This has been an ongoing trend for a few years now and it does my heart good after listening to Theocratic minded politicians all day. The folks at USATODAY.com have a cool chart on the decline and the corresponding up tick in the numbers of non-believers:
The percentage of people who call themselves in some way Christian has dropped more than 11% in a generation. The faithful have scattered out of their traditional bases: The Bible Belt is less Baptist. The Rust Belt is less Catholic. And everywhere, more people are exploring spiritual frontiers — or falling off the faith map completely.
These dramatic shifts in just 18 years are detailed in the new American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), to be released today. It finds that, despite growth and immigration that has added nearly 50 million adults to the U.S. population, almost all religious denominations have lost ground since the first ARIS survey in 1990.
“More than ever before, people are just making up their own stories of who they are. They say, ‘I’m everything. I’m nothing. I believe in myself,’ ” says Barry Kosmin, survey co-author.
You can bet that we’ll be seeing a lot of articles from the Religious Right over the next few days totally freaking out over this study. You can also expect to see the RR get even more shrill and defensive of their beliefs as a result. Best of all, the category of “no religion” has grown significantly. Not all of them are atheists or agnostics, but they’re not far from it I’d bet:
• So many Americans claim no religion at all (15%, up from 8% in 1990), that this category now outranks every other major U.S. religious group except Catholics and Baptists. In a nation that has long been mostly Christian, “the challenge to Christianity … does not come from other religions but from a rejection of all forms of organized religion,” the report concludes.
If that doesn’t warm the cockles of your heathen heart then nothing will. Expect attacks from the Christians about how evil we atheists are to increase as a result of the above statistic.
• Catholic strongholds in New England and the Midwest have faded as immigrants, retirees and young job-seekers have moved to the Sun Belt. While bishops from the Midwest to Massachusetts close down or consolidate historic parishes, those in the South are scrambling to serve increasing numbers of worshipers.
• Baptists, 15.8% of those surveyed, are down from 19.3% in 1990. Mainline Protestant denominations, once socially dominant, have seen sharp declines: The percentage of Methodists, for example, dropped from 8% to 5%.
• The percentage of those who choose a generic label, calling themselves simply Christian, Protestant, non-denominational, evangelical or “born again,” was 14.2%, about the same as in 1990.
• Jewish numbers showed a steady decline, from 1.8% in 1990 to 1.2% today. The percentage of Muslims, while still slim, has doubled, from 0.3% to 0.6%. Analysts within both groups suggest those numbers understate the groups’ populations.
The report also shows how important it is for atheists to stand up and self-identify to help counteract the negative stereotypes about us. Those of use who are “out of the closet” are having a positive impact on those who have yet to emerge, but who are considering it:
The ARIS research also led in quantifying and planting a label on the “Nones” — people who said “None” when asked the survey’s basic question: “What is your religious identity?”
The survey itself may have contributed to a higher rate of reporting as sociologists began analyzing the newly identified Nones. “The Nones may have felt more free to step forward, less looked upon as outcasts” after the ARIS results were published, Keysar says.
Oregon once led the nation in Nones (18% in 1990), but in 2008 the leader, with 34%, was Vermont, where Nones significantly outnumber every other group.
Meabh Fitzpatrick, 49, of Rutland, Vt., says she is upfront about becoming an atheist 10 years ago because “it’s important for us to be counted. I’m a taxpayer and a law-abiding citizen and an ethical person, and I don’t think people assume this about atheists.”
It’s worth reading the whole article if for no other reason than to see the chart ranking “nones” as third behind Catholics and Baptists. Then pop up some popcorn and get ready for the Religious Right to freak out.
This was sent in by a whole bunch of SEB readers, often with links to various news sources.