The ARIS -- American Religious identification Survey is released.
The percentage of Americans claiming no religion, which jumped from 8.2 in 1990 to 14.2 in 2001, has now increased to 15 percent. ....
Only 1.6 percent of Americans call themselves atheist or agnostic. But based on stated beliefs, 12 percent are atheist (no God) or agnostic (unsure), while 12 percent more are deistic (believe in a higher power but not a personal God). The number of outright atheists has nearly doubled since 2001, from 900 thousand to 1.6 million. Twenty-seven percent of Americans do not expect a religious funeral at their death.
So, organized religion is a big turn-off, not only to the secularists who don't believe, but to many who do. This agrees with surveys from The Barna Group suggesting that Christianity is no longer the "default religion" in the USA. Why do you think think this might be? I have a few ideas. And a big part is that the daily news isn't exactly giving Christianity a good image.
Item: Brazilian Bishop with approval of the Vatican excommunicates the mother and doctors who provided an abortion to 9 year old girl, who was raped and impregnated by her stepfather. The doctors felt it was life-threatening for the child to carry babies to term. The Bishop didn't think that was justification for the surgery. However, the stepfather wasn't excommunicated. Raping a child is forgiveable, it seems. Saving her life isn't.
Item: A ski lift operator shot the general manager of a Colorado ski resort, after announcing he would kill any co-workers who weren't Christian. Ironically, the manager was (and stated he was) Catholic. The killer shot him anyway.
Item: The Roman Catholic Church and the Mormons united in an unholy alliance to attack gay marriage in Proposition 8 and impose their religious values on the public. They used explicitly religious arguments prior to the vote, and stated that gay marriage discriminated against Christians. Following the election the archbishops of San Francisco and Los Angeles told the gay community to shut up and get over it. Other Prop8 supporters complained that gays upset by the vote are no better than terrorists. This has led to considerable anti-religious rhetoric in California.
Item: National Association of Evangelicals fired Rev. Richard Cizik as its vice president for governmental affairs for daring to support civil unions (not gay marriage, mind you, just civil unions).
Even young evangelicals are increasingly put off by the focus on social (sexual) "hot button" issues to the exclusion of other aspects of faith. They are no longer lockstep conservatives. Intolerance alienates young people and others from religion generally.
The irony is that Christianity is based at some level on a pacifist hippie who preached poverty, unjudging love and mutual respect. All of which seems conspicuously absent in the dominant expression of Christianity and indeed religion, in the US. No wonder there's a recruiting problem. Another commenter writes
because media coverage of evangelical Christianity so closely hews to particular political controversies, evangelism is presented not as religious practice but as a set of explanations and justifications for positions on the issues of the day. In other words, it’s seen as a totalizing worldview. Mainliners who suspect their beliefs deviate from the accepted line could be declining to call themselves "Christian" because they don’t see Christianity as an explanation for everything
This conflation of one form of religion with political views and its ascendancy in the press has real and negative consequences for all of us. The challenge is for liberal Christians and others of faith to be identified with something conspicuously different than the sex-obsession of the conservative denominations. It may be too late.
I believe that the knee-jerk response against religion in the political sphere is largely driven as a response to the conservative religionists who are attempting to force their view of morality on all others by "majority rules". (Just think: if "majority rules" ruled, then "activist judges" would never have de-segregated the South). This is because it is the conservatives who are most active in limiting the fundamental rights of others. How do we establish meaningful discourse and protect ALL our rights, when we have such profound disagreements?