Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Losing My Religion

I was sitting in church last weekend and a thought struck me: how are churches surviving through this recession? I have no idea what triggered it since this thought occurred while I was mesmerized by our pastor's fashionable tie. Whatever the churches are doing nationwide to keep afloat they better do something quick to attract more members since a new poll came out stating that more Americans have no religious affiliation. You can read the results of the ARIS survey here. I was going to make a fancy pie chart but decided that seemed like too much trouble. I am sure John King and his Magic Wall will take care of the pie charts on CNN, but until then here are a few of the numbers.

  • Catholic population has moved from the Northest to the Southwest with California having a higher proportion of Catholics than New England.
  • Northern New England has surpassed the Pacific Northwest as the least religious.
  • Vermont has the highest report of those claiming no religion, 34%.
  • 15% of those surveyed claimed no religion, up from 14.2% in 2001 and 8.2% in 1990.
  • Overall Christians in America has declined to 76%, compared to about 77% in 2001 and about 86.2% in 1990. (1% drop doesn't sound too bad, but it's still a drop.)
  • The Muslim population has grown to .6% in 2008 from .5 percent in 2001 and .3% in 1990.
  • Only a mere 1.6% of Americans call themselves atheist or agnostic.
Cool interactive graph found here.

Why are organized religions in the U.S. declining? You would think that during this economic crisis that it would be on the rise but something is causing it's slow decline. Atheist have nearly doubled since 2001 from 900,000 to 1.6 million; so it's not that people are losing faith but that more Americans are not claiming a particular religion. It seems to me that more and more people are shifting away from the organized setting and taking a more personal and private course.

I am one of those 15% of Americans that do not claim any religious affiliation, but I feel that my spirituality has grown significantly in the last few years. As I've stated in other posts I do not consider myself a Christian in the traditional sense, but I do follow Christ and his teachings. I still attend church but I do not claim Christianity as my faith. It is not because I have no use for organized religion but that since I draw my spirituality from several religions I can not see myself exclusively following just one. My story is probably completely different from the other 15% of Americans who do not claim a religion, but the important point is that this group has been growing. It might just be that Americans get more out of personal and spiritual growth outside of an organized faith. Or it may just mean that Americans don't have time for or need faith as much anymore. As this group grows how will this impact the socio-political issues facing America? Will the Religious Right, or the Moral Majority, have a distinct secular political bloc to contend with in future elections?

I personally believe that Catholicism will take off during the next decade as the Hispanic population grows. We might even see the first Hispanic Catholic President take office. The point being that the religious waters are stirring even if it's not in the interest of the religious groups, they are still stirring. These times they are a changin'.


Grégoire said...

Such an interesting thought - a Hispano-Catholic president of the U.S.. I've never even considered such a possibility.

Eruesso said...

Well with the Hispanic population booming it's very possible we will have one soon. It just depends on the candidate (Bill Richardson maybe?). And I also heard that by the year 2050 the white population (I have no idea what constituted as 'white' in this news report) will be a minority.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting thoughts! My brother just left a comment on my blog that I think is really insightful. He pointed out that, as we have no Religious Education programs in our schools to learn about world religions, it's very difficult for an American Christian to switch to another religion as opposed to simply leave the church without replacing it with an alternative. Instead, we either make up our own way of living (as you and I have), or leave faith behind (as some of my friends and siblings have done) in favor of living a humanistic sort of philosophy and remaining ambivalent about the idea of God.

So it remains to be seen what Americans will do, but I am very interested in doing more promotion of interfaith initiatives, not just to help more Christian Americans understand LIVED FAITH of others in their communities but also to give us a broader idea of the possibilities of our own faith.

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