Skip to main content

The ARIS -- American Religious identification Survey is released.
Big news:

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 wrote elsewhere  

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?

Originally posted to I T on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 01:56 PM PDT.

Poll

Are you...

45%86 votes
10%19 votes
6%13 votes
0%1 votes
3%6 votes
0%0 votes
4%8 votes
24%45 votes
4%9 votes

| 187 votes | Vote | Results

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

    •  Alms if you so require..;) (5+ / 0-)

      I'll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there's evidence of any thinking going on inside it.~Terry Pratchett [-4.88. -6.97]

      by LaFeminista on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 01:58:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'll take indulgences if I have to ;-) nt (6+ / 0-)
        •  Interesting and thought-provoking diary (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          imabluemerkin, Wolf Of Aquarius

          I think religion is losing some steam for a variety of reasons.

          I've read, although not seen polls, that younger evangelicals are really turned off by the scorched-earth message of some right-wing Christians.  As in, they don't care for the way that many right-wing evangelicals "dominate" and spoil the earth rather than acting as good stewards.

          This makes sense given the fact that people who are young now have a far longer time to deal with the consequences of the environmental degradation that goes along with the dominate the earth kind of thinking.

          A second reason could be because there is such a stark contradiction of reality from many right-wing Christians when they deny basic scientific facts or fundamental well-accepted scientific theories.  When any religion flies in the face of facts people with a brain in their head are going to get turned off.

          A third reason could be that the new millenium came and went without a "rapture" episode to keep the millenarianism weirdness surrounding the dawn of the 21st century going.

          From what I've read, just about every time a 100 or 1000 year "cycle" ends the millenarian thing rears its ugly head and a lot of suggestible people get religion.  It fades over time only to return at the end of the next cycle.  It's been 9 years now so maybe these suggestible people are seeing that no major religious "transformation" of the earth is coming and they're losing interest.

          Then again, it could be that people are just sick of religious "leaders" fomenting hate and a "you can't have fun and still be Christian" attitude.

          The haters for Jesus crowd must be off-putting to those who were raised to think Jesus was more about loving your neighbor.

          "The time for justice is always right now!" - Samantha Booke, Wiley College debate team, 1935

          by Edgewater on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 04:29:07 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  What with.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grada3784

    ....all of the posts today about faith?  This is, what....about the 15th today.

    "Strength over weakness, pride over humility, and knowledge over faith."

    by Fuzzy5150 on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 02:01:30 PM PDT

  •  But but you must have a god (6+ / 0-)

    to start a war, it stands to reason that that lot over the hill worships a false idol!

    I'll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there's evidence of any thinking going on inside it.~Terry Pratchett [-4.88. -6.97]

    by LaFeminista on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 02:01:32 PM PDT

  •  I despise organized religion... (7+ / 0-)

    I am a liberal secular humanist...

    It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment. Ansel Adams -6.5 -6.75

    by Statusquomustgo on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 02:02:50 PM PDT

  •  there is a rebirth of the liberal mainline (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grada3784

    protestant churches across America

    •  Um.... (5+ / 0-)

      No, there isn't.

      The percentage of Christians in America, which declined in the 1990s from 86.2 percent to 76.7 percent, has now edged down to 76 percent. Ninety percent of the decline comes from the non-Catholic segment of the Christian population, largely from the mainline denominations, including Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians/Anglicans, and the United Church of Christ. These groups, whose proportion of the American population shrank from 18.7 percent in 1990 to 17.2 percent in 2001, all experienced sharp numerical declines this decade and now constitute just 12.9 percent.

      Most of the growth in the Christian population occurred among those who would identify only as "Christian," "Evangelical/Born Again," or "non-denominational Christian." The last of these, associated with the growth of megachurches, has increased from less than 200,000 in 1990 to 2.5 million in 2001 to over 8 million today. These groups grew from 5 percent of the population in 1990 to 8.5 percent in 2001 to 11.8 percent in 2008. Significantly, 38.6 percent of mainline Protestants now also identify themselves as evangelical or born again.

