New Survey: All Religions Losing Ground in USA
The American Religious Identification Survey, since its 1990 founding, the most thorough study every year of the strength and variety of religions in this nation, has been released. USA Today has numerous charts and articles on the entire results here. In brief, America is becoming more religiously diverse, but also less religious. A full 15% of Americans now list “NONE” for religion–the highest since the survey began. “None” is now the 3rd largest category–behind Catholics and Baptists. Almost every faith group lost ground and so did every region of the nation.
One of the few groups to grow is Islam. Though still tiny, American Muslims have grown from 0.3% in 1990 to 0.6% today.
Now, this should be put in context: The U.S.A. is still far more religious than any other industrial nation. We are not in any danger of Europe’s empty churches turned into museums in the near future. (By the way, I am convinced that church-state separation helps our greater religious strength. Without government endorsement or aid, religions have to compete for adherents and support.) Further, large majorities still claim to believe in God–it is the institutions of church, synagogue, mosque, etc. that they are more skeptical of than previously. Many Americans are now “free lancers” essentially creating their own religions–a trend that dates back to Colonial days, but which has waxed and waned in various periods of history. Also, judging by similar periods of history, if the recession becomes a depression and/or drags on for some time, it could well lead to a religious revival. (The loss of the idol of wealth and greed often turns people to spiritual matters.)
I would guess (and that’s all this is) that one factor in the decline of Southern Baptists and evangelicals has been their defense of the Iraq war and of torture. I would guess that the rightward shift of the Vatican, along with the scandals over priestly sexual abuse of children (which has been much higher in profile than similar scandals among Protestants) has led to the decline in Catholicism. But these are only guesses.
What is clear is that the rust belt is less Catholic than before and the Bible Belt less Southern Baptist than previously.
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