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United States

Religious Affiliation Shrinking In the US 866

gollum123 notes new U.S. demographic data from the Pew Research Center which show that the percentage of Americans declaring affiliation with a particular religion has declined sharply since 2007. Americans identifying as Christian dropped from 78.4% in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Those describing themselves as atheist, agnostic, or simple having no affiliation took up most of the slack, rising from 16.1% to 22.8%. Members of non-Christian faiths collectively rose from 4.7% to 5.9%. Despite the overall decline, the demographics within the Christian group are getting much more racially and ethnically diverse. The willingness of respondents to marry outside their religious affiliation is also on the rise. The median age of unaffiliated adults is dropping, while the median ages of mainline Protestants and Catholics are rising. The study estimates that 85% of adults age 70 and over are Christian, while only 56% of adults ages 18-24 are Christian. They also say that each individual generation has shown a slight decrease in religious affiliation compared to their statistics in 2007.
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Religious Affiliation Shrinking In the US

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  • 23 down, 77 to go (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rob Kaper ( 5960 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @07:38AM (#49680297) Homepage

    Subject says it all.

    • Likely has to do with the rise of the internet. Free flow of information means people have more access to information disproving their parents' religious beliefs. Lots of contradictions in those bronze age oral histories and iron age letters. Q
    • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @09:41AM (#49681147)

      What I think is really happening, is our culture is more accepting of people who are not religious. So the good portion of non-religious folks who have always been around, feel more open about it. Where before they would just label themselves the religion their parents said they were.

      It is much like how there seems to be a surge in homosexulality, however it is more of a case it was always there it was just people never reported it.

    • I wouldn't be sure that the numbers are correct.

      Here in the UK 59% of the population claimed to be Christian in the 2011 census. However attendance at churches of all varieties runs to about 6% of the population. So what happened to the other 53%, are they really Christian or merely putting themselves down as Christian because it sounds better?

      One thing that has been reported in the past is that while 40% of the population of the States reports that they attend services each week. However when actual counts

  • Ironically, echoing what was happening in the Gospel accounts, the modern religious establishments have to a large degree lost touch with the purpose of the law of Moses and the teachings of Jesus (and so on). People need to move away from blind tradition, look at all major religions that have survived more than a few centuries, and ask exactly why they have been successful in surviving. When it comes to the actual teachings, effort need to be applied to understand the meaning of those teachings in practical real world terms. That means not just explaining 'sin' in terms of 'disobedience' to 'God' without also fully explaining what 'sin', 'disobedience to God' and 'God' mean in real world practical terms, and why, say, 'sin' in then a problem. Too many people leave these words as poorly defined abstract jargon, and end up doing the eight-year-old English lesson thing of just formally rearranging the words according to rules of grammar.

    For a mundane example:

    There is a cat called Gerald, who has pink fur.
    What colour is the fur of the cat?
    The colour of the cat's fur is pink.
    What is the name of the cat with pink fur?
    The name of the cat with pink fur is Gerald.

    Now look at some Biblish:

    Sin is the result of our disobedience to God. We need Jesus because he died for our sins.
    What did Jesus die for?
    Jesus died for our sins.
    What are our sins?
    Our sins are the result of our disobedience to God.
    Why are our sins a problem?
    Because... because... erm... because they are the result of our disobedience to God, and that's clearly a bad thing.

    And that's kind of where such discussions go downhill. The above discussion is an illustration of what happens when genuine understanding is absent, and this is all too often the case, especially amongst members of the religious establishments we have today. On the other hand, just doing the atheist thing often falls into the same traps, but beginning from a different set of basic sentences (there is probably no God; science can explain everything; what is the scientific evidence for the efficacy of prayer). Without fully exploring what meaning can be recovered from ancient teachings given suitable interpretation (and this ultimately must be done by first exhibiting real world practical scenarios where the meaning can be seen at work) we can neither hold them up as truth, nor dismiss them as backward fairytales. Unfortunately the masses are generally doing one or the other.
    • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @08:25AM (#49680593) Homepage

      Gerald the pink-furred cat only exists in your imagination.

    • The 'trouble' with modern religion in general is that it has nothing to do with spiritual beliefs or helping people, it has to do with a few influential people consoldating power over entire groups of people by leveraging their pathological need to believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing supernatural being. Of late this has resulted in women being kidnapped and turned into sex slaves, children stolen and turned into suicide bombers and 'child warriors', and a growing number getting their heads chopped off o
  • by Eloking ( 877834 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @08:01AM (#49680415)

    I'm not sure how many years ago it was, but I thought Christianity was rising in the USA (I even think it was a news in /.).

    Either way it's good news. I prefer my superpowers secular.

