“Is America less religious?”

Headline writers have been having fun with this story:

“More Americans than ever spurning religion”

“Study Reveals Americans are less Christian than ever”

“Christian share of U.S. population falls quickly”

Too bad it’s all fluff.

The recent finding by Pew Research that Americans identifying themselves as Christians is lower than ever carries the connotation that the nation is sinking into immorality.

Oh?

That’s the problem when equating church-going with moral conduct.

Or equating ANY religion with moral conduct.

The most church-going region of our nation has always been the South.  And yet the South is where slavery was upheld with such fervor as to separate from the nation and go to war in the 19th Century.  In the 20th Century, apartheid in the South was upheld during the heaviest church-going years such that it became an easy observation to say “the most segregated hour in America is 11 o’clock on Sunday morning.”

The North has proven no better:  the race problems in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, New York City…All occurred during the years of high church attendance from the 1940s to the 1960s.

In addition, discrimination against women and against gays has been authorized by churches for generations.  Progress in human relations has been spurred primarily by the non-religious.  Churches have had to play catch-up.  And the holdouts remain the “religious.”

Additionally still, the anti-science sentiment in America consists primarily of church-goers, mainly the largest “Christian” segment in the country — evangelicals.  Not only are they anti-science, they are laughably so — with support for so-called “creation science,” an oxymoron if ever there was one — and underhanded attempts (so much for honesty) to insert creationism into public schools under the guise of “intelligent design.”

America is the ONLY industrial, Western nation where a sizable percentage of the population does not believe in evolution.  Those are the pew-sitters.

The people whom I know who have given up going to church or synagogue — and I know MANY in this “category” — are among the most trustworthy, ethical, hard-working, conscientious people anybody would be blessed to know.  Many have been in the front ranks of those in our nation calling for equal opportunity, environmental protection, social justice and democracy (fighting the bullying by big money in politics).

Let’s not allow the headline writers to rile us up over the “loss of religion” in America.  Church-going doesn’t equal morality, enlightenment or progress.

One person who adamantly refused to join any church in his adulthood was Abraham Lincoln.  He couldn’t take the dogmatism of the religious.  Lincoln famously said, The only church he would join would be a congregation that held to only one doctrine:  the Golden Rule.

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One thought on ““Is America less religious?”

  1. Mike Hout

    Thanks for these interpretations. A couple of distinctions to help clarify both Pew’s findings and their implications. The headlines and the underlying data refer to people’s identification with an organized religion. The Pew study and other similar research shows that Americans are less and less identified with a particular church but neither belief nor attendance at religious services shows much change over the same time period. You move among “Christian,” “believer,” and “church-goers” as if they are the same population. The Pew study shows that believers are less likely to identify with a religion. My own calculations from another study show that church attendance and belief are both increasing among the “nones” as they become more prevalent and diverse.

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