15 March 2009


        According to a 2008 survey just released by American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) and reported in a story in USA Today, people who call themselves Christians in the U.S. has dropped 11% in the last 18 years. The Bible Belt is not as Baptist as it was, the Rust Belt is less Catholic, and throughout the country people are exploring fringe religions or dropping religion completely. 
        Survey co-author Barry Kosmin says, "More than ever before, people are just making up their own stories of who they are. They say, 'I'm everything. I'm nothing. I believe in myself.'"
        In  the 1990 ARIS survey Kosmin concluded that many saw God as a "personal hobby." Today, he says, "Religion has become more like a fashion statement, not a deep personal commitment for many."
        USA Today writer Cathy Lynn Grossman says that we have become a nation of freelancers when it comes to religion.

ARIS 2008 Survey findings include:
        • Americans claiming no religion is 15%, up from 8%
          in 1990
        • This non-religious category outranks every other
          major religious group except Catholics and Baptists.
        • Baptists stand at 15.8%, down from 19.3% in 1990
        • Mainstream Protestsants are in sharp decline.
          Methodists dropped from 8% to 5%
        • Jewish numbers declined from 1.8% to 1.2%
          (some surveys show higher numbers, but those 
          include "cultural" Jews who don't necessarily 
          practice their religion)
        • Muslims have doubled from 0.3% to 0.6%
        • Challenges to Christianity don't come from other
          religions but from rejection of all forms of religion
        • Nearly 2.8 million people identify with new
          movements such as Wiccan paganism.
        • While Oregon previously led the nation in those who 
          responded NONE when asked to identify a religious
          affiliation, Vermont now leads the country with 34%

        A 48 year old woman from Rutland, VT says she is upfront about being an atheist because "It's important for us to be counted. I'm a taxpayer and a law-abiding citizen and an ethical person, and I don't think people assume this about atheists."

Factors which played some role in declining numbers among the religious include:
        • News stories about sexual abuse by clergy
        • Young people affiliating with coworkers and online 
          friendships more than in churches.
        • People moving from strongly-religious older
        • The "piety gap" between those who support gay
          marriage, abortion rights, and stem cell research and
          those who don't

        "Rise of the Godless," a report in National Journal, widely read by members of Congress, stated:
        "In the past, politicians in Washington and elsewhere could largely ignore the Godless. But those days are over. With their numbers growing, nonbelievers are intent on pushing a political and legislative agenda governed more by cool reason than by faith."

The USA Today story includes much more information.
Click HERE for interactive graphs and videos.
See also: Rise of the Godless from National Journal (in pdf format)
and The End of Christian America from Newsweek.
(Thanks to FRED from NV for alerting
me to the Newsweek article.)


Snave said...

Ah, here are the numbers I was saying I didn't know about in a comment on your most recent post! Thanks! I should have looked down here a ways.

Snave said...

I don't like the term "Godless". That is far-right Anne Coulter crap, just more bad stuff designed to make non-believers look bad. Our numbers are rising, so those desperate believers feel like they have to come up with new ways to demonize those who don't think the same exact ways they do. Scheise...

Good to see the sharp decline in the number of Baptists. Let's see if that one will go down into single digits. On the other hand, are those who are no longer Baptists migrating to even more fundamentalist pentecostal foursquare holy roller churches?

So Vermont has now outranked my Oregon as the least-churched state? Damn you, Vermonters! 8-) Time for us to get busy here in Oregon!!!

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