Monday, March 09, 2009

America becoming less Christian, survey finds

From CNN:

"(CNN) -- America is a less Christian nation than it was 20 years ago, and Christianity is not losing out to other religions, but primarily to a rejection of religion altogether, a survey published Monday found.

Survey finds percentage of of Americans identifying themselves as Christian has fallen over two decades.

Seventy-five percent of Americans call themselves Christian, according to the American Religious Identification Survey from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1990, the figure was 86 percent.

William Donohue, president of the Catholic League said he thinks a radical shift towards individualism over the last quarter-century has a lot to do it.

"The three most dreaded words are thou shalt not," he told Lou Dobbs. "Notice they are not atheists -- they are saying I don't want to be told what to do with my life."

At the same time there has been an increase in the number of people expressing no religious affiliation.

The survey also found that "born-again" or "evangelical" Christianity is on the rise, while the percentage who belong to "mainline" congregations such as the Episcopal or Lutheran churches has fallen.

One in three Americans consider themselves evangelical, and the number of people associated with mega-churches has skyrocketed from less than 200,000 in 1990 to more than 8 million in the latest survey. Watch CNN report on new study »

The rise in evangelical Christianity is contributing to the rejection of religion altogether by some Americans, said Mark Silk of Trinity College.

"In the 1990s, it really sunk in on the American public generally that there was a long-lasting 'religious right' connected to a political party, and that turned a lot of people the other way," he said of the link between the Republican Party and groups such as the Moral Majority and Focus on the Family. Watch author on mixing religion and politics »

"In an earlier time, people who would have been content to say, 'Well, I'm some kind of a Protestant,' now say 'Hell no, I won't go,'" he told CNN.

Silk also said the revelation that some Catholic priests had sexually abused children -- and senior figures in the church hierarchy had helped to hide it -- drove some Catholics away from religion.

And, he said, it is now more socially acceptable than it once was to admit having no religion.

"You're not declaring yourself a total pariah. The culture has changed in a way that makes it easier to say, 'No, I don't have a religion. Even in the past year, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama feel obliged to talk about 'those of no faith,' " he pointed out. Obama mentioned people without faith in his inaugural address in January, making him the first president to do so.

In the survey, one in five Americans said they have no religious identity or did not answer the question, and more than one in four said they do not expect to have a religious funeral.

The rise in what the survey authors call "nones" is the only trend reflected in every single state in the study, Silk said.

"We don't see anything else in the survey that is nationwide," he told CNN.

Still, Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, remained hopeful that people will return to their faith, noting there was a less dramatic decline in those affiliating themselves with a religion this decade than in the 1990s.

Perkins told Lou Dobbs he sees that decline easing, and he thinks soon religion will be an even greater part of people's lives.

"If this poll is taken next year will the outcome be different?" he asked. "As the economy goes downward, I think people are going to be driven to religion."

Other findings include:

• The percentage of Catholics in the United States has remained steady at about one in four since 1990, while the percentage of other Christians has plummeted from 60 percent to 50 percent.

• The percentage of Muslims has doubled since 1990, but remains statistically very small, only 0.3 percent in the original survey and 0.6 percent today.

• Mormons have remained steady as a percentage of the population, even as the number of people in the United States has grown. They make up 1.4 percent of the population.

• The number of Jews in the United States is falling if the category includes only those who define themselves as Jews religiously, but has remained the same if the category includes people who consider themselves ethnically Jewish.

The survey polled 54,461 Americans between February and November of last year. Pollsters conducted the research in both English and Spanish."


dangerousdaisy said...


Nick said...

While this is encouraging news I believe we are still at a dangerous precipice: religious extremists have never been shy about using coercion or force to intimidate or kill. I see no reason why they would abandon said tactics when they perceive the stakes to be so high.

And should those folks join forces with the political luddites who are fearful of President Obama's "secret socialist agenda", it could spell trouble. Add in the "good ol' boys" -- who can barely disguise their hatred of the "half caste" in the WH -- and that trouble could become an inferno.

We should not kid ourselves about the possibility; there are those who feel they can hold back, by main force if necessary, the changing face of America. While this is not possible short of deporting everyone who isn’t Caucasian, there are those who would be happy to shed blood in that effort…

I Travel for JOOLS said...

