From Tom Breen:
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Despite the prominence of religious believers in politics and culture, America has shrinking congregations, growing dissatisfaction with religious leaders and rising numbers of people who do not think about faith, according to a new study by a Duke University expert.
In “American Religion: Contemporary Trends,” authorMark Chaves argues that over the last generation or so, religious belief in the U.S. has experienced a “softening” that effects everything from whether people go to worship services regularly to whom they marry. Far more people are willing to say they don’t belong to any religious tradition today than in the past, and signs of religious vitality may be camouflaging stagnation or decline.
“Reasonable people can disagree over whether the big picture story is one of essential stability or whether it’s one of slow decline,” said Chaves. “Unambiguously, though, there’s no increase.”…
The study wasn’t all bad for religious groups, though. Older people are more likely to be religious than the young, and America is on the cusp of having the largest elderly population in its history, Chaves said.
Immigrants to the U.S. also tend to be active religious believers, and birth rates may also favor the faithful. Devout families usually have more children than the kinds of non-traditional arrangements contributing to the demographic drain on religions, Wright said. Finally, there’s an extraordinary amount of good will toward religious faith in the U.S., especially in contrast with other Western countries.
“It’s not like there’s a lot of hostility toward religion in the United States,” Chaves said. “It’s just that there’s been a softening of religiosity.”