Study Shows Religion In The U.S. Is In Decline



Source: Patheos

Author: Michael Stone

Emphasis Mine

Good News: Despite a vocal minority of Christian extremists, religion in the United States is in decline, and secularization is on the rise.

A new study finds a slow decline in American religiosity over time, demonstrating that religion in the United States is declining and mirroring patterns found across the western world.

The new research shows that contrary to anecdotal evidence, the United States is no different than other modern societies in the inevitable move towards secularization.

According to the new research from UCL and Duke University published in the March 2016 edition of the American Journal of Sociology, there is a slow, steady drop in the number of Americans who claim religious affiliations, attend church regularly and believe in God.

The study, titledIs the United States a Counterexample to the Secularization Thesis?”, also finds that these drops are driven by generational differences. For example:

94 percent of Americans born before 1935 claim a religious affiliation. For the generation born after 1975, that number drops to 71 percent.

68 percent of Americans 65 and older said they had no doubt God exists, according to the study. But just 45 percent of young adults, ages 18-30, had the same belief.

41 percent of people 70 and older said they attend church services at least once a month, compared to just 18 percent of people 60 and younger.

The abstract of the study reads:

Virtually every discussion of secularization asserts that high levels of religiosity in the United States make it a decisive counterexample to the claim that modern societies are prone to secularization. Focusing on trends rather than levels, the authors maintain that, for two straightforward empirical reasons, the United States should no longer be considered a counterexample. First, it has recently become clear that American religiosity has been declining for decades. Second, this decline has been produced by the generational patterns underlying religious decline elsewhere in the West: each successive cohort is less religious than the preceding one. America is not an exception. These findings change the theoretical import of the United States for debates about secularization.

Speaking about his research, David Voas, a social scientist with UCL and co-author of the study, said:

None of these declines is happening fast, but the signs are now unmistakable. It has become clear that American religiosity has been declining for decades, and the decline is driven by the same dynamic — generational differences — that has driven religious decline across the developed world.

Mark Chaves, a professor of sociology, divinity and religion at Duke University, and another co-author of the study, notes:

The US decline has been so gradual that until recently scientists haven’t had enough data to be sure the trend was real. The US has long been considered an exception to the modern claim that religion is declining, but if you look at the trajectory, and the generational dynamic that is producing the trajectory, we may not be an exception after all.

Bottom line: This is good news. Despite the perverse Christian extremism of some Americans, things are getting better, and religious superstition is on the decline in America.


What’s in a Name? Religious Nones and the American Religious Landscape

Source: Religion Dispatches

Author: Richord Flory

Emphasis Mine

Over the last several years the term religious “Nones” has become a major topic of discussion and analysis by those who pay attention to religious trends. Although the term dates back at least to the 1960s, based on its current usage and popularization, it would appear as though it is a completely new designation for a growing segment of the American population—those who are unaffiliated with any religious group.

What has caught everyone’s attention is that there has been a significant and sustained increase in the number of people who are choosing not to identify with any religion. As reported by the Pew Research Center, in 2007, 16 percent of American adults reported no religious preference or affiliation; by 2014 this statistic had increased to almost 23 percent. And younger adults are more likely to say that they have no religion than their parents or grandparents’ generations.

Many church leaders are concerned about their losses and what in their view will result in a general decline in social and personal morals. Others rationalize their losses as essentially a culling of the religious herd. Now, they say, we’re down to people who really believe, instead of “cultural Christians” who don’t adhere to Christian beliefs. Meanwhile, many atheists claim that the entire category is populated by fellow atheists who are somehow reluctant or afraid to publicly proclaim their disbelief.

These reactions to the increase in the number of people classified as “religious Nones” represent an assumption based on a market approach of religion and an understanding of religion as a binary reality. Just like any other business, success in the religious marketplace is the goal, and it is measured by the number of people who identify with your particular brand of religion (or irreligion as the case may be). Further, individuals are thought of as either being religious (or spiritual) or not; there are no other options. Thus the basic gist of the majority of writing and hand-wringing about the “rise of the Nones” is that secularism is on the rise, and religion and spirituality is in retreat.

In my view, this assumption doesn’t actually capture the diversity of beliefs, non-beliefs and practices within the Nones category. So, what is really going on with religious Nones?

The origins of the term shed some light on who exactly is actually included in the category. Although the category already existed, in 1968 sociologist Glenn M. Vernon published an article titled, “The Religious ‘Nones’: A Neglected Category” that brought the idea of “Nones” forward as an analytic category that religion scholars could, and should, explore. Vernon focused on the response of “none” or “none of the above” to the survey question, “What religion are you?” As it does today, his description of the term included “atheists, agnostics, those with ‘no preference,’ [and] those with no affiliation,” but it also included members of small groups that were not otherwise classified into a larger religious group. He proceeded to analyze the beliefs, experiences and affiliations of people within the Nones category. Vernon then argued that this category needed more analysis and actually suggested an alternative term for Nones (which obviously never caught on): “religious independents.”

