The 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study
May 12, 2015 6:23 AM   Subscribe

America’s Changing Religious Landscape: The Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life has published the results of a new study of the religious affiliations of Americans, and finds a precipitous drop in the share of Christians since the last such study in 2007, along with a massive increase in the share of "nones" (which includes atheists, agnostics, and believers with no religious affiliation) and a small increase in the share of non-Christian faiths. Highlights below the fold.

Major Findings
  • The Christian share of the population has fallen 7.8 percentage points from 2007 to 2014. The decline, both in absolute numbers and proportion, is particularly severe among mainline Protestants (-3.4), followed by Catholics (-3.1). Evangelical Protestants actually saw their numbers increase, even as their share of the population fell (-0.9). Evangelicals now constitute a majority of American Protestants.
  • The share of the religiously unaffiliated (a.k.a. the "nones") went up by 6.7 percentage points, making them larger than either mainline Protestants or Catholics. About 31% of the unaffiliated identify as either atheist or agnostic, up from 25% in 2007. The unaffiliated are particularly concentrated among younger generations, though every generation polled saw growth in this category.
  • The decline in the Christian share of the population appears not to have affected black Protestant churches, which saw no significant change in their numbers. Indeed, Christianity is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse across denominations.
  • Non-Christian faiths have continued to grow in their proportion of the population (+1.2), particularly Islam (0.5) and Hinduism (0.3). Even so, they collectively only make up 5.9% of the total population.
Reports on the study: WaPo, NYT. Commentary in the Forward: Why Americans Are Fleeing Organized Religion — and What It Means for Jews.
posted by Cash4Lead (135 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
Excellent. And I imagine as the older generations continue to die off, this will only accelerate.
posted by Sangermaine at 6:34 AM on May 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


The survey of American Jews showed that the unaffiliated and intermarried are less likely to join a synagogue, give to Jewish charity, educate their children Jewishly, connect to Israel, feel an obligation toward their fellow Jews — in short, are less likely to care about the Jewish community and its continuity.

Fair enough. I identify as Jewish and atheist, I am unaffiliated, and I do none of the things listed. I don't have kids and have no intention of having kids. My brand of Judaism stops with me.

But, then, a lot of the things listed are connected with religious Judaism. I have long felt that we need a strong secular form of Judaism. There are certainly examples of it in the past -- Yiddish theater, workingmens' circles, etc. Some of it still exists in places with large Jewish populations, like New York. But here in Omaha, it is join a synagogue or GTFO.

It is possible to be a secular Jew. There is a long history of it. If we are concerned about the survival of Judaism in a secular world, we need to create these secular institutions and make them widely available. Judaism has the unique advantage of being a culture and an ethnicity as well as a religion, and so it can survive when many Jews no longer associate with the religion. But only if secularism is respected and supported.
posted by maxsparber at 6:52 AM on May 12, 2015 [32 favorites]


[A couple of comments deleted; let's hold off on the immediate quick jokes that don't really engage with the post info much, at least until conversation has a chance to get off the ground. Thanks.]
posted by taz (staff) at 6:56 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have long felt that we need a strong secular form of Judaism. There are certainly examples of it in the past -- Yiddish theater, workingmens' circles, etc. Some of it still exists in places with large Jewish populations, like New York.

Amen, brother. It makes me weep to see the decline of the secular, leftist, and highly irreverent tradition of Jewish-American culture. The Judaism of Groucho Marx, not Joe Lieberman.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 6:58 AM on May 12, 2015 [32 favorites]


That piece on what this means for Jews was interesting, because I'm also in the same "Jewish liberal civic nerd" cohort. I think evangelical Christians really hurt themselves in the long term by fusing themselves with the Republican Party. I also think, as some posters have said, that it's a mistake for Jews to do the same by fusing being a Jew with political support Israel and certain causes.

You'd think that religions would learn that a separation of church and state is good for religion too. If people can't have a political difference without leaving their religion, they're going to leave, or at least the leave the mainstream of, their religion.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:08 AM on May 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


It is possible to be a secular Jew. There is a long history of it. If we are concerned about the survival of Judaism in a secular world, we need to create these secular institutions and make them widely available.

The institutions are there-- see the Society for Humanist Judaism, but I agree, the "widely available" is an issue. Unsurprisingly, most of the groups are either on the coasts/Florida, or are in college towns.

Where I am, I've found a good outlet through a group run by the Federation here. Most of the activities are secular or secular-ish (bar nights, Friday night dinners, service opportunities, sports events) and it's been great. The only issue is that it's geared towards young adults, I think with the assumption that it's sort of a holding stage until you move into the having-kids stage, and join a synagogue. Which the majority of the group is kind of "eh" on (even despite the fact that there is a synagogue that a good number of us "don't belong to" but attend events at fairly regularly, which is a whole nother story about younger Jewish folks).
posted by damayanti at 7:10 AM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think evangelical Christians really hurt themselves ...

What's weird is that the numbers show a different story...rather than hurting themselves, evangelical churches seem to have cemented their popularity, while more mainline/traditional Christianity suffered losses. The first thought that comes to mind is, yeah, the cultural polarization caused by the alliance of the Christian Right, but something has to be said for the staying power of a group whose purpose is, after all, to evangelize, to spread their message and grow, compared to churches where membership is more based on what particular denomination you were born into.
posted by mittens at 7:18 AM on May 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


I wasn't making a joke. I am genuinely happy about this. It's not gloating or anything, I really think this is a positive for the country.
posted by agregoli at 7:24 AM on May 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


The perceived threat to the American system has also changed in the last generation, from godless communism to fundamentalist Islam.
posted by Brian B. at 7:32 AM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


The survey of American Jews showed that the unaffiliated and intermarried are less likely to join a synagogue, give to Jewish charity, educate their children Jewishly, connect to Israel, feel an obligation toward their fellow Jews — in short, are less likely to care about the Jewish community and its continuity.

I am the agnostic partner of a cultural Jew, and the father of two children that are getting cultural Judaism transmitted to them by their mom. She is very interested in Jewish community, active in Jews United for Justice, and attends high holiday services at a congregation that meets in community spaces around our city. We are not synagogue or JCC members, however, in large part because of their braying, uncritical, almost universal support for the occupation and slaughter of Palestinians by Israel. Anecdotally, I think this may be playing a larger role in the slow decline of reform congregations than is generally acknowledged.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:33 AM on May 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


but something has to be said for the staying power of a group whose purpose is, after all, to evangelize, to spread their message and grow, compared to churches where membership is more based on what particular denomination you were born into

There's that. There's also the fact that those churches constantly preach their own importance, which mainline Protestants are reluctant to do. The message from an Episcopal service is much more "we're here if you want us!" and less "you need to be in church." I happen to find that message objectively better, but it's not one designed to maximize attendance.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:33 AM on May 12, 2015 [26 favorites]


This survey can be better summarized as "The Collapse of Moderate Religion" in the United States. People are leaving behind polite, urbane religion (Mainline Protestantism, Catholicism and Liberal Judaism) to join either fundamentalism or atheism.

