Friday, April 9, 2010

Changes in religious identity - a glance at the numbers

See how U.S. religious landscape has changed in nearly 2 decades -

h/t San Diego Anglicans.

For South Dakota, the percentage of residents identifying as Catholic or Other Christian is down 17%; Other or No Religion is + 11.

I doubt that the survey controls for Liberal Protestant groups (including many Episcopalians) that are not Christian by any serious definition and belong in the "other religion" category.

Nominal/cultural Christianity is fading and the church's energy and growth are shifting to Africa, Asia and parts of Latin America.

I don't raise this as an "alarm" - it's just what is. Makes for interesting discussion about causes and correlations, and questions about divine purpose and plan.


Scott said...

Thanks for the post.

A second thought: Maybe the "other" or "no religion" growth comes also from those who have left Protestant Mainline Churches, and have become disgusted with what they know of "organized religion". Just sayin'...

And, I don't intend to point fingers in any particular's just a thought. I probably should look more at the study results to understand them.

Have a good weekend Tim! :-)

TLF+ said...

I think the "No Religion" group certainly contains a cohort of folks wounded by (or preemptively suspicious of) institutional religion. I think there's a small blip of the media hyped "new atheists" (who really don't have a single new thing to say, but I digress). Most of the "No Religion" growth, I would guess, comes from people who grew up under nominally Christian but practically pagan parents, and/or in churches that imparted nothing worth keeping.

David Handy+ said...

As this is a once-a-decade census year, it's too bad that the US Census Bureau doesn't collect religious info anymore (not since 1906). But there is absolutely no doubt that the number of people who openly admit to having "no religious preference" or "none" on surveys has grown enormously in the last few decades.

We are truly living in a radically new social environment that I like to call a "Post-Christendom" era. It's not "post-Christian" so much as reflecting the breakup of the old marriage between western culture and Christianity. The famous American experiment of "separation between church and state" has devolved into an outright divorce.

But in some ways that is a blessing in disguise. For we Christians have almost always done well when we knew ourselves to be a minority group, often a misunderstood, maligned or even persecuted minority group. But we've floundered when we were comfortable and complacent as the socially favored majority.

But in order for us to thrive again, or even survive, in this hostile new social context we find ourselves in, we have to wake up and recognize the signs of the times, and that our old Constantinian ways (at least in "mainline" Protestantism) are obsolete and counterproductive in this new post-Christendom world. But the pre-Constantinian Church did just fine in a similar world, and we can too. If we are willing to pay the same high price that they did for following Christ.