More recently, in particular with the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), and the 2012 Pew Research Center report “Nones on the Rise,” this term has become part of the public imagination of the fate of religion in the US. (Indeed some have tracked the origins of the term Nones to the 2012 Pew report, others to ARIS researchers, rather than to its earlier origins.)

Despite all this attention, the Nones category isn’t particularly helpful for understanding what is happening with religion in the U.S., unless the different groups that can be identified within the larger category are disaggregated. Moving beyond simply classifying individuals by their religious or irreligious identity, particularly by listening to how they describe the diverse ways that they think (and act) about religion, we can identify some of the groups within the larger Nones category.

In addition to atheists, agnostics, and those who identify as “nothing in particular,” there are the “spiritual but not religious,” although they would not be found exclusively within the Nones category.

There are others who dismiss the whole idea of being “spiritual but not religious,” but who do religious/spiritual things. They occasionally attend services, pray, believe in Karma and meditate. But they don’t tend to think of these things as having any particular religious or spiritual content.

Focusing on Nones also misses those who are marginally interested in religion, rarely if ever attend services, yet claim that it has some relevance in their lives. Some Nones attend religious services on occasion, are generally open to the idea of the supernatural and believe in God or a higher power, but do not identify themselves as religious or with any particular religious tradition. As one young woman told me when I asked her whether religion had any relevance in her life, “A little bit, maybe 5 percent.”

There are still others who are generally disinterested in religion, are OK with idea of God—whether for themselves or others—but are not inclined to either identify themselves as atheists, agnostics or spiritual but not religious. There are even those who don’t believe in God but who differentiate themselves from atheists. Yes, these people exist, and in general, they distinguish themselves from what they see as the overly strident tone of atheists as well as the preoccupation of atheists to argue that God does not exist—neither practice appeals to these individuals.

Each of these have an important link to a larger perspective that we find, particularly among younger people, that might be thought of as the “It’s All Good” ethic, which tends to stretch across the religious and non-religious alike about many life issues. As applied specifically to religion, there is an acknowledgment that others can believe—or not believe—whatever they want: “It’s all good,” at least so long as nobody gets hurt.

Since the entire category is based on non-affiliation, all those people who may identify with a particular religion but have no involvement with any religious institution are also left out. This would include people who, for example, identify as Jewish, Catholic or generally “Christian,” but who never or rarely attend services, have no spiritual practices, and are otherwise uninvolved in any religious institution, whether church, synagogue, temple, or mosque.

Finally, and perhaps most telling, people that religion scholars (like myself) designate as Nones rarely think of themselves in that way. This in itself isn’t too insightful, since most scholarly categories are at least once-removed from real life. Yet, in this case, I think it illustrates the point: how people understand the role of religion in their lives is often much different than what scholars are able to express through their measures.

Religious Nones is a more complex—and interesting—category than its name implies. Perhaps following Vernon’s 1968 suggestion to call the religiously unaffiliated “religious independents,” we might pursue a better term for this category. Yet even then we are left with a category that implies a particular theoretical and methodological approach to religion that really doesn’t fit what is going on in real world.

Rather than imposing a category that forces a multi-dimensional reality into a dichotomous measure of religious or not, or thinking about religion as a purely numbers game of what group has the most adherents, we might shift our attention to focus on how religion, values, relationships and meaning really operate in the lives of individuals and communities—religious or not.


American Psychological Association To Classify Belief in God As a Mental Illness

Source: TheNewsNerd

Author: TheNewsNerdStaff

Emphasis Mine

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), a strong and passionate belief in a deity or higher power, to the point where it impairs one’s ability to make conscientious decisions about common sense matters, will now be classified as a mental illness.

The controversial ruling comes after a 5-year study by the APA showed devoutly religious people often suffered from anxiety, emotional distress, hallucinations, and paranoia. The study stated that those who perceived God as punitive was directly related to their poorer health, while those who viewed God as benevolent did not suffer as many mental problems. The religious views of both groups often resulted in them being disconnected from reality.

Dr. Lillian Andrews, professor of psychology, stated, “Every year thousands of people die after refusing life-saving treatment on religious grounds. Even when being told ‘you will die without this treatment’ patients reject the idea and believe that their God will still save them. Those lives could be saved simply by classifying those people as mentally unfit for decision making.”

“Jehovah Witnesses for instance,” Dr. Andrews continued, “will not accept blood under any circumstance. They would rather die than to receive life-saving donor blood. Many religious people believe they have “healing power” in their hands. Many believe they can communicate with God using a personal language, which is unknown to anyone but the communicator and God (known as speaking in tongues). Many often tell of seeing spirits. All of these are signs of a mental break and a loss of touch with reality. Religious belief and the angry God phenomenon has caused chaos, destruction, death, and wars for centuries. The time for evolving into a modern society and classifying these archaic beliefs as a mental disorder has been long overdue. This is the first of many steps to a positive direction.”

