Tuesday, September 22, 2009

People with No Religious Affiliation Increasing

The following is from today's USA Today. I have a few observations at the bottom if you're interested.

Grace & peace


By Erich Schlegel, for USA TODAY
On a typical Sunday morning, Diane and Stefan Mueller don't go to church they often walk their dogs and take their son Kai to play in nearby parks.

Join the conversation on religion, spirituality and ethics here.
And catch up on interesting news with USA TODAY'sCathy Lynn Grossman.

By Cathy Lynn Grossman, USA TODAY
Americans who don't identify with any religion are now 15% of the USA, but trends in a new study shows they could one day surpass the nation's largest denominations — including Catholics, now 24% of the nation.

American Nones: Profile of the No Religion Population, to be released today by Trinity College, finds this faith-free group already includes nearly 19% of U.S. men and 12% of women. Of these, 35% say they were Catholic at age 12.

FAITH & REASON: What's your religious path: Any, many, one or none?
"Will a day come when the Nones are on top? We can't predict for sure," says lead researcher Barry Kosmin.
But if Nones, now 22% of all adults ages 18 to 29, continue to gain among young adults, to draw more people "switching out" from denominations and to replace more religious older people, researchers forecast one in five Americans will be Nones in 20 years.
"Trends clearly favor this," Kosmin says. But he also notes, "There could be a Great Awakening (massive Protestant revival) or immigration may bring in more Catholic believers."
Kosmin and Ariela Keysar of Trinity College, Hartford, Conn., directed three editions of the American Religious Identification Survey over 18 years. The 2008 ARIS (pdf), based on a sampling of 54,000 U.S. adults, also burrowed in for a closer look at 1,106 Nones, who answered extra questions about their beliefs and behaviors and views on God.

ARIS: Most religious groups have lost ground in USA
'NONES': Now 15% of population

The report finds:
•Not all Nones are alike. Half (51%) still believe in God or a higher power.
•Nones also are the only major U. S. faith group that's majority male. Even when girls grow up with unbelieving parents, they're more likely to find a faith as adults than their brothers.
"Women are also less skeptical than men and less drawn to irreligious and anti-religious views. They are more likely to reject a secular upbringing," Kosmin says.
"There is a lot of 'churning' going on but Nones gain much more from switching (people leaving religion) than from natural growth (children emulating unbelieving parents)," he says.
•The percentage of atheist Nones — who say there's no such thing as God — hasn't budged in years.
"It's not as though dozens of people at the Methodist Church read (atheist Richard) Dawkins and suddenly decided God doesn't exist," says Kosmin.
"There are so many misconceptions about who the Nones are. They're not New Age searchers or spiritual or even hardened atheists," says Kosmin.
"They're a stew of agnostics, deists and rationalists. They sound more like Thomas Jefferson and Tom Paine. Their very interesting enlightenment approach is like the Founding Fathers' kind: Skeptical about organized religion and clerics while still holding to an idea of God."
One quirky fact: 33% of Nones claim Irish ancestry, although the U.S. Census says only 10% of the USA does.

"We have no idea why," he says. "Maybe you could ask (Fox newscaster) Bill O'Reilly.
In some way, researchers found Nones are very much like the overall, largely religious, U.S. population. There's no statistical difference on education, or income or marital status. They are just as likely to be divorced as anybody else.

"Nones are not a fringe group anymore and are now part of Middle America. They're present in every socio-demographic group, Keysar concludes in their report.

Some observations:

HARVEST - In John 4:35 Jesus says, "I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest." (We spoke briefly about this verse on Sunday as we discussed the "Days of Elijah".) Initially the headline may not seem like there are a lot of people who are ready to be introduced to Jesus. But...

ATHESISTS - the article said the number of people who don't believe in God has NOT increased in years. People may be leaving large denominations, but they are NOT deciding in mass numbers that they don't believe in God at all. Which means...

SEEKERS - there are a larger number of people in the U.S. than ever who aren't really sure WHAT they believe or are wondering WHO they can trust.

CONFUSED - Many are confused about where Truth can be found. (Interested in joining the next group meeting for the Truth Project from our church on Sun. PM's? See Terri Kalmbach.)

FAITHFUL & PASSIONATE - More than ever the Spirit is seeking men and women, boys and girls, who will be faithful to Him and passionate for people who don't know God.

Will you recommit yourself today to be such a person and to live that sort of life?

Grace & peace

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