  • by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @08:02AM (#49680425) Journal

    These scary views of global warming and evolution are causing people to burn for eternity in hell for not believing in GOD!!

    We need a pro God president to change the culture of this country so people stop thinking for themselves! It is only a matter of time before we anger him by voting for things Jesus did like providing healthcare and support for the poor and sick and our nation will fear his wrath.

  • Inconsistent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EzInKy ( 115248 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @08:02AM (#49680433)

    I'd say it is because of Christian inconsistencies. On the one hand they state that God's love is unconditional, on the other they say if you don't love God and follow His laws you will go to hell. There is no logic to religion.

    • Re:Inconsistent (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheDarkMaster ( 1292526 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @08:21AM (#49680567)
      It just depends on how you look at the issue. If you consider that the goal is to make people believe that there is an all-powerful being who knows everything you do, and then tell them that if they do not do all he (I mean, the "enlightened by him") say they have to do then this all-powerful entity will punish them without being able to avoid, then religion makes sense. Just control, as usual.
    • Re:Inconsistent (Score:5, Informative)

      by XxtraLarGe ( 551297 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @08:38AM (#49680691) Journal

      I'd say it is because of Christian inconsistencies. On the one hand they state that God's love is unconditional

      No. Christians claim that there's a very specific condition. John 3:16

      For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

      There may be some debate around what what it means to believe in Jesus, but if someone claims to be a Christian but doesn't believe that, they're not really a Christian.

      on the other they say if you don't love God and follow His laws you will go to hell. There is no logic to religion.

      Again, no. It is not possible for a person to fully love God and follow his laws perfectly, which is what made atonement through Christ's death necessary. Hell is separation from God. As noted above, God gave a very specific way for people to spend eternity with him. If you don't want to believe in Jesus Christ, then you spend eternity separated from him. That seems perfectly logical to me.

      What you seem to be espousing is the secular Hollywood/pop-culture view of Christianity, which is almost always an inaccurate portrayal of it.

  • Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by X10 ( 186866 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @08:07AM (#49680473) Homepage

    US is the only developed (or "more or less developed") country where religious nuts are still a majority.

  • Finally (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Murdoch5 ( 1563847 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @08:09AM (#49680489)
    Religion is essentially "I believe in a sky daddy because I'm ignorant of science."

    Theology is even worse, take Islam:
    "Hi, I'm Muhammad, I can't write, read or preform simple math. I'm totally illiterate, have epilepsy, like to wear diapers on my head and ride unicorns. Let me tell you about Islam where women are objects, female children, much like Christianity, are rape objects and science must be outlawed at all costs, oh and don't think about drawing a picture of me, or someone could kill you"

    Christianity:
    "Hi, I'm God, I'm a piss poor engineer who has anger issue and love S&M. I put two or one person in a garden, they had children who killed each other, I allowed incest, rape, murder and slavery. I got really pissed off twice, once I wiped out humanity using a fable which no ration human could believe. I then sent my son to die in the greatest sadomasochist grandstanding in history for being mad at my self, oh and remember to give all your money to the church, because I can't and won't ever show myself or preform miracles."

    Mormonism is to stupid to even comment on and the same can be done for ALL religions.

    So it's a good thing religious belief is falling, it made no sense back in the day and less sense now. You can't call yourself a logical adult human and believe that your sky daddy created the universe and left no evidence, that isn't rational.
    • Re:Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

      by narcc ( 412956 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @09:39AM (#49681135) Journal

      Religion is essentially "I believe in a sky daddy because I'm ignorant of science."

      That's completely delusional. [rice.edu]

      Theology is even worse, take Islam:

      Theology is the study of religious beliefs and practices. You'll find no shortage of atheist theologians. Or do you mean theology in the sense of a system of beliefs? In that case, you'll find that Islam is not monolithic, but divided along theological lines. Either way, your statement is incoherent.

      science must be outlawed at all costs

      I can find no branch of Islam that "outlaws" or otherwise forbids science. On the contrary, there are many Muslim scientists practicing today, as well as many historically significant Muslim scientists.

      because I can't and won't ever show myself or preform miracles

      Many Christians would disagree. I can't find a Christian sect that would affirm that. It's possible one exists, but it would be exceptional, not representative.

      it made no sense back in the day and less sense now.

      What makes "no sense" is your post. If you want anyone to take you seriously, you're going to have to offer more than nonsense like this to support your position.

