Charting the unchurched in America
March 7, 2002 4:53 PM   Subscribe

Charting the unchurched in America "Americans almost all say religion matters, yet more people than ever are opting out. " I thought the trend was in the other direction What's Up
posted by onegoodmove (35 comments total)

 
"religion doesn't teach the basic lessons of personal giving, where will people learn it?"

Yeah, it's not like us heathen, bastard, pagan, atheists ever do anything for anybody.

Programs such as literacy training, scouting or AIDS walks "attract a lot of people who act out their faith even if they don't confess it."

Oh, I see. I really secretly do believe I'm god's puppet and just don't know it yet. Either that or I must secretly be scared to death of the universe:

"I feel sorry for those people who don't think there's anything greater than themselves. It must feel like a lonely and frightening world for them."

But, nonetheless:
"It's a cliché now to call institutional religion 'oppressive, patriarchal, out of date and out of touch,' "
posted by badstone at 5:06 PM on March 7, 2002


Yup, another half-cocked article full of people claiming that all good people are religious, even if they don't know it.
posted by mrbula at 5:13 PM on March 7, 2002


Thank God I'm an Agnostic!

Oh, wait... :)
posted by crankydoodle at 5:29 PM on March 7, 2002


Here's the site of the actual study.
posted by RylandDotNet at 5:38 PM on March 7, 2002


"I feel sorry for those people who don't think there's anything greater than themselves."

I hate this line, and it's too common. It's an insult posing as honest pity.
posted by skyline at 5:40 PM on March 7, 2002


Yeah, it's not like us heathen, bastard, pagan, atheists ever do anything for anybody

You are less engaged in society as a group though, at least according to Robert Putnam's research. Check out this study from Harvard showing the value of organized religion in increasing civic engagement and social capital.
posted by boltman at 5:54 PM on March 7, 2002


I found the last six or so paragraphs really befuddling. The author seems rather confused about her point. There's all this talk about how people maintain morality "without being specifically religious", followed up with the conclusion that "Contrary to the well-known secularization theory that God is dead and will soon drop off the consciousness map, the USA is a holdout. Spirituality is actually growing in the USA." So which is it? How do we get from the assertion that people are basing their morality on things other than religion to the conclusion that the god meme is strong and "spirituality" is growing?

The confusion, I think, is rooted in a misconception common among religious people: that morality is impossible without religion. Of course, anyone who's studied the past 3000 or so years of moral philosophy knows that this is simply not the case.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:08 PM on March 7, 2002


I find the categories amusing. Various christian denominations get their own categories, as Christianity is allegedly the most popular religion. Aren't their different variations of "jewish" though? Like Jesuit, Orthodox, etc. Maybe I'm wrong but it seems strange they're all lumped into one category. I don't see "pagan" or "wiccan" anywhere in the states' listings. They must either be represented in this survey through "no religion" or "other" depending on how each pagan chose to participate. Also amusing is how they had to separate "nondenominational" as its own denomination, rather than just put that with the "Christian" column. Why? The nondenominational church has become its own denomination. Talk about hypocrisy. Also ironic is how the word "denomination" applies both to different types of Christian churches, and money. This kinda irony always amuses me.

Utah is telling, but predictable. I was mildly surprised to see catholicism beat the baptist denomination in Texas. I thought there were only two true religions here in Texas; Godfearin' & Hellbent Heathen.

Personally, I think spirituality is growing in America, but traditional religion of the 19th & 20th centuries is slowly being left behind, like route 66 or 3D movies. This is a trend that they still can't graph & chart, because they still don't know how to properly word the survey questions.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:14 PM on March 7, 2002


Fear is growing in america. Reading big books written a long time ago has never grown , with the exception of the post-1517 stint.
posted by Settle at 6:17 PM on March 7, 2002


ZachsMind: The Jesuits are a Roman Catholic religious order (the Society of Jesus). Not Jewish in the least. You're right in thinking that there are plenty of subcategories left off for the non-Christian religions, though.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:20 PM on March 7, 2002


"I feel sorry for those people who don't think there's anything greater than themselves."

I feel sorry for those people who don't have faith in themselves.
posted by Zool at 6:23 PM on March 7, 2002


I learned two things from this study. one: aethiesm is a four letter word, and two: christianity is the only religion.
posted by mcsweetie at 6:34 PM on March 7, 2002


mr_roboto - I almost made the same mistake you just made. His statement has an interpretation available that is 100% internally correct. Both examples cited, Jesuits and Orthodox, are terms that can correctly describe Christian groups, so he could have been providing two examples of Christian subgroups to give an idea of the kind of breakdown he wanted to see in the representation of Jews.

Or he could have screwed up.
posted by NortonDC at 6:44 PM on March 7, 2002


Interesting point there about the last few paragraphs. Sounded quite contradictory to me as well. My thought was that the writer mixed up "share of market" with "share of voice" so to speak. In other words, while the numbers of agnostic/non-religious/secular-minded folk may be growing (share of market), the evangelical/religious/God-fearing folk are becoming more vocal and commanding, perhaps, a greater percentage of airtime on TV, radio and other media (share of voice) than ever before.

