The Inevitable Collapse of Organized Religion in America
Adam Rifkin stashed this in The Internet is my religion.
Organized religion in America is on the decline. The Church—any church, all churches, the omniscient "Church" representing all organized religious institutions—holds less allure for a new generation of American adults. This is a fact, not a supposition. The Church, though far from gone, is an institution of the past.
A new report from the Pew Research Center makes clear two things: 1) America is still an overwhelmingly religious country, and 2) America is becoming a less religious country.
"One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling."
Atheists and agnostics make up almost 6% of Americans. Another 14% claim no specific religious affiliation.
The percentage of unaffiliated Americans has grown by almost a third in the past five years.
Two thirds of unaffiliated Americans say they believe in god. But when asked, "Are you looking for a religion that's right for you?" 88% of them say "no."
The younger an adult is, the less likely they are to claim a religious affiliation. Only 9% of those over 65 are unaffiliated, while 32% of those aged 18-29 are unaffiliated.
Based on anecdotal evidence and my own personal observations, I would say that participation in organized religion is definitely declining, but that does not necessarily mean that it's part of a permanent, one-way trend.
There have been at least 3 "Great Awakenings" of interest in organized religion in U.S. History:
- 1730s & 1740s
- 1820 to about 1840
- 1850 to about 1910
Though you could argue that society has changed in a way such that no new resurgence of interest in religion is likely to happen, I'd say that it's entirely possible that we could just experience another few decades of decline followed by another revival.
Each generation wants to be what the previous one was not. I think sometimes generations go back and forth on their non-scientific, non-quantifiable beliefs & values.
"Why does the un-religion-ing process appear to be happening so fast now? Eh... I'd say the internet, and Christopher Hitchens. "
One thing is the new religion, and the second is a kick ass writer.
Does Hitchens just evoke Richard Dawkins?
I'm not a fan of organized religion, but I worry about the vacuum it leaves behind as it disappears. People seek meaning; I wonder where else they will look for it? Science is awesome, but I don't think it will suffice for the majority of people.