Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Capricious American Spirituality--the Pew Poll

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released an interesting report on the American religious landscape. The blogosphere was immediately filled with responses. Ivan himself almost posted on the subject post haste, but either apathy or reluctance got the best of him.

The results of the report are far from surprising: A dilluted, confused, spiritual amalgum hosted by a confused and fickle populous. Here are a few highlights:

• Roughly 44 percent of American adults have either switched religious affiliation, moved from being unaffiliated with any religion to being affiliated with a particular faith, or dropped any connection to a specific religious tradition altogether.
• The number of adults who said they are not affiliated with any particular faith today (16.1 percent) is more than double the number who said they were not affiliated with a particular religion as children.
• Among Americans ages 18-29, one-in-four say they are not currently affiliated with a particular religion.
• Protestantism is on the verge of becoming a minority. It is at 51 percent today as compared to the 1980s when almost two-thirds of the population was Protestant.
• Nearly four-in-ten people are married to a spouse with a different religious affiliation.
• Nearly one-third of those raised Catholic have left the religion, but due to immigration the overall percentage of Catholics remains stable.
• In sharp contrast to Islam and Hinduism, Buddhism in the United States is primarily made up of native-born adherents. Three-in-four Buddhists say they are converts to the religion.

Interestingly, religions that demanded the least of there adherents suffered the greatest spiritual migration.



So what, on God's earth, might cause half of the population of to change their religious affiliation in their lifetime? Ivan has a few theories, and is going to rank them in order of most to least frequent occurrence (in his humble, ready to admit he's wrong opinion).

1. Americans are taught to look out for El Numero Uno from an early age. Raised in a nation that is still decidedly religious, the impetus to affiliate with some sort of an organization that boasts spiritual connectedness is far from uncouth; however, due to El Numero Uno syndrome, our desire to be a part of group has more to do with meeting our needs and what makes us look/feel good than it does with actually adoring, worshipping, getting to know, following the will of, and so forth, God.

2. Following in the footsteps of mother Europe, we have wholeheartedly embraced post enlightenment ideals. Certainly the rise of subjectivity and skeptical approach had to have left an indelible fingerprint on spirituality. Religion has always been coherent with morality. However, recent thinking accepts the subjective notion that absolute morality is a pipe dream. The religious in our society then see little to no difference amongst religions (Ivan included interdenominationalism in "religion").

3. Some realize that the system to which they adhere is fundametally flawed in it's appraoch to God. Perhaps they see this in terms of doctrine; that is, they suddenly become aware that the group of which they apart has extremely missed the mark in understanding metaphysical princiles. Perhaps see this in terms of theology. They see that their group has misunderstood the nature of God and how he interacts, and expects his creation to interact with humanity.

Who knows. What do you think? Have you ever switched faiths/denominations? Why?

3 comments:

redison said...

1. Americans are taught to look out for El Numero Uno from an early age. Raised in a nation that is still decidedly religious, the impetus to affiliate with some sort of an organization that boasts spiritual connectedness is far from uncouth; however, due to El Numero Uno syndrome, our desire to be a part of group has more to do with meeting our needs and what makes us look/feel good than it does with actually adoring, worshipping, getting to know, following the will of, and so forth, God.

Yes, I think this is the primary reason. Most of the time, people change affiliations based on what that change will do for them, or what "needs" it fulfills. This is why it is so hard to find a church that has a healthy mixture of the young and the old.

I'm no saint though. My church is definitely aimed at the younger crowd, and I go. But I wish "The Church" could be looked at in the broader sense that it is meant to be looked at...universally. Less factions, and more acceptance of others.

Young people need to start belting out hymns like there's no tomorrow. Old people need to start shaking their hips as much as they can.

Adam said...

Nate,
check my blog. I responded to your comment on obama's pastor. I'm interested in your thoughts.

tysdaddy said...

The biggest switch I ever made denominationally was from the Assemblies of God to an Evangelical Free church. This was in the early years of my marriage, right out of college. We tried to attend the AoG warehouse but found it way too big and noisy. This was nothing new to me, but my wife, raised in a little country missionary church, was a bit overwhelmed. I also began to question many of the AoG doctrines (tongues, baptism in the spirit (as they proclaim it's manifestation) etc.) and found them to be wanting. I was drawn to the Evangelical Free church mainly because 1) a friend suggested it, 2) the pastor's messages were on the radio station I listened to on the way to the AoG church, and 3) they emphasized expository preaching and bible study, something I needed at that point in my life.

In the end, I felt fed as opposed to starved.

That's my two cents.

Thanks for stopping by my blog, btw. I hope you enjoyed your visit.

Peace!

Brian