Monday, February 25

The Changing State of Religion

As a member of a .3% (and holding) "faith-group", I found Pew Research's US Religious Landscape Survey(See this NYT article) latest report to be interesting. It appears that people are not static in their religious preferences, more than one-in-four U.S. adults (28%) have changed their religious affiliation from that in which they were raised.If change of affiliation within religious traditions (e.g., from one type of Protestantism to another)is included, roughly 44% of Americans now profess a religious affiliation that is different from the religion in which they were raised.

Groups that have experienced a net loss from changes in affiliation include Baptists (net loss of 3.7 percentage points) and Methodists (2.1 percentage points). However, the group that has experienced the greatest net loss by far is the Catholic Church. Overall, 31.4% of U.S. adults say that they were raised Catholic. Today, however, only 23.9% of adults identify with the Catholic Church, a net loss of 7.5 percentage points.

Are we becoming a less religious nation? Currently, according to the Pew study, there are 16% of us who are Atheist, Agnostic, and "Nothing in Particular." This is actually the 4th largest group of all. In the 1980s, the General Social Survey by the National Opinion Research Center indicated that from 5 percent to 8 percent of the population described itself as unaffiliated with a particular religion.

At the rate things are going, the non-religious will be a more powerful political force than mainline religions. Wouldn't it be interesting to see how politicians deal with that when they talk about their nonspiritual beliefs?

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