Predictions for the future:

Mainline Protestants are dying out, and their children are becoming either hardcore Christian fundamentalists or atheists. In 50 years, the only recognizable brand of Protestant Christianity in the United States will be megachurches pastored by virulent fanatics, railing against gay marriage, android rights and (possibly) democracy itself. You think this is crazy? A United States where 51%+ of the population is agnostic/atheist will no longer be a "Christian nation" and, consequently, the religious right will start muttering about how "democracy has failed Christianity" and that we need some kind of "strong Christian leader" to return America to greatness. The United States in 2036 might look a lot like Spain 1936...

Catholics are facing a similar decline -- in fact, their numbers would be declining even more dramatically if it wasn't for immigration. It's unclear if an alliance between Catholics and Protestants in America is possible. They certainly agree on many "social" issues, but the ethnic divide is very stark. Blood may be thicker than holy water. You can expect a future where young, ultra-conservative white (and English-speaking) Evangelicals fight tooth-and-nail against a the influence of a "foreign", "illegal immigrant" and largely Spanish-speaking Catholic church.

Liberal Judaism is -- as others have pointed out -- in it's death throws. The murderer? Israel. In the past 100 years, Judaism has gone from being a diasporic religion united by ancient law and custom to being a very real political entity with very real borders, flags and armies. This has literally changed everything. We are still living in a time period when people can legitimately say that "Israel is not Judaism", but I think that's going to change in the future. Eventually, Judaism and Jewish identity will be identified mostly, if not wholly, with the maintenance not only of the Israeli state, but of Israeli policy goals themselves. The State of Israel is, in some sense, becoming a New Temple, and the Jewish person's relationship with his/her faith will be largely mediated through his/her relationship with this state and it's institutions.

Despite what others have said in this thread, none of this actually does bode well for our future.
posted by Avenger at 7:33 AM on May 12, 2015 [33 favorites]


I have long felt that we need a strong secular form of Judaism.

you mean communism? why, yes, yes we do.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:42 AM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Penny Edgell is pointing out on Twitter similar numbers between this survey and the American Mosaic Project regarding the nonreligious.
posted by audi alteram partem at 7:43 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


If there had been a Society for Humanist Judaism when I dropped out of rabbinical school, I might have just transferred. There is and has been a place for atheist ministry (in its traditional meaning) within Judaism for at least a few decades.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:54 AM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


We are not synagogue or JCC members, however, in large part because of their braying, uncritical, almost universal support for the occupation and slaughter of Palestinians by Israel.

I think it depends on where you are-- I'm seeing some (granted, small) shifts in my community. At the very least, there were two sermons, one at a reform synagogue and the other at a conservative, around Israel. The first was essentially "Guys, stop freaking out about the talks with Iran" and the second was "We need to be more open towards different views of Israel". I think the established community here can read the waters for what the young people are feeling and what's pushing them away from "traditional" Judaism, and are reacting, slowly.
posted by damayanti at 7:55 AM on May 12, 2015


The jump in unaffiliated is pretty amazing in such a short time. 36 million to 56 million is more than a 50% jump in less than ten years, it will be interesting to see if that slope will level off or if it will keep going in the next ten years.
posted by octothorpe at 7:55 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


We are not synagogue or JCC members, however, in large part because of their braying, uncritical, almost universal support for the occupation and slaughter of Palestinians by Israel.

I'm Episcopalian, as are my parents, but I went to a JCC summer camp for a year or two in elementary school at which they had us pledge allegiance to the flag of Israel. When my parents told their Jewish friends they were HORRIFIED.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:58 AM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think religion is more about tribalism than anything else. And tribalism seems to more often than not require war against other's tribes. Not so bad when it's sports teams. Disastrous when it's religions or countries.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:00 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm Episcopalian, as are my parents, but I went to a JCC summer camp for a year or two in elementary school at which they had us pledge allegiance to the flag of Israel.

Our local JCC's response to reporting on Israel's mass murder of Palestinian children in its 2014 bombing campaign was to solicit donations for Israeli kids traumatized by having to sit in bomb shelters, couched in transparently far-right rhetoric. Shortly after, they fired their theater director over a production critical of Israel.

We had attended events there in the past, and my son had taken swim lessons there the previous summer. We won't have anything to do with them going forward.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:05 AM on May 12, 2015


Nothing against this post but see also the discussion that was had two months ago on this topic.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:07 AM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Excellent. And I imagine as the older generations continue to die off, this will only accelerate.

Not necessarily excellent. The religions that are losing strength are the sleepier less militant varieties, whereas the more fundamentalist groups are gaining strength in numbers, and at least it appears to me, political strength as well.
posted by xigxag at 8:07 AM on May 12, 2015 [9 favorites]


Not necessarily excellent. The religions that are losing strength are the sleepier less militant varieties, whereas the more fundamentalist groups are gaining strength in numbers, and at least it appears to me, political strength as well.

Someone on Metafilter made an interesting point in another thread that one of the problems for liberal/progressive people is that stuff like book challenges and banning are seen as a censorship thing done by the right. If we all think "school is sacred, I would never interfere" then all the interference is being done by people with conservative agendas. It was a shock to me when I realized that there were some older books in a school library where I was doing my student teaching that I actually wanted to challenge because they had really not-okay depictions of Native Americans*.

I wonder if there's a similar thing where as more progressive people move away from religion, which has been demonstrated historically to be a potentially very powerful force, the societal power of religion doesn't decrease, it's just concentrated in the hands of the conservative. I'm not saying people who aren't religious have a duty to become religious (because that would be insane), but I do think it's a shame that religion as a whole feels like it is increasingly coopted by people who do not demonstrate that they value love and tolerance.

*I would be fine with having a lesson on this/guided introduction to this for the sake of discussion, but I didn't particularly want students getting all that "noble savage" crap without some heavy, heavy context.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:19 AM on May 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


It's unclear if an alliance between Catholics and Protestants in America is possible. They certainly agree on many "social" issues, but the ethnic divide is very stark.

I'm not sure it's true that Catholics and Protestants agree on many social issues. Pretty much the only one I can think of is abortion. On other hot button issues either

1. The churches take different views (capital punishment, social justice (i.e. poverty and how to deal with it)

2. The churches officially take the same view but the actual people practicing the religion don't follow their churches' views (e.g. same-sex marriage, cohabition and premarital sex). In many cases the rates of "following" the churches views vary radically from denomination to denomination, not just across the Protestant/Catholic divide.

3. The churches take different views but the followers do basically the same thing regardless (contraception).

On the other hand, it's also the case that there are many churches that are essentially filled with refugees from other denominations. I don't know how common this is in the US, but I've been to two protestant churches in Toronto both of of which are filled with people who were raised Catholic and many who still consider themselves Catholic, but just don't agree with the Church on many points so they attend protestant churches that are more in line with their views.

