Why is Cedar Rapids so Godless?

Cedar_Rapids_skylineIowa defines the American heartland, with its staunch Midwestern values and rural American virtues.  Though its prairie populism sometimes elects Democrats, today its elected officials are most Republican.  The candidate favored by Christian conservatives usually wins the Iowa caucuses.

A recent study ranked Iowa as the 19th most religious state in the union.  Except for one mysterious outlier:  Cedar Rapids.

The second largest city in the state, with a population of only 130,000, is an island of secularism in an ocean of religion.  By virtually ever standard–Bible reading, Bible believing, church attendance–Cedar Rapids scores closer to the big coastal cities than any of its midwestern neighbors.  Nearly half (47%) of its adults are “nones,” holding to no particular religion at all.  That’s the same percentage as Los Angeles county.

So why is this?  People are trying to figure that out.  One perhaps counter-intuitive reason:  Cedar Rapids is overwhelmingly white.  So are the vast majority of “nones.” Black people, in contrast, score extremely high on the religious indexes (Bible reading, Bible believing, church attendance).  A large black population tends to increase a city’s religion score, while a large white population decreases it.  At least that’s what the post says, quoted and linked after the jump, which also lists other possible factors.

Still, the mystery remains.  Iowans, can any of you explain? [Read more…]

India, Africa, Indonesia, and other Lutheran enclaves

Most people associate Lutheranism with Germany, Scandinavia, and the United States.  Germany indeed is number one (11,787,811), but number two is Ethiopia (7,886,595) and number three is Tanzania (6,531,336).  Indonesia is fifth (6,046,321) and India is seven (4,042,543).

There are nine countries with more Lutherans than the United States (3,765,362).  Followed by more African countries and Papua New Guinea.

See the list after the jump.  The link discusses other significant Lutheran populations in other parts of the world, such as Australia and Brazil. [Read more…]

Atheists who believe in God & believers who don’t

According to recent studies, 21% of atheists believe in God.  10% of them pray.  A majority of atheists say that religion is somewhat or very important in their lives.  This is slightly more than the larger category of the “nones,” those who say they have no particular religious identity, nearly half of whom say that religion is important to them.

Then again, those who do claim a religious identity do not necessarily have religious beliefs.  Eight times as many religiously affiliated people doubt the existence of God than there are atheists and agnostics.

Douglas Laycock brings out these findings in his analysis of the recent Pew study of American religion and the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), excerpted after the jump. [Read more…]

Less religion, but more commitment?

The latest Religious Landscape study from Pew Research, last conducted in 2007, shows a drop off in the religious affiliation of Americans, from 83% to 77%.  And yet, among those who are affiliated with a church or its equivalent, more read the Bible, share their faith, go to prayer groups or Bible studies,  draw on their religion for moral guidance, and believe in preserving traditional beliefs and practices. [Read more…]

Christian “decline” is just Nominals becoming Nones

The headlines about the Pew Report, including at this blog, say that Christianity is declining in America.  But if you look closer, says Christianity Today’s Ed Stetzer, the data shows that the decline is in “nominal Christians”–those in name only–who are becoming open about their unbelief and calling themselves “Nones.”  The number of “convictional” Christians–those who really believe all that stuff–is holding steady.  See his analysis of the data after the jump.

There was a time when church membership was a cultural advantage.  Belonging to a church was good for business and a sign of fitting into the community.  So church membership rolls were filled with “pewsitters” or “Christmas/Easter” members.  Today, belonging to a church can be a cultural disadvantage.  So there is no reason for nominal Christians to bother with it.

This exit of the nominals can be a good thing, on one level, but I want to make two important caveats. [Read more…]

New study shows percentage of Christians declining

The Pew Research Center has released a new study of American religion.  In 2007, the date of its previous research, the percentage of Christians was 78%.  By 2014, the percentage dropped to 70%.   The percentage of those with no religious affiliation has shot up from 16% to 23%.  (Atheists have gone from 1.6% to 3.1%.)

Much of the decline in the number of Christians has come from dwindling mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics.  Evangelicals (and the study explicitly puts the LCMS in this category) are holding pretty steady.  Though declines are evident across regions, ages, and other demographics, the study says much of it can be accounted for by the Millennial Generation.  A link to the study, which has lots more fascinating details, after the jump. [Read more…]