21% of Americans Say Religion is ‘Not That Important’ in Their Lives

According to a poll by NBC/WSJ, 21% of Americans say that religion is “not that important in their lives.”

This isn’t a big surprise. It’s consistent with other polls. The details are pretty much the same as those in previous polls, as well. An NBC news article says that “Less religious Americans are more likely to be men, have an income over $75,000, to live in the northeast” and be under 35.

The only comment I have to make about this is that it’s something to consider as we contemplate how to approach re-converting this culture. Do we start with these “not that importants,” or do we begin elsewhere?

I don’t claim to have a decisive answer. But my personal opinion, based mainly on years of political campaigning, is that we should begin with our own people. I think the first great need for active conversion is to be found in the pews of our own churches.

There are over 1 billion Catholics on this planet, and almost all of us are laity. We are the Church. The need to educate, inspire and lead this laity to an active evangelistic fervor is so obvious that I’m not going to waste the words to substantiate it in this brief post.

I think the place to begin the great work of conversion that is in front of us is our own laity. The question I have is, does the laity have to do the work of converting itself?

We need leadership.

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  • SisterCynthia

    Ideally, leadership should come from leaders, but I wonder if there isn’t a place for lesser leaders than the priests. I don’t know how things work in the Catholic church, as far as whether you have sunday school classes and midweek studies like Protestants tend to (probably seems like a dumb question, but honestly I don’t know, so please forgive my cluelessness). If that’s normal, perhaps more of the orthodox laity needs to engage with the operations of their local churches and help with teaching in those venues? Or leading prayer groups? Praying fervently for a reawakening to faith among the body is a minimum amount of engagement, I think, for us who are aware of the state of things, and really is paramount: the Spirit is the only one who can stir hearts with lasting effects. The best human appeals to faith or the strongest of “guilt sermons” applied cannot prompt the changes God can. Having ways to then build up those who respond to the Spirit and to keep praying for them would help them to be like the wheat sown in good soil, which grew and produced a good yield. :)

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Actually 21% sounds low. I bet it’s more than that. He that man from the northeast could have been me, except I’m over 35. :) Yes, we need to evangelize our own. But that’s easier said than done. All the evangelization in the world won’t do anything if the person on the other end isn’t open to the Holy Spirit.

    • hamiltonr

      You live in a very different world than I do Manny, which is one reason why both our perspectives are so valuable to this dialogue. Since this is a national average, it takes in areas of the country where the percentage of people saying this is probably quite low.

      As for converting the people in the pews, I think we need leadership in this from behind the altar. That’s going to take guts, because a number of people in the pews will get rip-snorting mad. Some of them will leave.

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      As the article indicates, that’s the percentage for the nation as a whole; the levels vary from region to region. Levels will also vary depending on the exact question wording used for measuring.

  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    Most of them have incomes above 75,000… “How hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye…”

  • Bud Stupple

    There has to be a way to make people value and desire to be Catholic and uphold it’s teachings. There is not now.

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    There’s some historical data from Gallup, who’ve been asking a similar (but not identically worded) question since 1992. It looks like the trend in “not very important” has been rising gradually but significantly, but more peeling off from the “fairly important” than the “very important” (which has not changed significantly).

    The number of “not very important” in the Gallup data seems to approximately line up with the rise in the never-attending (this is Jack’s lack of surprise), and run circa five percentage points higher than the fraction of religiously unaffiliated.

  • http://outsidetheautisticasylum.blogspot.com/ Theodore Seeber

    The Northeast? I thought Oregon was the land of the great unchurched: