One fifth of Americans have no religion

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has published an important new study of Americans who are unaffiliated with any religion.

One-fifth of U.S. adults say they are not part of a traditional religious denomination, new data from the Pew Research Center show, evidence of an unprecedented reshuffling of Americans’ spiritual identities that is shaking up fields from charity to politics.

But despite their nickname, the “nones” are far from godless. Many pray, believe in God and have regular spiritual routines.

Their numbers have increased dramatically over the past two decades, according to the study released Tuesday. About 19.6 percent of Americans say they are “nothing in particular,” agnostic or atheist, up from about 8 percent in 1990. One-third of adults under 30 say the same.  . . .

But the United States is still very traditional when it comes to religion, with 79 percent of Americans identifying with an established faith group. . . .

Members can be found in all educational and income groups, but they skew heavily in one direction politically: 68 percent lean toward the Democratic Party. That makes the “nones,” at 24 percent, the largest Democratic faith constituency, with black Protestants at 16 percent and white mainline Protestants at 14 percent.

By comparison, white evangelicals make up 34 percent of the Republican base.

The study presents a stark map of how political and religious polarization have merged in recent decades. Congregations used to be a blend of political affiliations, but that’s generally not the case anymore. Sociologists have shown that Americans are more likely to pick their place of worship by their politics, not vice versa.

Some said the study and its data on younger generations forecast more polarization.

“We think it’s mostly a reaction to the religious right,” said Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, who has written at length about the decline in religious affiliation. “The best predictor of which people have moved into this category over the last 20 years is how they feel about religion and politics” aligning, particularly conservative politics and opposition to gay civil rights.

via One in five Americans reports no religious affiliation, study says – The Washington Post.

I’m struck by the comment that a typical congregations would include people of different political beliefs and how that isn’t the case so much anymore.  (My impression is that churches that don’t mingle politics with the gospel, such as Lutheran congregations, still generally contain both Democrats and Republicans.  That’s evident in the commentary on this blog, which has people who are very conservative theologically representing different political positions.)

I am also struck by the contention that churches getting involved in politics seems to be a major factor in the rise of the “nones.”   I wonder how many pastors who want their churches to be ‘missional” and who make a point of adopting all of the church growth methodologies designed to make their congregation more attractive to the “unchurched” endorsed a candidate on Political Freedom Day, not realizing that this kind of political activism is exactly what is driving people away from churches.

 

Obama as Messiah

The cult of Obama is back.  A big-selling (but non-official) calendar at the Democratic National Convention includes this photo of President Obama’s birth certificate, along with the title “Heaven Sent.”  Then it applies John 3:16 as if it were referring to Barack Obama!

photo (13)

From Slate:  DNC 2012: Still Kitschin’.

Compare with the divinization of  Obama in his first campaign.

I’m not blaming the president for this.  It’s just a stark example of how people with a religious void will sometimes turn to charismatic human beings to fill it.   Consider the religious devotion–the shrines, the reliquaries, the pilgrimages, the raptures–that some people have for Elvis Presley.   But to divinize a ruler is especially dangerous since the worshiper accepts the unlimited power and the immunity from moral limits in the adoration of this earthly god.  Christians were persecuted in the early church precisely for refusing to burn incense to the divinized emperor.  Don’t be surprised if that becomes an issue again.  Cultures can’t stay godless for long, but the god they turn to, by nature, will tend to be a cultural god.

Rev. Moon dies

The Rev. Sun Myung Moon died at age 92 in Seoul, Korea.  He founded the Unification Church, a cult that taught that Jesus Christ did not finish his work, due to his unfortunate crucifixion, but that a new Messiah from Korea would, about this time, be raised up–the implication being himself–to complete his mission.  Rev. Moon also established a financial empire, including a number of conservative institutions, such as the Washington Times newspaper.  See Rev. Moon, religious and political leader, dies in South Korea at 92 – CNN.com.