  • by BECoole ( 558920 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @08:28AM (#49680621)

    -1 Troll

  • from gallup (Score:5, Informative)

    by buddyglass ( 925859 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @09:05AM (#49680877)
    Here [gallup.com] are Gallup's historical trends up to 2013. Some things to note:

    1. The % of those who say religion is a "very important" part of their life has remained roughly constant.
    2. The % of those who says religion is only a "fairly important" part of their life has showed more consistent decline.
    3. The % of "nones" seems to be mostly cannibalizing from the "fairly important" group, who are essentially nominal believers. The % of people who are "devout" seems to be more-or-less holding its own.
    4. The % of people who claim to have attended church or synagogue in the last 7 days has remained roughly constant.
    5. The % of people who self-identify as "evangelical or born-again Christians" has remained roughly constant (except for an elevated plateau from 1998 to 2002).
    6. The % who self-identify as "evangelical or born-again" is actually higher (40%) in 2013 than it was in 1992 (36%).
    • Re:from gallup (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @09:44AM (#49681167)

      Here are Gallup's historical trends up to 2013.

      This is the most insightful post here so far.

      The real trend seems to be away from a "default" position of "Yeah, I guess I believe in God, and maybe I'm a Christian" to "Yeah, I don't really care that much."

      Is that an actual shift in values, or is it just that it's more socially acceptable now to acknowledge that you don't care about religion that much? A few decades ago, these people may have just gone to church on Christmas and Easter, but otherwise showed no daily signs of being "religious," but it was just the default way of things.

      Nowadays, these people may still go to church on Christmas and Easter or whatever because it's family tradition, but they behave precisely the same way as they did decades ago... it's just now they feel more free to admit that there are other things they do. (It's worthwhile to remember that socialization was very different a few decades ago; churches were an important hub for communities and still are, but now we have a lot more possible ways to participate in both real-world and virtual communities.)

      Basically, the percentage of people who are "devout" and attend church regularly has remained roughly the same. The people who were essentially "meh" before probably still are, but they've found other ways of filling their time and social calendar than attending an occasional church BBQ.

      That isn't to say there aren't significant shifts, but I'd be more likely to interpret this as a social shift rather than one in the number of "believers." After all, we seem to still have record numbers of nonsense shows on TV concerning ghosts, aliens, and whatever other crap. People are still willing to believe in all sorts of mystical weirdness [wikipedia.org] (though I'd be interested in seeing some more recent polls than in that link) -- it's just becoming less institutionalized.

  • It's worth noting... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @09:06AM (#49680895) Journal
    While it'd be fun to take out the atheist triumphalism drum, it's worth noting that the thing being measured is religious affiliation not 'theological position' or 'amount of magical thinking done per day', or 'even the vaguest knowledge of how empiricism works'.

    Religious affiliation is quite significant, of course, it's obviously notable that substantially more people both can't be bothered to get their ass out of bed on Sunday morning and are willing to admit that they have no formal affiliation(historically, at least in the US, you might not actually attend all that often, or pay that much attention; but denying association was somewhat transgressive). It's also significant for the hopes of various religious groups to exercise political power through organized bloc voting (the 'moral majority', not that it was ever either, sure isn't going to be done any good by the evangelical protestant numbers, nor is the ability of bishops to bluster during election season going to improve with those catholic numbers.

    However, it's by no means the case that religious non-affiliation is necessarily anything other than pure disinterest, or vague belief in supernatural entities(probably shaped by a layman-level understanding of whatever your parents nominally believed, with any overtly objectionable parts left on the cutting room floor). There may also be a story about atheism here; but that isn't really the poll result.

    In that sense, the results aren't really too surprising: the liberal protestant and 'cafeteria catholic' congregations have been working their way toward being increasingly irrelevant social activities for years to decades now; some nice people and all that; but pretty light on religion, which meant that they drifted into direct competition with any and all other activities you do with other people, without being obviously more entertaining, conveniently scheduled, or otherwise competitive.

    The more conservative groups tended to retain the religiosity a bit more intensely; but they really got burned by their flirtation with state power(let's say roughly Reagan through Bush II in round numbers). They did get some of what they wanted, though not enough to prevent disappointment; but they burned a lot of religious legitimacy in the process. Remember that jewish radical who said that his kingdom was not of this world? Well, it'd be hard to argue that the evangelical power-brokers hanging out at the 'National Prayer Breakfast' and trying to get Washington to do something about homos and abortionists do. Even if your beliefs are fairly strong, and largely 'Christian' in outline, it's hard to avoid seeing the liberal wing of Christianity as increasingly wishy-washy and irrelevant, certainly not worth going to church with; and the conservative wing as dangerously unfocused on the kingdom of god in favor of trying to achieve local political gains.
  • by starless ( 60879 ) on Wednesday May 13, 2015 @09:17AM (#49680969)

    finally we will be left with only true Beatlemania!

    The Fabulous Four be praised.

A man is known by the company he organizes. -- Ambrose Bierce

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