January 21, 2015

Americans abandoning religion

Alternet - Americans are abandoning organized religion in droves. Data from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that while only 7 percent of Americans were raised outside a religious tradition, nearly 19 percent are religiously unaffiliated today. According to the General Social Survey, the number of Americans who say they have “no religion” has more than doubled since 1990.

Although they are one of the fastest-growing groups today, the unaffiliated are just one wave on a sea of religious change. Minorities are playing a greater role in shaping Christian denominations traditionally dominated by whites. The Catholic Church is hemorrhaging followers—by some estimates, 12 percent of Americans today are former Catholics—but recent immigrants from Latin America have buoyed its membership, making at least some changes in leadership and emphasis inevitable. Latino Americans are also converting to evangelical Christianity, which is sure to jostle the old alliances of the Christian conservative movement. The Christian right has battened down the hatches for a long tussle with the forces of secularization. But Christian pollsters warn that evangelical churches are losing followers, too, in part because Christianity is gaining a reputation for touting shallow, anti-science, and sexually repressive teachings.

One-third of Americans under age 30, meanwhile, say they have no religion. This group, though still majority-white, is substantially more diverse than the older unaffiliated. Many of its members are choosing other nonbelievers as life partners, raising new questions about non-religious families and child rearing. Amid this churn, demographers and sociologists have no reason to believe that Americans’ flight from organized religion will ebb anytime soon.

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