Sometimes Numbers are Your Friends

Article here:

Survey sees a drift away from religion in America

By Jane Lampman

Christianity's hold on many Americans is slipping, losing out not to other faiths but to "no faith."

76 percent of the US population call themselves Christians, compared
with 86 percent in 1990, according to the third American Religious
Self-Identification Survey (ARIS), released Monday by Trinity College
in Hartford, Conn. Among Christians, the survey confirms that many are
shedding denominational loyalties for a more generic Christian

One in every 5 US adults chose not
to identify a religious identity: 15 percent chose "no religion" and
the other 5 percent declined to name one….

The "no religion" group has gained 20
million adults since 1990 and is the only group to have grown in every
state, though at a much slower pace in recent years than in the 1990s.
Only 10 percent of that group explicitly identifies as atheist or

Non-Christian faiths recorded the fastest overall rate of growth (50
percent) after the "nones," but represent only 4 percent of Americans.
The number of religious Jews (1.2 percent of the population) actually
declined by 15 percent, with most of the loss involving young ethnic
Jews choosing "no religion."

Buddhism rose to
0.5 percent of the population. The Muslim community doubled in the
1990s, but growth has slowed since; 1.35 million, or 0.6 percent of the
population, now identify as Muslim.

New religious movements and groups such as Wiccans are also growing, and account for 1.2 percent of Americans.

(Also here.)


To put this in context (other figures from here

There are as many Wiccans (1.2%) as religious Jews, and only slightly fewer than Mormans (1.4%).

 And more atheists (10% of 15% = 1.5%)  

Wiki gives African-Americans as 12% of the US population.

That means there are more self-identified "non-believers" than blacks in the U.S.

"A little less than 70 percent believe "definitely in a personal God,"
with 12 percent believing "in a higher power but no personal God." Some
2.3 percent say there is no God, while 10 percent either don't know or
don't think there is a way to know.

When asked about religious rituals, 30 percent of married
respondents said they were not married in a religious ceremony, and 27
percent of all respondents said they do not expect to have a religious
funeral when they die."

— I suspect that this 27-30% who do not participate in the major religious rituals is probably a good measure of participation in some kind of church.


I'm generally a sort of live-and-let-live sort of person.

But given that I just watched religious bigots vote to deny my child the right to marry the person of her choice, I'm feeling a little anti-religious lately.

Excuse me if I gloat, just a little.

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13 responses to this post.

  1. I wonder how many of the defections are people who were only loosely bound to their church to begin with, and have been shaken loose by the sex abuse scandal, the looniness of the church-associated far right, etc. I mean, my own parents were churchgoers, but mainly for the fellowship, sense of community, comfort, and just the weekly chance to sit and think deeply about Important Things. (All of which I would applaud). But when asked, my Dad freely admitted that he didn't believe in any supernatural beings, and when they changed churches, he would be upfront about this with the new pastor – and be accepted as such. People seem to think, now, that doubt is the opposite of faith.


  2. Only around 40% of the populace attend church regularly. This number hasn't really changed much in the past fifteen years or so, though from the volume of attention they get you'd never know it. It seems like it's more important to profess Christianity than to actually practice it.


  3. It's certainly changed a lot in the last 50 years, though. Church attendance is way, way down. I'm just not sure it's because folks are generally less religious. It seems more likely that it's because the organized religions are becoming less inclusive. My dad was welcomed into a church as an unbeliever. I think that's less likely now, with the result that congregations are smaller, and incorporate fewer 'questioners'. The Catholic church being a prime example – in the northeast, it's losing a huge number of parishioners as its current lurch to the right takes it away from the largely left of center population there.


  4. Yes, I think they tend to be their own worse enemies.


  5. yes, heard this mentioned on the radio a day or two ago …


  6. lauo, not all of us "religious people" wanted Prop. 8 to pass. Although I'm somewhat removed from the intense feelings (living on the East Coast), I know people who've been adversely affected by what happened. There were gay/lesbian Christians out there demonstrating and raising their voices against Prop. 8. I just wish people had paid more attention to them…


  7. A few links:


  8. One more thing: We Christians are SO incredibly guilty of NOT acting like Christ… me, too. I've had my own struggles in coming to terms with the whole Prop. 8 thing and the many issues it raises. What got me there: discussion with men and women who are anti-prop 8 and have also suffered a LOT for simply being religious and gay. (They are of various faiths, not just Christianity.)


  9. I'm giving my personal here. I don't think people are losing 'faith' in quite the way the numbers show – I think people want to 'question' and 'ask', and not be told what to believe. People want to sort it out for themselves and decide what they believe or what 'ideas' they have – whether it be God, Goddess, Universe, Karma, Spirit or nothing. Alot of people don't want written out dogma, they want their own concept. Not alot of mainstream churches are too open to this, though there are some if you look.
    Many of us have 'felt' or 'seen' that there is something more, or a reason, but we'd like to explain it ourselves.
    Maybe we need a church of the 'questioners'.


  10. I hear you. The thing is, it's *people* who feel threatened by questioning. All the questions in the world don't have a negative effect on God (I think).


  11. As someone who went from being a "true believer" to identifying herself as having no faith, I can think of at least 2 dozen people just of my own close accquaintance who have done the same in the last 5-10 years.
    Religion is losing its grip and issues like Prop. 8 and enabling people to see the light.


  12. I agree. And I am glad to read this, lauo. I just spent two weeks at my sister's house and it's so difficult for me to be there taking care of her kids and hearing things like "My pastor says that if you don't believe in 'original sin' you should spend an hour in the 2 year olds' nursery." It tears me up inside to think of people believing that children are born full of sin and evil. And so many of my family believe this way I often feel like a complete outsider.


  13. acktwo year-olds are sweetiesthey give you messy hugsand think you make things all better with a kissoriginal sin, my ass


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