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The Big Picture

'Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates? Morons.' -- Vizzini from "The Princess Bride"

Monday, February 25, 2008

New Religion Survey Out

The AP, via CNN, has an article out about a new survey of religious attitudes in the US. The survey was quite large for this type -- 35,000 Americans were interviewed. The main point:

While much of the study confirms earlier findings -- mainline Protestant churches are in decline, non-denominational churches are gaining and the ranks of the unaffiliated are growing -- it also provides a deeper look behind those trends, and of smaller religious groups.

Some of the interesting numbers:

The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey estimates the United States is 78 percent Christian and about to lose its status as a majority Protestant nation, at 51 percent and slipping.
More than one-quarter of American adults have left the faith of their childhood for another religion or no religion at all, the survey found. Factoring in moves from one stream or denomination of Protestantism to another, the number rises to 44 percent.
One in four adults ages 18 to 29 claim no affiliation with a religious institution.
The majority of the unaffiliated -- 12 percent of the overall population -- describe their religion as "nothing in particular," and about half of those say faith is at least somewhat important to them.
Atheists or agnostics account for 4 percent of the total population.
Although evangelical churches strive to win new Christian believers from the "unchurched," the survey found most converts to evangelical churches were raised Protestant.

Obviously there is a lot of meat in this survey, and the story itself is rather dry, so here is my rather humble opinion.

First off, I really have to wonder just how many people are completely honest in a survey like this, and what is the methodology to check that... I mean only one in 25 Americans is an atheist? Whereas, the number of self-identified Christians certainly seems about right -- it is in line with most all previous surveys indicating about 80% of Americans are Christian. Secondly, the battle for the minds of those learning about their place in the world and universe, are turning away from religion, calling themselves unaffiliated with religion.

But my main thought on all this is rather simple. The numbers presented here does bode well for the future of atheism/agnosticism. The reason is that if more and more Americans are switching their religious affiliations within Christianity, and/or becoming one of those "nothing at all" people, then eventually religion will recede. This must necessarily happen because as people switch affiliations, things they once believed or were taught will then become "wrong" in the new religious doctrine. And as those people begin to wonder why they will realize that the source of all that confusion is the only source for their religion, the bible. And if the bible is such a muddled mess, maybe it could just be wrong.

And if it could be wrong, then those people would be much more likely to listen to the rationale behind atheism/agnosticism.

Update: Rob Boston has a different and interesting take on this survey. His background is roughly similar to mine -- Catholic family, siblings change religions -- and I think adds another dimension to why I wrote what I did in this post, and why I write what I do on this blog.

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