With the new classification, the APA will lobby to introduce legislation which would allow doctors the right to force life-saving treatment on those who refuse it for spiritual reasons on the grounds that they are mentally incapable of making decisions about their health.

The American Psychological Association says more information about the study and the new classification will be made available to the public in their upcoming journal (which is expected to be release in early August).


There Are as Many Atheisms as There Are Gods

Source:Guardian, via AlterNet

Author: Andrew Brown

There are as many atheisms as there are gods. We spend most of our lives disbelieving in things without wasting time asking why, and quite right too. So what is it that makes some particular forms of disbelief intellectually fertile or socially significant?  Nick Spencer’s short history of atheism goes a long way towards answering this question, and anyone seriously interested in religion and irreligion today should read it.

The first shock of the book is just how old the strongest atheist arguments are. Spencer doesn’t quote my favourite, a Babylonian tablet from around 1,000 BC that was referenced in  Robert Bellah’s book, but the Book of Job is certainly a powerful argument against what you might call the corporate PR department of GodCo.

Over in Greece, the logical difficulties of an omnipotent and benevolent God were clear as soon as people got the concepts of omnipotence and benevolence straight. Everything you needed to be an intellectually fulfilled disbeliever in the Christian God was in place by the birth of Christ.

In this light, it’s remarkable not that there are atheists today, but that there were so few in the long centuries of Christendom’s glory. I don’t think persecution or the fear of persecution can account for this. It did not manage to suppress all manners of subtle heresy; why should it successfully suppress the most obvious and radical objection to the whole business?

One answer, Spencer suggests, is that important atheism is always secondary to theism. For any particular atheism to matter, there must be an important conception of God to be rejected; in that sense, atheism is closely related to blasphemy. And the concept of God is itself extremely flexible: some are so strange as to be unrecognisable as gods to other worshippers, which is one reason why the early Christians themselves appeared as atheists to the pagans around them.

Arguments against God’s justice, such as those we see in Babylon, are not arguments against his existence: they are arguments about his character, which presuppose that he has one. Modern atheism, in the sense of a rejection of Christian monotheistic conceptions of God, doesn’t really get started until the 18th century. But by the French Revolution, modern western arguments were clear except for the faith in science, which emerged in the next 100 years.

The study of how these arguments spread and ramified into their modern forms turns out to be historical and political, rather than philosophical. It was impossible to separate a reaction against Christianity from a reaction against the Christian church, and so the forms this opposition took was determined by the role of the church in the societies involved.

In France, Italy and Russia, autocratic and clerical regimes bred a fierce anti-clericalism, which slaughtered thousands of priests and nuns and tens of thousands of believers whenever a revolution brought it to power. In Germany and countries in the German cultural sphere, atheism was far more of an intellectual matter and the Protestant churches went much further towards meeting atheist arguments in good faith.

In Britain, Spencer argues, the weight of the Anglican establishment would have been a much more powerful stimulus to atheism had it not been for the presence of thriving traditions of leftwing Christianity – this was not just Methodism and the socially conscious forms of Anglican belief: the Catholic church in this country was on the side of the working classes against most of the establishment in a way unthinkable elsewhere in Europe. Of course, that had more to do with the situation of Ireland than with theology.  So the atheisms of modern England shadow those of Anglican England, ranging from a mild an undogmatic benevolence to rebarbative sectarian fervour.

Emphasis Mine


A One World Religion is Already Here

Source: the internet post

Author: kristalclear

Dear Humans,

Today I would like to return to your awareness an aspect of the Human condition that adheres to certain religious beliefs and practices. It has long been understood by the architects of social order that a belief system predicated on fear and consequence was essential for maintaining control and domination over a populace. From their perspective you can see how important a template of compliancy would be. So church was created along with its extrusions of laws and moral antecedents that were mixed into that catchall phrase called religion.

There are many sects and orders that offer an illusion of choice. But common threads weave through all the major belief systems. The most prevalent would be the concept of one God or monotheism. This proved to be a workable construct in the minds of many people as it seemed both reasonable and appealing. All beliefs share a scriptural tradition, piety and commitment to faith. There are leaders and followers, flocks and herders. They all “teach” moral lessons and in the process etch a somewhat sinister line between those who “believe” and those who do not.

In the following paragraphs we’ll take a brief look at this concept called church and religion. And though these institutions tower above us so that we must look up to see them, I can assure you that their lofty posturing is just a decadent attempt to make us feel very small. But there is one attribute these grandiose ideologies have overwhelmingly in common— people take them seriously.


Emphasis Mine