      "It looks like the two-party system of American Protestantism--mainline versus evangelical--is collapsing," said Mark Silk, director of the Public Values Program. "A generic form of evangelicalism is emerging as the normative form of non-Catholic Christianity in the United State s."

      Or by "rebirth" do you mean "steep decline in adherents"? I guess one could read those to be congruent....

      •  Look at Where the Growth in Christians Is... (5+ / 0-)

        And you'll see the most frightening bunch of intolerant nutjobs threatening the US today.

        I drove past a "Christian" church last night and saw the following posted on their sign:

        This Sunday: THE TYRANNY OF TOLERACE (sic)

        The non-denominational Christians and the fundamentalists/born-agains are proudly agents of hatred and intolerance, and judging from the people that worship in these congregations, the leaders prey upon the vast herds of ignorant and/or incurious and/or plain stupid people who distrust education, educated people, Teh Gay and colored people. To hear these pious people rail under their breath against "those damn foreigners who won't learn proper English" when they see a family chatting in, say, Tagalog-- it's sickening.

        And of course-- their hypocrisy doesn't register for one millisecond with their reptilian brains.

        I am beginning to lose hope for this country. These yahoos are the fruit of the Republicans' war against the US. I repeat-- sickening.

        Until we are all equal, no one is equal. Pass ENDA NOW!! MARRIAGE EQUALITY NOW!!

        by CajunBoyLgb on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 02:42:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You should hear 'em talk (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          grada3784

          when I speak Esperanto.

        •  Aw! (4+ / 0-)

          I am beginning to lose hope for this country. These yahoos are the fruit of the Republicans' war against the US. I repeat-- sickening.

          Hey--c'mon! Read those survey results again. Christianity, and indeed organized religion as a whole, are shrinking in the United States. The wacko fundies aren't seizing power; they're just grabbing more deck chairs away from their liberal cohorts on the promenade of the Titanic-esque U.S.S. Religion, while that boat continues sinking fast. It's we "Nones" who are growing by leaps and bounds!

          Take heart: a bunch of the offspring of the "yahoos" you fear will end up as "Nones" themselves!

          It seems to me that this survey is clearly very good news for seculars, not bad.

          •  You got it right... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            grada3784

            There will continue to be a decline in faith in God. There will be an increase in humanism. Eventually, the humanist will insist that the believers in any religion is the reason for the wars and rumors of wars. Therefore a believer in any religion will be deemed to be an enemy of the world. Stop believing in God and all our problems will go away.  

            Anyway, that's what God says will happen. But it's against the law to believe in God, so that can't be right, right?

            •  Hm. (0+ / 0-)

              Eventually, the humanist will insist that the believers in any religion is the reason for the wars and rumors of wars. Therefore a believer in any religion will be deemed to be an enemy of the world.

              I'm sorry--you seem to have mistaken my comment for a delusional fantasy about nonexistent oppression of religious people. Nothing of the kind is going to happen, nor would the overwhelming majority of the atheists in the United States be interested in seeing such events come to pass.


              But it's against the law to believe in God....

              No, it isn't--and it never will be, so long as we freethinkers have anything to say about it.

              There is no need to ban, or to place other punitive legal consequences upon, religious belief. The U.S.S. Religion is going down for the same reason that her sister ship, the European Religion, sank decades ago: even when religion is overwhelmingly favored by society, rising levels of education and social security inevitably destroy religion.

              We're never going to ban your beliefs; we have no desire to do so. Your children and grandchildren are just going to deconvert, even though we'll take few-to-zero intentional steps to achieve that. That, and not some kind of absurd atheist pogrom that will never take place, is the (extremely probable) future you should be worried about.

    •  Not exactly. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Odysseus, grada3784, MsMadrigal, mama jo

      The opposite is happening.  Mainline "high" churches (Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterian, etc., are in freefall, while the nondenominational megachurch is ascendant.  Tragic, really...