The minister of one such church tells of getting her hair cut one day and seeing the salon full of little girls getting dolled up for their first communions. Then she notices that one of the girls is one of her parishoners. The father sheepishly says "Oh we're still going to your church every Sunday, but we do the big events at the Catholic church." Another story is of the man elected to head up some run-the-church-type committee who says "Yes, I"d be happy to do it, but first I should ask, Is it a problem that I'm Catholic?"

I'm not sure if these churches make Protestant/Catholic partnership easier (because they're the same people) or harder (Because these people don't buy into Catholic official views).
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:23 AM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have long felt that we need a strong secular form of Judaism.

you mean communism? why, yes, yes we do.

ennui.bz

You should be careful with this. There's a sad history of anti-semitism focusing on the idea that Communism is a Jewish plot.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:28 AM on May 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


Unitarian Universalism is growing - and it seems to fill a niche similar to secular/humanist Judaism, for people who want the church experience but aren't conventionally religious. UU congregations vary - some are much more welcoming to atheists and agnostics than others, but they are famous as a church for people who aren't religious. I wouldn't be surprised if UU continues to grow as the "nones" decide they want the good parts of church without the religious doctrine part.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:31 AM on May 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


As an quasi-atheist myself, the increase in number of unaffiliated people on the surface seems like good news, but I do find the seeming polarization troubling. I mean, I don't personally have a need for religion in my life, but I know people who do, and who seem to take great comfort in it, and that's cool; it'd be nice if there were options out there which weren't poorly-disguised hate-fueled tax shelters for right wing political organizations and/or human breeding projects. And it's those sort of middle-of-the-road churches, the ones that don't put a ton of crazy demands on adherents or covet temporal power, where you can basically do the holidays and occasional-Sunday thing without buying into it as a capital-L Lifestyle, that seem to be in trouble.

That doesn't seem like a good recipe, going forward. What you seem to be left with are either complete non-affiliation—which is cool, except that there are times in people's lives when it isn't, for whatever reason—or getting sucked into creepy total-package "lifestyle church" territory.

Oddly, the only even remotely compelling defense of national churches that I've ever heard was along these lines: that the existence of an established national church provides for a safe, socially-productive outlet for religious conviction which would otherwise be open to subversion by antisocial elements for their own ends. (In the 'path dependent' historical context of the US political system I don't think this really would work, and I'm not even close to advocating it, but I've had friends from e.g. Sweden and Iceland argue that it's part of why their systems work and I can't say that it's necessarily implausible on its face.) It's sort of the "methadone clinic" defense of national religion: if you take on premise that some people are gonna do religion, you might as well give them some good clean religion, since the alternative is they're going to get it from a crazy dude on the street corner, cut with who knows what else.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:32 AM on May 12, 2015 [18 favorites]


Not necessarily excellent. The religions that are losing strength are the sleepier less militant varieties, whereas the more fundamentalist groups are gaining strength in numbers, and at least it appears to me, political strength as well.

To me, this feels like a dead cat bounce, and any increase in political clout is only temporary.
posted by HighLife at 8:38 AM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I TOLD you there was a war on Christmas!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:45 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Evangelical Protestants actually saw their numbers increase, even as their share of the population fell (-0.9). Evangelicals now constitute a majority of American Protestants.

Ah, yes. Inside every silver cloud is a dark lining.
posted by mondo dentro at 8:57 AM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, how does this relate to findings like the future population growth projections (summary: by 2050, the Muslim population will equal the Christian population, and "nones" will make a declining share of the population...these demographic changes and more will be driven by who has the most children)?

I mean, in terms of America in general, I could guess that evangelicals are probably having the most children out of the nones, mainline Protestants, etc., and that evangelicals aren't "deconverting" faster than they have kids.
posted by subversiveasset at 9:17 AM on May 12, 2015


I think it's strange that some are being so glib about this - it seems clear to me that Protestant and evangelical culture is or has been responsible for most of what's good about America. Sure, it's the ostensible reason behind some bad stuff - but I'm confident people would concoct their own objections to homosexuality and the like in the absence of religion, as well. The atheist Soviet Union was, in many respects, a socially conservative society.

In a lot of ways, though, it's entirely unsurprising to see a religious 'hollowing out' - where moderate forms are abandoned for either atheism or fundamentalism. The instant-gratification culture has reached the point where you can't exactly opt-out anymore without strong, black and white rules - which you'd expect would drive fundamentalist affiliation.
posted by corcovado at 9:20 AM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am a member of a disappearing mainline religious group, AMA.

This survey is not reporting a lot of new information, though it is interesting and I'll be looking at it more thoroughly. There is absolutely an accelerating trend toward people identifying as "nones" and espousing a basically post-religious POV. I think though that much of this is an increased willingness to be identified publicly with the "none-of-the-above" category, where before the last generation or so most folks did at least nominally associate themselves as a part of one or another religious tradition for sociocultural reasons. To that extent I think this is a Good Thing: my firm belief is that religion does best when it's on the sidelines, quietly serving and gently reminding the Powers That Be of their responsibility to serve the common good. Religion that is entwined with power and which has an (unconscious) goal to defend the status quo gets corrupted very quickly in ugly ways.

Comments above re: the mainline are spot-on. We tend to be tolerant of differing viewpoints and rather anti-ideological, and ideology (whether political or religious/theological) is one easy way to maintain group cohesion and establish group identity. Evangelicals do this quite well.

Our challenge is to find new ways of gathering around a center -- ways-of-being which don't exist for the purpose of making sure people know "who is in" and "who is out", but which help us to be consistently reaching across cultural boundary lines in order to draw people into a community which is centered in the love of God and neighbor.

And, you know, to pay the light bill.
posted by tivalasvegas at 9:21 AM on May 12, 2015 [13 favorites]


So, how does this relate to findings like the future population growth projections

That study was about global religious affiliation, this one is just about the US.
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:34 AM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Emma Green: American Religion: Complicated, Not Dead
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:35 AM on May 12, 2015


In a lot of ways, though, it's entirely unsurprising to see a religious 'hollowing out' - where moderate forms are abandoned for either atheism or fundamentalism.

I wonder if this is related to the same cultural trajectories that have led to a sharp rise in political partisanship and party cohesiveness. There are fewer people than there used to be in the ideological middle, whether political or religious.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:36 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wonder what this means for many of those left over, especially those wielding political power. Will they be even more extreme, more cult-like in behavior? Will we see an extinction burst, and what will it resemble?
posted by theraflu at 9:38 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, and more directly toward TFA: The methodology used to code whether a participant is "mainline", "evangelical", "black Protestant" or "none" is tricky, as well. I appreciate the difficulty of coding that (and I think their approach is reasonable), but it's pretty difficult to tease out trends from that data, especially complex questions like who is moving from which groups to which groups, and why.