Good grief, Nick. I think your worry about Christians killing people is extremist in itself. There are nut cases of every stripe and always have been, declared religious or not. Do you feel the same way about other religions as you do Christians, or are we alone that scary?

Nick said...

@ I Travel For Jools:

You misread me, sir/madame:

"...religious extremists have never been shy about using coercion or force to intimidate or kill."

I saw no reason to single out Christians, per se, when all religions in America have all contributed to intolerance and violence, starting with witch hunts in our new country, moving no to the bible wars of the 19th & 20th centuries; the terrorism and murder of abortion doctors in the 20th century; the promulgation of discrimintaion toward gays in the 20th and 21st century, et alis...

The list goes on and on. Nor is this list of intolerance, hatred and murder by religious zealots a new invention; organised religion has historicaly used these means as tools to hold and extend their sway.

And these epsiodes of violence almost always seem to coincide with major changes in society such as were are about to experience.

Christians, Mormmons, Lutherans and SOuther Baptists may all be delusional -in my view - but that does not make them a priori extremists or zealots. And it was of those I wrote.

I Travel for JOOLS said...

Nick, of course extremists are the problem e.g. muslim extremists, and not just in America. I believe 9/11 proved that. The same could be said of people with no obvious religious affiliation who are murdering people all over this country e.g. violent gangs.

I fail to see what has changed or why it is "encouraging news" to you that America is becoming less Christian which is what this article was about.

Nick said...

Briefly ( I don’t want to take over this post ) what I am encouraged about is the lessening influence of organized superstition on my children’s’ lives and (for at least the next 4 years) my government.

Yes, org’d crime in general (of one ilk or another) have always been with us, but that is straight up crime and relatively easy to deal with; bank robbers are not tolerated, much less given tax breaks. The same is true of o.g.’s (though one can argue the nature of our complicity in their origins until the cows come home). Essentially, however, they are also a police problem.

Religions, however, are given a wide latitude in this country to repeatedly step on their and everyone else’s dicks. They are legally allowed to protest at funerals of folks they have never met but heartily disapprove of; they can and do emotionally abuse women making heartbreaking choices for themselves; they have killed doctors who assist those women. They can do this while not paying taxes because of their federal and state exemption statuses; they can and do intrude into public policy, attempting to force changes in the common weal based on their particular superstitious beliefs (which of course varies from church to church and, sometimes, from sect to sect within the same church).

You mentioned 9/11. Yes, those were religious terrorists. Religious terrorists who labeled America a religious terrorist for letting her companies kill tens of thousands in places like Bopha because of our blind devotion to Mammon. And, before you rebut, consider: it DOES NOT MATTER what you think or believe here, because those terrorists believe with the same fervor in their religion as do millions of Americans taking the ‘body of christ’ every Sunday.

For Pete Rose’s sake, man, it just goes on and on and on.

I can, and have, written over 10,000 words on this phenomenon more than once. And what always astounds me is that the practitioners are – apparently like yourself – oblivious to your insanity. Substitute Elvis in whatever mythology you cling to and tell me you can still take it seriously. Because that’s how more of us than you can imagine view religious adherents.

So, yes, it IS a good thing that fewer people get sucked into the mental Amway scheme; that’s more people who will evaluate reality and its already incredibly hard-enough choices without referencing a magic book that proclaims the end is nigh and, really, that is a GOOD thing. It is fewer people who will look to a spiritual ‘leader’. It is fewer politicians who can hide their cowardly decisions or outright fucking of the country behind ‘religious’ considerations…

In fact, I can think of not a single downside.

I Travel for JOOLS said...

Well, I've been evaluated several times in both a professional and nonprofessional manner, but "insane" is a first.


Good luck on all that.

The DLC said...

*ignoring previous comments* It looks like America is becoming less Christian and more Christian at the same time. Interesting that the rise of right-wing, fundamentalist churches contributes to more people abandoning their faith. Personally I'm much more comfortable with granny down at the Episcopal church having coffee hour and buying altar flowers than the young, vitriolic crazies at churches who don't have saints in the name.

Andrew said...

Hip guy, atheists have killed plenty of people when they had the power.

Of course, you will deny this, but I have no more respect for that than I do a Holocaust Denier.

Atheists killed millions and millions of believers, in an attempt to destroy religion.

The officially atheistic government of the Soviet Union is only the best example...they tried for 70 years to destroy Christianity.

They failed and self destructed.