1970s, Protestants accounted for some two-thirds of the population. The Pew survey found they now make up about 50 percent. Evangelical Christians account for a slim majority of Protestants, and those who leave one evangelical denomination usually move to another, rather than to mainline churches.

Prof. Stephen Prothero, chairman of the religion department at Boston University, said large numbers of Americans leaving organized religion and large numbers still embracing the fervor of evangelical Christianity pointed to the same desires.

“The trend is towards more personal religion, and evangelicals offer that,” Professor Prothero said, explaining that evangelical churches tailored much of their activities to youths.

“Those losing out are offering impersonal religion,” he said, “and those winning are offering a smaller scale: mega-churches succeed not because they are mega but because they have smaller ministries inside.”

The percentage of Catholics in the American population has held steady for decades at about 25 percent. But that masks a precipitous decline in native-born Catholics. The proportion has been bolstered by the large influx of Catholic immigrants, mostly from Latin America, the survey found.

The Roman Catholic Church has lost more adherents than any other group: about one-third of respondents raised Catholic said they no longer identified as such. Based on the data, the survey showed, “this means that roughly 10 percent of all Americans are former Catholics.”

Immigration continues to influence American religion greatly, the survey found. The majority of immigrants are Christian, and almost half are Catholic. Muslims rival Mormons as having the largest families. And Hindus are the best-educated and among the richest religious groups, the survey found.

“I think politicians will be looking at this survey to see what groups they ought to target,” Professor Prothero said. “If the Hindu population is negligible, they won’t have to worry about it. But if it is wealthy, then they may have to pay attention.”

Experts said the wide-ranging variety of religious affiliation could set the stage for further conflicts over morality or politics, or new alliances on certain issues, as religious people have done on climate change or Jews and Hindus have done over relations between the United States, Israel and India.

“It sets up the potential for big arguments,” said Mr. Green of Pew, “but also for the possibility of all sorts of creative synthesis. Diversity cuts both ways.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/26/us/26religion.html?hp


AP ARTICLE ON SAME TOPIC:

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/R/RELIGION_SURVEY?SITE=VAROA&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

Mr. Kotter
02-25-2008, 11:41 PM
Duh. :doh!:

It's what I've been saying all along....so much for (fundamentalist) evangelical (as opposed to more "personal" religion) control of the Republican party, eh? :shrug:

:)

Jenson71
02-25-2008, 11:48 PM
so much for (fundamentalist) evangelical (as opposed to more "personal" religion) control of the Republican party, eh?

Well, they are saying that evangelical churches are a more "personal" religion.

Mr. Kotter
02-25-2008, 11:54 PM
Well, they are saying that evangelical churches are a more "personal" religion.

And they have become increasingly so.

Guys like Falwell (RIP) and Dobson....don't hold nearly the sway that they did 15-20 years ago. I've seen many folks roll their eyes when a Dobson piece is presented.

If my own "evangelical" church is any indication....the "fundies" are still an important part of the church, but many members and worshippers subscribe to more of a Universalist/Diest sort of approach to Christianity (if you can get them to be candid about it.) They appreciate the enthusiasm, fellowship, passion, and youth groups....but as for the dogma....eh, not so much.

Labels can be useful; but they can be misleading, often.

Jenson71
02-26-2008, 12:02 AM
I think it's more of a theological issue than anything with politics. They're saying the more evangelical churches are personal because they stress very extreme Protestant ideas - it's Jesus and you. You accept Jesus. You don't need the Church, you don't need much theology, or many sacraments. You just need to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. I think this research finds people are attracted to that. They don't want everything that comes with faith - many probably find that unnecessary or maybe even a burden. Who needs it when Jesus is walking with you?

Mr. Kotter
02-26-2008, 12:11 AM
I think it's more of a theological issue than anything with politics. They're saying the more evangelical churches are personal because they stress very extreme Protestant ideas - it's Jesus and you. You accept Jesus. You don't need the Church, you don't need much theology, or many sacraments. You just need to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. I think this research finds people are attracted to that. They don't want everything that comes with faith - many probably find that unnecessary or maybe even a burden. Who needs it when Jesus is walking with you?

Yep. That's consistent with my take as well. My point is....there are some here who seem to want to lump all "evangelicals" together. They say things like "Evangelicals are THE most important faction within the Republican party," and while significant they are NOT decisive. Why? Because they are not as homogenous as they were back in the 80s....precisely because Evangelicals have drawn in many "universalist/deist" type Christians...who like the passion and the individuality that is promoted in Evangelical settings, but they take a pass on the dogmatic and rigid theological teachings....by simply biting their tongue, rolling their eyes, and believing what they believe, and not necessarily what some pastor "says." Not so different from "Cafeteria Catholics" by the way. Heh.

RJ
02-26-2008, 12:12 AM
Makes sense. We seem to be all about personalizing these days, stressing the individual. Even the military is looking for "An Army of One". Not surprising that religion would be the same.

Mr. Kotter
02-26-2008, 12:16 AM
Makes sense. We seem to be all about personalizing these days, stressing the individual. Even the military is looking for "An Army of One". Not surprising that religion would be the same.

Yet the stereo-type of the "Evangelical" movement in the U.S.....is as Falwell/Robertson/Sweigert/Dobson types, who subscribe to some cult-ish Bible-thumping, holy-roller, sanctimonious and overly-judgemental dogmatic sheep.

They are not. At least not MOST of them.

htismaqe
02-26-2008, 07:44 AM
This new generation of Evangelicals is much more vocal than the last and they're not high on Dobson, Robertson, and the like.

They're at the very infancy of organization, but we've already seen that they pretty much single-handedly have the ability to keep a candidate in the race.

irishjayhawk
02-26-2008, 10:27 AM
This new generation of Evangelicals is much more vocal than the last and they're not high on Dobson, Robertson, and the like.

They're at the very infancy of organization, but we've already seen that they pretty much single-handedly have the ability to keep a candidate in the race.

The results also indicate that the new generation of non-believers are equally as vocal, though, admittedly, not commanding mass groups of followers or churches.

StcChief
02-26-2008, 10:34 AM
Huckabee is proof positive as he's from that cloth

Adept Havelock
02-26-2008, 10:56 AM
The results also indicate that the new generation of non-believers are equally as vocal, though, admittedly, not commanding mass groups of followers or churches.

True. Here's an Op-ed on the subject. I liked the last paragraph, though some of the other comments are a little over-the-top from my POV.

http://www.kansascity.com/273/story/501516.html

irishjayhawk
02-26-2008, 11:46 AM
True. Here's an Op-ed on the subject. I liked the last paragraph, though some of the other comments are a little over-the-top from my POV.

http://www.kansascity.com/273/story/501516.html

Yep, that and the internet - I think - are the two biggest reasons we're seeing numbers of non-believers fly up.

Also agree with your assessment of "over-the-top" in regards to the rest, though some are things people do need to understand.