There have definitely been waves of conservatives (who might or might not have identified as evangelical) who have left mainline denominations for denominations coded as evangelical in the wake of major decisions relating to women's rights (ordination) and LGBT rights (ordination, marriage). There is also an ongoing movement of moderate evangelicals who are moving the other direction into traditionalist/mainline churches in response to dissatisfaction with their denominations' cultural stances against equality for women and LGBT persons. Again, those persons may or may not continue to identify as "evangelical" -- or they may call themselves "post-evangelical", "emerging", or decide to identify directly to the pollster as "ELCA" or "Episcopalian" or whatever. My reading is that if someone identified as "evangelical", they were automatically coded as such, but that doesn't necessarily pick up the way that "evangelical" gets used -- evangelicalism is at heart a perspective and an organic movement, not a collection of institutions/denominations in the way that Anglicanism, Lutheranism, Presbyterianism or Roman Catholicism are.
posted by tivalasvegas at 9:40 AM on May 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


Cash4Lead,

I see. But do the underlying mechanics on the global level make sense on the US level?
posted by subversiveasset at 9:44 AM on May 12, 2015


but I'm confident people would concoct their own objections to homosexuality and the like in the absence of religion, as well. The atheist Soviet Union was, in many respects, a socially conservative society.
corcovado

But the Soviet Union didn't fall from the sky in a state of non-religion. It arose from a religiously conservative society, and quickly fell back into that religious conservative once the USSR fell.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:45 AM on May 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think it's strange that some are being so glib about this - it seems clear to me that Protestant and evangelical culture is or has been responsible for most of what's good about America.

[citation needed]

Sure, it's the ostensible reason behind some bad stuff - but I'm confident people would concoct their own objections to homosexuality and the like in the absence of religion, as well.

There's a direct line between some of the biggest stains on this country's history and modern evangelical Protestantism, not the least of which is slavery and the very powerful legacies that still shape this country's most shameful cultural and political movements. Catholics and Jews, as well as smaller groups like the Quakers, at least have a long and storied history of collective social justice and fighting religious adversity, imposed on them largely by mainline Protestantism. Modern evangelicals are the driving forces behind bigotry, in particular homophobia, and have managed to capture the political process so effectively that many of those objections you state would have otherwise been considered obsolete well earlier than they are.

In a lot of ways, though, it's entirely unsurprising to see a religious 'hollowing out' - where moderate forms are abandoned for either atheism or fundamentalism.

The thing is that it's not being abandoned for either atheism and fundamentalism. As the Emma Green article linked by Cash4Lead above notes:
[T]he survey actually reveals something more complex than a slow and steady march toward secularization. Those who didn’t identify with any particular religion were asked a follow-up question: “How important is religion in your life?” The answers reveal that this group might be churchless, but it’s not wholly faithless: 44 percent said religion is “very” or “somewhat” important to them, while 56 percent said religion isn’t important to them, according to Greg Smith, Pew’s associate director of research. This is a slight drop compared to findings from a similar survey taken in 2007: That year, 48 percent of the “nones” said religion was important to them, while 52 percent said it wasn’t. Even taking this decline into account, there’s a pretty significant group of Americans who don’t identify with a particular denomination or congregation, but who still care about religion to some degree. That’s not the pattern of a Godless nation; it’s the pattern of people finding God on their own terms.
The instant-gratification culture has reached the point where you can't exactly opt-out anymore without strong, black and white rules - which you'd expect would drive fundamentalist affiliation.

Except that fundamentalist affiliation is made up more and more by older people, not the younger people enmeshed in a "instant-gratification culture." Neither is it just about strong polarization, seeing as how so it seems that trends are less about opting out of religion altogether than an ambivalence towards the religion of their upbringing or their peers.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:50 AM on May 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


if someone identified as "evangelical", they were automatically coded as such, but that doesn't necessarily pick up the way that "evangelical" gets used

This is true - there's no contradiction in being an evangelical Catholic, for example. But I think people understand in these surveys that it means something more specific. Our proselytizing Catholic would have different responses to "Are you evangelical?" versus "Are you an Evangelical, Protestant, or Catholic?"
posted by echo target at 9:50 AM on May 12, 2015


I suspect the only reason anyone is pleased that religious affiliation is dropping is that more and more critical issues are being influenced by religious fundamentalists. We're the laughing stock of developed civilizations because of how much credibility and influence the religious right has in the political realm. If white conservatives shut up/died off a lot of very serious issues with education, health care and the climate might have a chance of being dealt with on their merits and not some hypocritical notion of what Jesus would have done.
posted by docpops at 9:51 AM on May 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


~subversiveasset: I don't think so. A lot of the global religious trends are a product of population trends. Thus, declining growth in North America and Europe means the unaffiliated will shrink relative to Islam and Christianity, which are growing fastest in Africa and the Middle East.
posted by Cash4Lead at 9:59 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


[citation needed]

This seems awfully tendentious. Is it really not obvious that American culture is predominantly (white and) Protestant in nature? That isn't to say other people don't exist, or that they didn't contribute things, but I don't think it's an accident that the societies America most resembles - Australia, Canada, the UK - are themselves largely white and Protestant.

That’s not the pattern of a Godless nation; it’s the pattern of people finding God on their own terms.

C'mon. The relevant question - the actual social change being studied - isn't whether people have some abstract, philosophical understanding of God; it's are they living day-to-day lives as religious people. I'm not sure that's possible without a faith community (at least in Christianity, it is not). 'None' functionally means 'atheist', in this dataset (or, maybe better, 'agnostic').

Except that fundamentalist affiliation is made up more and more by older people, not the younger people enmeshed in a "instant-gratification culture."

Yes, it's unsurprising that older people need strict rules to deal with new social norms to which they are not accustomed. Young people, on the other hand, grew up with this stuff and believe they can navigate life on their own - hence the non-affiliation.
posted by corcovado at 10:02 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


es, it's unsurprising that older people need strict rules to deal with new social norms to which they are not accustomed. Young people, on the other hand, grew up with this stuff and believe they can navigate life on their own - hence the non-affiliation.
posted by corcovado


I call broad brush on this. I would assert that it isn't age, but the mindset that requires the rules.
posted by yoga at 10:09 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Is it really not obvious that American culture is predominantly (white and) Protestant in nature?

That's a defensible point, but what you originally said was "Protestant and evangelical culture is or has been responsible for most of what's good about America," which is more controversial and would require some facts to back it up. It's perfectly possible for most of the 'good' things in a culture to have come from a different culture. Democracy was invented by a bunch of polytheists, after all.

That said, I will give Protestantism (not Evangelicalism) some credit for the public education system. The idea was that you didn't need to go through a priest, everyone has their own personal relationship with God. Thus, everyone needed to be able to read the Bible on their own. So they set up compulsory primary education to make sure everyone would have the opportunity to be saved properly.
posted by echo target at 10:12 AM on May 12, 2015


[citation needed]

This seems awfully tendentious.


