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%
• 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.)