      No politician ever lost an election by underestimating the intelligence of the American public. PT Barnum, paraphrased...

      by jarhead5536 on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 02:46:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  the nondenom churches are a little scary to me (5+ / 0-)

        for several reasons, but mainly this one:  the pastor doesn't necessarily have to have graduated from any kind of seminary or course of study.
        so someone who may be a good and/or dynamic preacher could have some seriously strange theological views to pass on to his congregation.

        •  From an earlier comment I made (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          grada3784, CajunBoyLgb, mama jo

          This is the biggest criticism of all regarding the megachurch movement.  Following Jesus is hard, people.  A real church makes enormous demands of us, and requires that we live up to a near impossible ideal of social service and unconditional love for all humanity.  Churches like Osteens simply tell people that they don't have to think about anything, do anything, or change anything

          No politician ever lost an election by underestimating the intelligence of the American public. PT Barnum, paraphrased...

          by jarhead5536 on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 04:01:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Quite frankly (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            mama jo

            If the mega-churches were telling their congregations they don't have to do or change anything I'd be ok with the small percentage of people in those churches doing their celebrate the Lord thing.

            But that isn't what a lot of these mega-churches are preaching.

            They're telling their congregations to go out and make a pain in the ass of themselves evangelicalizing all the rest of us.

            They're also telling their congregations they need to do things like stand outside family-planning clinics screaming at women seeking medical care.

            The list of "changes" they're telling their congregation to work for is pretty odious.

            That is the biggest criticism of the mega-churches I have - that they don't keep their crazy to themselves.

            "The time for justice is always right now!" - Samantha Booke, Wiley College debate team, 1935

            by Edgewater on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 04:46:24 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  By change (0+ / 0-)

              I meant themselves.  They are not charged with any self-examination or work on their own character...

              No politician ever lost an election by underestimating the intelligence of the American public. PT Barnum, paraphrased...

              by jarhead5536 on Wed Mar 11, 2009 at 05:39:34 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Is Secular supposed to be the same as Atheist? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, grada3784, enhydra lutris

    Because the definitions are different, why isn't atheist on this list? Ahh, just left out of the conversation again, but that's okay, we are used to it.

    •  I consider secularist to include atheist (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      grada3784

      It's a more inclusive term for the "unreligious".  As an atheist myself, I don't find it excluding.  Sorry if you do.

      •  there is a difference (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        grada3784, enhydra lutris, Edgewater

        i think the difference between being unreligious, but perhaps believing in a diety and being unreligious but believing there is NOT a diety, is a much bigger difference than, for example, how a Protestant or Evangelical interpets the story of Jesus.

        Side note, my opinion is that Christianity IS based on a miracle. Out of all the pregnant teenage girls that ever lived, Mary was one of the few to CONVINCE people she was a virgin. I'm sure many have made the claim over the years, but the miracle was that she convinced her family and Joseph.

        •  The unwed teenage mother (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          grada3784, looking and listening

          The only one the conservatives ever approved of.

        •  Yes... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          grada3784, Edgewater

          i think the difference between being unreligious, but perhaps believing in a diety and being unreligious but believing there is NOT a diety, is a much bigger difference than, for example, how a Protestant or Evangelical interpets the story of Jesus.

          Perhaps. The ARIS study the diarist refers to does indeed use "secular" (and indeed "None," as in one answer to the question "What religion are you, if any?") as a category that includes atheists but not only atheists.

          The authors of the study have some additional information about how us "Nones" break down regarding our (non)beliefs here. A couple of highlights:

          The No Religion Population includes respondents who self-identified as:

          Atheist 4.0%
          Agnostic 6.0%
          Humanist/Secular/Ethical Culture 1.0%
          No Religion/None 89.0%
          [Total] 100.0%


          Regarding the existence of God, do you think…?