Wow, you can't possibly be serious. You're actually going to waltz in here and claim that "Protestant and evangelical culture is or has been responsible for most of what's good about America" and then call someone else tendentious for asking you to justify your sweeping, insanely controversial and borderline-offensive claim? That's absolutely hilarious.
posted by dialetheia at 10:16 AM on May 12, 2015 [25 favorites]


Is it really not obvious that American culture is predominantly (white and) Protestant in nature? That isn't to say other people don't exist, or that they didn't contribute things, but I don't think it's an accident that the societies America most resembles - Australia, Canada, the UK - are themselves largely white and Protestant.


Saying that 'American culture is predominantly white and Protestant' is a very, very, very different claim than "Protestant and evangelical culture is and has been responsible for most of what's good about America," which was your original claim, and even allowing the former - which I don't think is true -- doesn't prove the latter. If American culture suddenly becomes predominantly evangelical, would that mean evangelicalism has been predominantly responsible for past events?
posted by cjelli at 10:20 AM on May 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


'None' functionally means 'atheist', in this dataset (or, maybe better, 'agnostic')

Not necessarily. The majority of the 'nones' have literally no particular religious affiliation. Agnostics and atheists are only 1/3 of the 'none' group, and taken as a whole the 'nones' to have a diverse set of beliefs:
In terms of their religious beliefs and practices, the unaffiliated are a diverse group, and far from uniformly secular. Just 5% say they attend worship services on a weekly basis. But one-third of the unaffiliated say religion is at least somewhat important in their lives. Two-thirds believe in God (though less than half say they are absolutely certain of God’s existence). And although a substantial minority of the unaffiliated consider themselves neither religious nor spiritual (42%), the majority describe themselves either as a religious person (18%) or as spiritual but not religious (37%).
posted by FJT at 10:22 AM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Is it really not obvious that American culture is predominantly (white and) Protestant in nature?

It's completely obvious, but it hasn't "been responsible for most of what's good about America," which was your assertion.

C'mon. The relevant question - the actual social change being studied - isn't whether people have some abstract, philosophical understanding of God; it's are they living day-to-day lives as religious people.

Not only is this pretty much refuted in the quote you're citing, but the study is about religious affiliation overall as opposed to just degree of religiosity.

'None' functionally means 'atheist', in this dataset (or, maybe better, 'agnostic').

No, it doesn't. "Unaffiliated" worlds away from "agnostic," which is itself separate from atheism.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:23 AM on May 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think it's strange that some are being so glib about this - it seems clear to me that Protestant and evangelical culture is or has been responsible for most of what's good about America.

If by "what's good about america" you actually mean "what's been good for white male protestants and evagelicals" then I wholeheartedly agree.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:24 AM on May 12, 2015 [22 favorites]


Otherwise evangelical culture is currently responsible for most of the extremely terrible things happening to women in this country right now.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:26 AM on May 12, 2015 [13 favorites]


The decline in religion in the UK of late has been put down entirely to the decline in the Church of England, with atheism at around 50 percent. You could say that mainline Protestantism is responsible for atheism.

(Atheism is also >90 percent white here, but I can't disentangle that from the different ethnic demographics of the UK and the US. We have virtually no Latino population, for example.)
posted by Devonian at 10:26 AM on May 12, 2015


While I would be thrilled for a more secular America, the rise of the American Taliban is of great concern. The full-scale assault on reproductive freedom and the rise of an anti-science platform in a major political party can only be bad for the country. Some of these folks hate Sharia law, but they have no problem with Purity Balls or religious tests for public office. It's OK if you're a fundamentalist.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:34 AM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I see a lot here about the population moving between categories (Christian -> none) etc. and about differing birth rates between categories, but there's one more important factor that shifts the religious landscape around: The categories themselves move. They change their meaning over time.

Until the 1960s, evangelical protestants were not anti-abortion and were openly scornful of pro-life/anti-abortion positions. A number of denominations that once didn't perform same sex marriages now do perform them.

And those are just big policy/theology related changes, there are also shifts in focus or culture that matter, too -- think about the shift in culture brought about in the Catholic Church by Vatican II, or the more recent shift in away from respect of the priesthood, and the resulting dramatic decline in vocations. Or as others have noted, the shift towards a sort of secular practice of Judaism. Or changes in the ways churches think about environmentalism. Or the way churches have, at least officially, dropped fabulously racist teachings or rules. Think about how just about every religion in which parents once felt faint at the thought of their kids inter-marrying, now has relatively frequent intermarriage.

Understanding how the religious landscape is changing needs to take that into account, too. If we predict that 50 years from now 3/4 of Americans identify as evangelicals and belong to what are currently considered evangelical denominations, how can we interpret what that will mean without understanding what evangelicalism might look like in 50 years?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:40 AM on May 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


I don't think the US will necessarily follow the European model of growing atheism. America is the birthplace of quite a few religious movements, and I think this explosion in 'nones' is possibly very fertile ground for the development of a new beliefs, sects, cults, and religious communities. I'm thinking the Internet will also play a role, with virtual flocks gathering online for on-demand sermons or viewing recorded religious services at all hours of the day and night and where a 'kickstarter' for religions might replace the collection plate. A fragmentation of religious landscape and one in which the cost of conversion is low and people will probably be switching, combining, and creating beliefs more often than before.
posted by FJT at 10:49 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


America is the birthplace of quite a few religious movements,

As opposed to Europe?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:52 AM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Wow, you can't possibly be serious. You're actually going to waltz in here and claim that "Protestant and evangelical culture is or has been responsible for most of what's good about America" and then call someone else tendentious for asking you to justify your sweeping, insanely controversial and borderline-offensive claim? That's absolutely hilarious.

I think white Protestant cultural forms are uniquely suited to industrial society. I believe America owes its success as a nation largely to those cultural forms, which, of course, were picked up by non-whites and non-Protestants (you see evidence of this in discussions of Catholicism in the US, where parishioners expect more of a democratic voice in church governance). Lip service to other cultural forms aside, the key to success in America is universally recognized as dedication to the nuclear family (which Protestantism emphasizes) and adherence to the Protestant work ethic. We live in a deeply Protestant society, so much so that I think folks don't actually realize it. Obviously we cannot draw direct lines from 'Protestantism' to 'good stuff', but the pattern of Protestant environments (like US, Canada, UK, Germany) producing stupendous living standards and largely happy, stable societies is hard to ignore.

And, in case it's not obvious, I'm a conservative, and I think its a bad idea to celebrate productive cultural norms being thrown into the ash heap of history.
posted by corcovado at 11:05 AM on May 12, 2015


As opposed to Europe?