I remember back when I was in college, the so-called “Moonies” would host interesting-sounding seminars on topics like world peace and if you were sitting by yourself they would start conversations with you.  They would then invite you to a camp out in the country for more instruction, which led for many people to an initiation into the religion.  That meant raising money for the cause–selling flowers at intersections was a big fund-raiser–but eventually the Rev. Moon would, if you were blessed, pick out a spouse for you, someone you had never met before but you would be married in a mass wedding with hundreds of other couples.

Parents used to hire people to kidnap their children from the Unification Church to “deprogram” them out of the cult.  Now, it seems like it has become more socially acceptable.

Did any of you get sucked into any of this?

Mitt Romney, when he was a pastor

Mormons do not have ordained clergy, as such, but lay people step into that role in local congregations and church hierarchies.  Mitt Romney shepherded his local flock and was over the other Mormon congregations in the Boston area, serving as “bishop” and “stake president.”

The Washington Post has an interesting and surprisingly sympathetic account of when Romney was, in effect, a pastor.  He comes across as being staunchly orthodox (in the Mormon sense) while also “pastoral,” helping some of his people get around some of the church’s regulations and trying to help the poor.  At the same time, the piece gives us an inside view of the Mormon religion that is rather unsettling from a Christian perspective.

See Mitt Romney, as a leader in Mormon church, became a master of many keys – The Washington Post.

Christian pastors, how much of what this article describes resonates with what you have to do?  What are the differences in how you exercise your office and what Romney did?

Atheists’ sexual harassment problem

A controversy roiling in the atheist community is the prevalence of sexual harassment and its leadership’s indifference to the problem:

As skeptics, atheists and humanists prepare to gather for their largest meeting in Las Vegas this weekend, attendance by women is expected to be down significantly.

Officials for The Amazing Meeting, or TAM, said Wednesday (July 11) that women would make up 31 percent of the 1,200 conference attendees, down from 40 percent the year before. A month before the conference, pre-registration was only 18 percent women, organizers said.

The explanations are many — the bad economy, that women, as caregivers, are less able to get away, and that more men than women identify as skeptics, whose worldview rejects the supernatural and focuses on science and rationality.

But in the weeks preceding TAM, another possible explanation has roiled the nontheist community. Online forums have crackled with charges of sexism in TAM’s leadership and calls for the ouster of D.J. Grothe, the male president of the James Randi Educational Foundation, TAM’s organizer. In June, Rebecca Watson, a skeptic blogger and speaker, canceled her TAM appearance because, she said on her blog, she does “not feel welcome or safe.”

Other nontheists — both male and female — have shared stories of unwanted sexual attention at nontheist gatherings, including propositions for sex and unwelcome touching. Chatter has ranged from calls for more women to attend nontheist events to personal attacks on prominent female skeptics for discussing harassment. Meanwhile, two more skeptic/feminist bloggers announced they will not attend TAM. . . .

Last year, at another skeptic conference, Watson said she was approached late at night in an elevator by a man she believed was seeking sex. When she blogged about it, the “atheosphere” erupted in comments, both supportive and negative. British biologist Richard Dawkins, the best-selling author of “The God Delusion,” wrote that Watson should “stop whining” and “grow a thicker skin.”

The current hullabaloo can be traced to May’s Women in Secularism Conference, a first-of-its-kind gathering about nontheist women. On a panel examining feminism and nontheism, Jennifer McCreight, an atheist blogger, said women speakers at nontheist events warn each other privately about male speakers who make unwanted sexual advances.

via Religion News Service | Culture | Gender & Sexuality | Do atheists have a sexual harassment problem?.

Why might this be?

Religious retention rates

A study of religious retention rates–that is, what percentage of people raised in a particular church or religion stay with it when they are grown–is quite interesting.  Lutherans are in second place among Protestants (58%),  just after the Baptists (60%).  The group with the worst performance in transmitting their beliefs to their young people is atheists (30%).

 

Did you know that Atheists have the lowest retention rate of any “religious” group? Some interesting Data from CARA | Archdiocese of Washington.

 

HT:  Joe Carter


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X