Now how's that for a commercial American take on things ;)
posted by Bixby23 at 7:45 PM on March 7, 2002


Someone once said that a secular humanist is someone who follows all the teachings of christianity without actually believing in god. What both groups share in common is the delusion that human endeavors are anything but futile and absurd.
posted by jonmc at 8:11 PM on March 7, 2002


What both groups share in common is the delusion that human endeavors are anything but futile and absurd.

I know i'm retarded, but I've always sucked ay those but-interjections phrases. what exactly does that sentance mean.
posted by jmd82 at 8:38 PM on March 7, 2002


what exactly does that sentance mean.

That human endeavors are futile and absurd. And that bot religious folk and humanist(in general) deny this.
posted by jonmc at 8:41 PM on March 7, 2002


So why even argue your point of view sinse any attempt to do so is obviously futile and absurd?
posted by jmd82 at 9:24 PM on March 7, 2002


because absurdity is fun when you're drunk.
posted by jonmc at 9:25 PM on March 7, 2002


absurdity is fun when you're drunk

Actually, absurdity is always fun.

And this thing about church being useless. If you're not in college (or away for a break), it can be a great place to meet girls.

The older you get, the more difficult it is to meet people. Especially in smaller communities, church can be a good way for people to meet eachother and make new friends. Admittedly, I sleep most Sunday mornings, but I still think it's a good way to engage in social and civic activities.
posted by insomnyuk at 9:43 PM on March 7, 2002


zool - yes. i need to start telling that to a lot of people that regurgitate that phrase on me so often.
posted by will at 9:44 PM on March 7, 2002


Eh, i also find Church a good way to worship God. Or have i been mistaken my entire life? i HATE it when that happens!
posted by jmd82 at 9:53 PM on March 7, 2002


Yeah, but the problem with meeting girls at church (or in my case, at synogogue), is that they are probably going to be religious girls. I don't want to date the kind of girl who gets up bright and early on a Saturday morning, looking chaste in her conservative clothes. I want the kind of girl that is crashed out like me because she went out Friday night.
posted by bingo at 9:58 PM on March 7, 2002


Go for the preacher's daughter, dude -- under their conservative facades, the minister's kids are always the wildest.
posted by kindall at 10:14 PM on March 7, 2002


Amen to that.
posted by insomnyuk at 10:22 PM on March 7, 2002


I feel sorry for those people who don't think there's anything greater than themselves. It must feel like a lonely and frightening world for them

i don't. i just (coincidentally) posted a bit by Christopher Hitchens on my blog earlier today that speaks to the point:

I do not envy believers their faith. I am relieved to think that the whole story is a sinister fairy tale; life would be miserable if what the faithful affirmed was actually the case.

Why do I say that? Well, there may be people who wish to live their lives under a cradle-to-grave divine supervision; a permanent surveillance and monitoring. I cannot imagine anything more horrible or grotesque...


amen, brother hitchens.
posted by lizs at 11:13 PM on March 7, 2002


Has a similar study been done in the UK?
posted by creeky at 2:59 AM on March 8, 2002


Has a similar study been done in the UK?

Don't know, but it looks like Church of England will cease to exist in the year 2037
posted by scotty at 3:57 AM on March 8, 2002


I thought the trend was in the other direction What's Up
people have gotten a good look at shrub, ashcroft and cheney and decided the pagans have a far more competent crew.
posted by quonsar at 5:24 AM on March 8, 2002


people have gotten a good look at shrub, ashcroft and cheney and decided the pagans have a far more competent crew.

Amen.
posted by jeblis at 6:34 AM on March 8, 2002


Giving USA, which tracks philanthropy, says about half of all charitable dollars go to religious purposes. Sylvia Ronsvalle of empty tomb inc., in Champaign, Ill., which studies church giving, worries that if "religion doesn't teach the basic lessons of personal giving, where will people learn it?"

Or to put this another way, in spite of a huge majority claiming to be religious, about half of all charitable dollars go to secular charities.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 6:39 AM on March 8, 2002


And parents who say they have no religion say they, too, can teach their children well.

"On Easter, my son and I go camping," says Ralph Leitner of Seattle, as 10-year-old Peter conquers the REI pinnacle. Leitner, an Eagle Scout, teaches a catechism of nature. "You can't help but be spiritual out there."


Doesn't Leitner's professed "spirituality" violate the Boy Scouts' required pledge of belief in god?
posted by yesster at 10:22 AM on March 8, 2002


Could the Scouts also be like a private Catholic School? You go there and go to Mass and learn about religion and all, but not everyone is Catholic (or Christian) in the school? I never joined scouts, just wondering.
posted by jmd82 at 1:21 PM on March 8, 2002


Actually over the last 15 years the Boy Scouts of America have gotten excessively picky about the religious beliefs of their members which led to a rather nasty fights between the BSA and the Unitarian Universalist Association regarding religious symbols on scout uniforms because Unitarian Universalist churches don't demand a profession of faith in God.

Of course the BSA has not applied same standard to Buddhists yet, but still the organization insists that some kind of belief in theism as required in order to be a good scout.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:44 PM on March 8, 2002


I was a boy scout, and most of my troop was Jewish. We met in synogogue instead of church. I guess God was mentioned in the literature and maybe some of the oaths, but I dont' remember ever having a religious discussion in any offical capacity while I was a scout, in the troop itself or at camp where we mingled with the other troops.
posted by bingo at 7:26 PM on March 8, 2002


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