That's true, Europe's been around a lot longer. I guess I meant more of modern religious movements. I'm more thinking out loud and trying to say that just because there's less organized religion, doesn't mean religion is going to just disappear.
posted by FJT at 11:11 AM on May 12, 2015


I believe America owes its success as a nation largely to those cultural forms

The key to America's success as a nation was to build our industries on the backs of the working classes and enslaved minorities, come the fuck on.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:17 AM on May 12, 2015 [34 favorites]


I think white Protestant cultural forms are uniquely suited to industrial society. I believe America owes its success as a nation largely to those cultural forms, which, of course, were picked up by non-whites and non-Protestants (you see evidence of this in discussions of Catholicism in the US, where parishioners expect more of a democratic voice in church governance). Lip service to other cultural forms aside, the key to success in America is universally recognized as dedication to the nuclear family (which Protestantism emphasizes) and adherence to the Protestant work ethic. We live in a deeply Protestant society, so much so that I think folks don't actually realize it. Obviously we cannot draw direct lines from 'Protestantism' to 'good stuff', but the pattern of Protestant environments (like US, Canada, UK, Germany) producing stupendous living standards and largely happy, stable societies is hard to ignore.

You do realize that you listed countries that were literally built on the backs of non-white, non-Protestant, non-native physical and economic power, right? Or that their work ethic thrived on subjugating or eliminating the native populations, including destroying families they were allegedly so dedicated to? Or that those living standards are very far from being shared by non-white, non-Protestant members of those societies, let alone the populace at large?
posted by zombieflanders at 11:18 AM on May 12, 2015 [22 favorites]


I think white Protestant cultural forms are uniquely suited to industrial society. I believe America owes its success as a nation largely to those cultural forms...

You seem to confuse your personal beliefs with empirically verifiable facts. That pretty much sums up contemporary American "conservatism", right there.
posted by mondo dentro at 11:18 AM on May 12, 2015 [16 favorites]


the actual social change being studied - isn't whether people have some abstract, philosophical understanding of God; it's are they living day-to-day lives as religious people.

Most Americans identifying as Christians (or any other religion), which is what this study covered, is a far different proposition than most Americans living our day to day lives as Christians, as if we were making a serious attempt to follow and emulate Jesus in daily existence, which is what you want to claim it means. I'm sure many Christians do exactly that, but frankly, I would need some convincing to believe that most of them do, even on Sundays.

are they living day-to-day lives as religious people. I'm not sure that's possible without a faith community (at least in Christianity, it is not).

Certainly not a representative sample but I know plenty of people who read the Bible and consider it to be a holy book or even The Holy Book, but don't follow any particular Church. I question your assertion that it's not possible to be a deeply and sincerely spiritual follower of Christ without considering oneself to be a member of a physical earthly church.

I think part of the falloff in church membership is because people have seen that it's entirely possible to pursue a non-affiliated path. Back in the day you were automatically suspect if you didn't attend a specific (usually Protestant) Church. Whether you wanted to or not, you were shamed into attending church, at least on major holidays. Now that that regime of instant disapprobation is no longer in effect, some people are perhaps questioning what the added value is to subjecting one's moral decisions to the scrutiny of non-divine third parties such as church leadership and nosy hypocritical parishioners. Obviously there is some added value. A sense of community, of shared holy purpose, common moral code, and friendship. A feeling of security in trying times, the comfort and awe in the history, the ceremony and the physical structure whether lavish and humble. The belief that, as a member in good standing of a Church, one is cultivating a relationship with one's Creator, following his commands as written in Bible, and securing one's own salvation. But growing numbers of people find these things to be an insufficient lure, especially when they can choose to reject them or pursue them on their own without being pariahs.
posted by xigxag at 11:19 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Obviously we cannot draw direct lines from 'Protestantism' to 'good stuff', but the pattern of Protestant environments (like US, Canada, UK, Germany) producing stupendous living standards and largely happy, stable societies is hard to ignore.

If that's the thesis, then does not the success of East Asia disprove it utterly?
posted by qcubed at 11:21 AM on May 12, 2015


The key to America's success as a nation was to build our industries on the backs of the working classes and enslaved minorities, come the fuck on.

Yes, this is the standard leftist answer to 'Why is America so great, and other countries are less great?'. I'm not surprised that it was almost literally parroted in the next reply. Some people believe different things; we'll have to agree to disagree.
posted by corcovado at 11:21 AM on May 12, 2015


Yes, this is the standard leftist answer to 'Why is America so great, and other countries are less great?'

Yeah, and I think the only person who would ask the question with that sort of hyperbolic framing is Stephen Colbert. (And the answer you'd receive would be equally ridiculous.)
posted by FJT at 11:27 AM on May 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


If that's the thesis, then does not the success of East Asia disprove it utterly?

No, it doesn't say that the only way to have a successful society is to be Protestant. It just says that that's one pretty good way. And its interesting - Japan, at least, seems to have imported many American (i.e. Protestant) institutions wholesale.
posted by corcovado at 11:27 AM on May 12, 2015


sure, have fun with that white supremacy then.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:28 AM on May 12, 2015 [14 favorites]


Sarah Posner: 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Overthink the New Pew Data’s Impact on Politics

Might be a little late for this thread ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by Cash4Lead at 11:30 AM on May 12, 2015


And its interesting - Japan, at least, seems to have imported many American (i.e. Protestant) institutions wholesale.

This is, if anything, more historically inaccurate and ethnocentric than believing that the Protestants were totes the best thing for America.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:31 AM on May 12, 2015 [16 favorites]


And its interesting - Japan, at least, seems to have imported many American (i.e. Protestant) institutions wholesale.

Such as?

Protestantism is a non-factor in Japan, as Christianity as a whole comprises of <1% of the population and is split evenly between Protestants and Catholics.
posted by qcubed at 11:31 AM on May 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


I can't predict where the nones population will end up, but I am interested to see the extent to which they contribute to the growth of the Sunday Assembly, Community Mission Chapel, Freethought Oasis, and Humanist Hub-type organizations which have emerged and/or grown in recent years.
posted by audi alteram partem at 11:36 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, this is the standard leftist answer to 'Why is America so great, and other countries are less great?'. I'm not surprised that it was almost literally parroted in the next reply. Some people believe different things; we'll have to agree to disagree.

By all means. If only there was some way to assess the veracity our different truth claims. Hmmmm....
posted by mondo dentro at 11:46 AM on May 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm stretching the truth [picture of Christ the Redeemer atop that famous hill in Rio which we love] this much
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:50 AM on May 12, 2015 [10 favorites]


This is, if anything, more historically inaccurate and ethnocentric than believing that the Protestants were totes the best thing for America.