          There is no such thing 9.0%
          There is no way to know 21.0%
          I'm not sure 19.0%
          There is a higher power but no personal God 23.0%
          There is definitely a personal God 21.0%
          Don't know/Refused 7.0%
          [Total] 100.0%

          Make of those numbers what you will.


          Out of all the pregnant teenage girls that ever lived, Mary was one of the few to CONVINCE people she was a virgin. I'm sure many have made the claim over the years, but the miracle was that she convinced her family and Joseph.

          Well, that's one hypothesis. Another possibility is that "Mary" never really existed as such--that no one ever thought up a name for Jesus' mother or concocted the idea that she was a virgin at the time of his birth... until long after he died. (The oldest Gospel, Mark, never mentions a virgin birth.)

          Still another possibility is that the Gospels are fiction, and neither Jesus and Mary ever actually existed as anything more than ideas in people's heads. If so, Mary and Jesus' exploits are no more miraculous than Harry Potter's successful spells.

          Neither one of those hypotheses admits of any conclusive contradictory evidence. So I guess I don't see a sufficient basis for concluding that there was any "miracle" here--even Mary's supposed success at convincing Joseph et al. that she'd been impregnated by a deity.

    •  For the purpose of the ARIS survey (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sberel, grada3784

      "not religious" included roughly 58% of atheists+agnostics, and the rest were divided between theists and deists.

  •  What does nontheist Buddhism come under? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grada3784, enhydra lutris

    I'll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there's evidence of any thinking going on inside it.~Terry Pratchett [-4.88. -6.97]

    by LaFeminista on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 02:06:08 PM PDT

  •  Listen, guys, there are limited options for polls (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grada3784

    So I couldn't fit everyone in there--so no Shinto, Hindu, animist, Wicca, pagan, or otherwise.

    And I couldn't separate atheist, agnostic, humanist, etc.

    Sometimes we have to be lumpers, rather than splitters.

  •  Do Hindus not count? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grada3784

    Why no poll option?

    "There is nothing wrong with America can't be cured by what is right with America" -Bill Clinton

    by SensibleDemocrat on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 02:35:23 PM PDT

  •  Most of the polls I cannot answer (4+ / 0-)

    Other then answering other.

    Sigh..and pout even. :(

    "The pursuit, even of the best things, ought to be calm and tranquil." Marcus Tullius Cicero

    by BFSkinner on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 02:36:38 PM PDT

  •  Doesnt secualar mean (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grada3784

    separation of church and state

    "There is nothing wrong with America can't be cured by what is right with America" -Bill Clinton

    by SensibleDemocrat on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 02:37:32 PM PDT

  •  I like the term, "secularist" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grada3784

    Thanks for including it.

    Save the parrots: Drink shade-grown coffee!

    by oscarsmom on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 02:52:03 PM PDT

  •  Agnostic Buddhist - n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grada3784
  •  secular progressive democrat. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel, grada3784, I T

    Progressive Era

    "Progressives shared a common belief in the ability of science, technology and disinterested expertise to identify problems and come up with the best solution.

    Progressives moved to enable the citizenry to rule more directly and circumvent political bosses"

    I identify strongly with President Kennedy.

    President Kennedy Rice University:

    William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony, said that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.

    If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind

    --skip--

    We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man

    --skip--

    We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we're willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone"

  •  Lyndon Johnson (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lefty Mama, grada3784

    (who is a hero of mine) once said, "Greater love hath no man than to attend the Episcopal Church with his wife.'  That pissed me off a wee bit when I was an Episcopalian.

    I still have an irrational and sentimental fondness for the Episcopalians, but my concept of rationality (and my hopes for a saner world) allow no room for any religion.

    I wish we secular humanists had some really cool buildings, decked out with decent art, where we could gather to sing and do charitable work.

    Arguments are to be avoided; they are always vulgar and often convincing. Oscar Wilde

    by MsMadrigal on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 03:32:39 PM PDT

  •  Pastafarian (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    grada3784

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster has touched me with his noodly appendage!

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site