The Meiji restoration involved a few *BIG* changes in Japanese society. Here, I'll list some out for you:

1) Introduction of the Diet (the first parliaments were European, 'Diet' is actually a Latin word used for regional parliaments in medieval Germany)
2) Liberalization of labor (another European idea)
3) Nationwide, universal, guaranteed education (an American Protestant idea)
4) Adoption of a new civil and criminal law code (imported directly from Germany and France)
5) Widespread telecom/electricity infrastructure building (invented by white Europeans - both the technology and the idea that these should be universal luxuries)

Moreover - they did this stuff explicitly to gain recognition as equals from Western powers (which they subsequently got).

So yes, I am confident in saying that the industrial development of Japanese society is at least partially due to the importation of white Protestant cultural norms.
posted by corcovado at 11:53 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ok, so it's decided. America is Good specifically because of the outsize effect of white Protestant culture.

Now, next topic: America is also Bad. Which of the Bad things about America can we blame on the outsize effect of white Protestant culture?
posted by griphus at 11:59 AM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


So yes, I am confident in saying that the industrial development of Japanese society is at least partially due to the importation of white Protestant cultural norms.

Ah, the standard "America and Christianity is the bestest and everyone else isn't". I'm not surprised that it was almost literally given in your next reply. Some people believe different things; we'll have to agree to disagree.
posted by qcubed at 11:59 AM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


So, corcovado, I think I get your style of argumentation: by definition everything good* about Western culture (particularly of the Anglo-Western variety) is the fruit of White Protestant Culture. You are a question-begger par excellence!
_____
* translation: "good" = "stuff you like"
posted by mondo dentro at 11:59 AM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


By all means. If only there was some way to assess the veracity our different truth claims. Hmmmm....

Here's one way: if it's really true that American society was 'built on the backs' of slaves and laborers - if this dynamic really is a more-or-less complete explanation of American history - then who that actually believes this would ever want to live here? Aren't you complicit in a generations-long effort to build things on poor working peoples' backs?

I take extreme rhetoric exactly as seriously as extreme rhetoricians do - that is to say, not at all.
posted by corcovado at 12:05 PM on May 12, 2015


Protestant civilization's gifts to Japan: railroads, electricity, the Rape of Nanking capitalism,
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:06 PM on May 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


There are fewer people than there used to be in the ideological middle

Yes, it's lonely. And I bought all of these extra pizzas and soda too.
posted by echocollate at 12:08 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Moreover - they did this stuff explicitly to gain recognition as equals from Western powers (which they subsequently got).

Um, they did this stuff to avoid getting colonized by the Western powers. They actually got recognition after defeating Russia in a war.

They had (and still have) an Emperor. The guy who had the direct line to god, y'know the "Mandate of Heaven".

Why would they care about being recognized as equals by a bunch of upstart outsiders without the threat of a fucking gunship sitting in their waters and complete subjugation?
posted by FJT at 12:09 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Fundamentally, monotheistic religion deals in absolutes. Liberalized versions of Christianity (or Islam) are therefore uncomfortable things: as more and more cultural norms have come to make the absolutes look ridiculous, only people willing to double down on the absolutes see any value in them. There are a couple of things that are extra-difficult for Protestant Christianity, as well. First, most Protestant Christians are sola scriptura: they used this focus on the Bible to justify their defection from the Catholic Church. Second, most Protestant Christians are therefore committed to the inerrancy and perfection of the Bible, because it's the only foundation of their religion. Thus, when you start saying... well, maybe evolution makes sense after all... or well, maybe we should let women be pastors... or gay people probably shouldn't be murdered..., you're really chopping away at the limb you're standing on.

Oddly enough, Catholics have a lot more leeway in terms of adaptation (because of the tradition of the magisterium as a valid source of dogma), but the leadership seems bound and determined to be as conservative as they can be until they kill the whole thing.
posted by sonic meat machine at 12:09 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


....if it's really true that American society was 'built on the backs' of slaves and laborers...

I had literally no idea this was up for grabs as a fact.

But, yes, I -- even as an immigrant to America -- am absolutely complicit in the unconscionable way this country was built and benefit from it directly. And I try to live conscientiously toward that fact as best I can.
posted by griphus at 12:12 PM on May 12, 2015 [27 favorites]


Aren't you complicit in a generations-long effort to build things on poor working peoples' backs?

You don't exactly have to believe that the Joint Dictatorship of the Proletariat of Oppressed Nations needs to commit unlimited genocide of the Amerikkkans to answer "yes" to this question, you know.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:18 PM on May 12, 2015 [13 favorites]


Otherwise evangelical culture is currently responsible for most of the extremely terrible things happening to women in this country right now.

So all of the Metafilter articles on sexism in the workplace, particularly in the tech and STEM fields, Gamergate, MRM, etc., etc., can be laid at the feet of religious fundamentalism? That seems questionable to me.

Clearly fundamentalists take the position of a more "traditional" (read: subservient) role for women and object to tax-funded contraception, abortion, etc., which all constitute serious and disconcerting obstructionism for women's legal rights, but the really nasty misogynistic stuff I see recurring seems to comes from a totally separate, dare I say secular, place (though I'm sure there's probably some crossover).
posted by echocollate at 12:19 PM on May 12, 2015


Here's one way: if it's really true that American society was 'built on the backs' of slaves and laborers - if this dynamic really is a more-or-less complete explanation of American history - then who that actually believes this would ever want to live here? Aren't you complicit in a generations-long effort to build things on poor working peoples' backs?

My family has spent generations working with millions of others to undo that damage, and continues to do so. On the other hand, pretending that it never existed just so I could spout a bunch of mumbo-jumbo about Protestant God's Chosen MURICA is pretty much the definition of complicity in that kind of system.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:20 PM on May 12, 2015 [13 favorites]


Wow, this thread took a helluva turn since this morning.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:31 PM on May 12, 2015 [14 favorites]


corcovado: I think it's strange that some are being so glib about this - it seems clear to me that Protestant and evangelical culture is or has been responsible for most of what's good about America.

Like... the KKK? After all, many evangelical groups were vociferous defenders of white supremacy, segregation, etc.

Some of the worst bigotry and oppression in the history of this country were directly caused by Protestants. The history of American anti-Catholic discrimination by Protestants alone could fill volumes. The nativism movement and riots of the mid-1800's were only a small part of that.
posted by zarq at 12:38 PM on May 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


White Protestant Conservative Consumerist Culture preferred by White Protestant Conservative Consumers.

Who'd have thought it?
posted by Mooski at 12:50 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wow. The U.S. was not built by slaves and laborers and it's in fact "extreme rhetoric" to say so. I suppose wars are actually fought by the generals and jingoist politicians and the other Important People of society, too, rather than by soldiers.
posted by XMLicious at 12:56 PM on May 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


Hallelujah.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:12 PM on May 12, 2015


I think it's safe to say the Protestant work ethic has had a great effect on America's greatness. I mean, with slavery alone other nations have built pyramids, which America lacks. So you could argue Protestantism actually has been a limiting factor on America.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:13 PM on May 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Sorry, is this not the thread to write things that sound reasonable but actually make no sense at all?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:15 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter: the place to write things that sound reasonable but actually make no sense at all.

(that's the first time I've given in to that particular meme, so forgive me.)
posted by GhostintheMachine at 1:16 PM on May 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


...which America lacks.

Whoa buddy let's be careful with that extreme rhetoric there.
posted by griphus at 1:18 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


sonic meat machine: Oddly enough, Catholics have a lot more leeway in terms of adaptation (because of the tradition of the magisterium as a valid source of dogma), but the leadership seems bound and determined to be as conservative as they can be until they kill the whole thing.

This strikes me, a Catholic, as regrettably accurate. And some parishes -- and way too many dioceses -- have leadership willing to follow the too-conservative Vatican line.

For example: most of my family lives in Minnesota, in a parish whose pastor came from Peru. While they -- and a lot of their fellow parishoners -- are friendly, open-minded, free-thinkin' folks, the pastor is not. He re-instituted The Washing Of The Feet during Holy Week…but only men's feet. *sad trombone* He imported several bothers from Peru, and they live at the Rectory…but they speak mostly Spanish and are involved peripherally with the parishoners. He has added so many candles to the Mass that now as many as seven altar servers at a Mass (and one Mass per weekend is a High Mass, which lasted over two hours on Mother's Day last weekend!) are required to hold them all. My nephew says that he couldn't see through all the incense on Sunday. The pastor pushed out the beloved principal of the parish school with his backwards-looking dogma, and many parishoners have bailed on the school and the parish as a result.

My own parish in New England is full of families (well over a thousand), often three generations in a pew, and a lot of other activities are tied to the church. The music is good, the homilies are accessible and theologically sound, and our pastor celebrates 25 years on the job and fifty as a priest this month.

My brothers & sister & parents and their families are honestly good people, but when they step into church, the sacrament they are offered seems disconnected with contemporary life and thought. When I visit and attend there, it's very obvious that my parish's culture is facing the future and theirs is clawing its way into the past. This saddens me, because my nieces & nephews will get regressive messages about their faith, which is a genuine loss. :7(
posted by wenestvedt at 1:19 PM on May 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Um yeah and the Luxor in Vegas!
posted by agregoli at 1:21 PM on May 12, 2015


obvious derail but i somehow had not actually realized that the luxor hotel pyramid is actually larger than some of the actual ancient egyptian pyramids and now idk what to do with this knowledge.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:21 PM on May 12, 2015 [11 favorites]


Japan, at least, seems to have imported many American (i.e. Protestant) institutions wholesale.

They also imported and modified a broad number of "institutions" (e.g. aspects of their written language, the foundations of their ceramic and metal arts, architectural techniques, the paddy system of rice production and other elements of their agriculture, etc.) from mainland Asia. Consequently, the Japanese weren't exactly clad in bear skins and banging rocks together prior to the Meiji era, as you seem to be suggesting.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:23 PM on May 12, 2015


Also the Egyptian pyramids AFAIK were generally built by skilled contractors who lived on-site and were recompensed, not slaves.
posted by griphus at 1:25 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Don't be silly, Shepard. Without American Protestantism, Japan would be populated by savages of a non-white, alien persuasion.
posted by qcubed at 1:26 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Stephanie Zvan - "Atheists, Nonbelievers, and Nones, Oh, My"
Atheists are where the biggest disconnect happens between lay definitions and categorizations for the purposes of the Pew surveys. We tend to rely on definitions of atheists that hinge on what we do or don’t believe. Affiliation surveys measure what people call themselves, and they only measure someone’s primary identification....

This has implications for how we count women, ethnic minorities, and other groups who receive substantial benefits from belonging to communities. Whether they believe or not, they are less likely to be counted as atheists in these surveys.
posted by audi alteram partem at 2:11 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


He has added so many candles to the Mass that now as many as seven altar servers at a Mass (and one Mass per weekend is a High Mass, which lasted over two hours on Mother's Day last weekend!) are required to hold them all.

I realize that your beef is with the cultural change not the candles per se, but you may have the causal order wrong on the candles. In my childhood church they found "jobs" for as many kids as wanted to be alter servers. So maybe there were "enough candles for 7 alter servers" instead of 7 alter servers required for the candles.

Also, I very much doubt that the parish priest moves brothers around internationally. That kind of decision would be made at the diocese level and above.

Serious Q: What's your beef with having a high mass once a week? I mean there are probably 4-5 other masses each weekend, right? So it's not like you have to go to that mass if you don't want to. I wouldn't want to attend (IMO, mass should last about 40 minutes), but I bet the nonnas and such like it. I have a friend in his 30s who loves high mass. To each their own.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 2:16 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


...if it's really true that American society was 'built on the backs' of slaves and laborers - if this dynamic really is a more-or-less complete explanation of American history...

Red herring. And rather dishonest. You know very well that no one suggested that it is a complete explanation of American history. But it's an important component of it. Any honest reading of history will demonstrate this. And, by the way, it is my Christian cultural upbringing--of the Italian Catholic variety, formerly much reviled by the WASP culture you advocate--that has made me value honesty, even when it is not flattering to my person, and to despise oppression of the powerful against the weak. Maybe we have different Bibles?

I completely acknowledge the importance of WASP culture in the the Anglosphere. This is simply a fact of history. And, much of its importance has been very, very positive (we can start with the Constitution itself). You, on the other hand, seem incapable of acknowledging anything bad that came of WASP culture. Native American genocide? Slavery? The exploitation and injustice of the Gilded Age? These are either revised away, or, at most, viewed as minor glitches in an otherwise glorious history of WASP ascendancy.

... then who that actually believes this would ever want to live here? Aren't you complicit in a generations-long effort to build things on poor working peoples' backs?

See, I don't think the USA is exceptional. Period. My ego and sense of spirituality does not depend on lying to myself to say that it is, and it is not Christian to insist that it is. Indeed, I see the conflation of patriotism and piety as the worst sort of blasphemy. So, I am under no illusion that other countries are any more morally pure. Given that, why would I leave? Furthermore, the version of Christian morality I was raised with emphasized the importance recognizing one's failings, and the failings of the society one lives in, and then taking the moral responsibility of improving them, to the best of one's ability.

It is a sad commentary on contemporary "conservative" Christianity that such a perspective is incomprehensible to its adherents. Instead, we have only the steadfast insistence that one's tribe must always and forever be held above reproach.
posted by mondo dentro at 2:23 PM on May 12, 2015 [22 favorites]


I think white Protestant cultural forms are uniquely suited to industrial society. I believe America owes its success as a nation largely to those cultural forms...

I'll give you a hundred bucks if you come to Pittsburgh and say that loudly in any bar here and manage make it out alive.
posted by octothorpe at 2:23 PM on May 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


do it for the vine
posted by poffin boffin at 2:32 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


I completely acknowledge the importance of WASP culture in the the Anglosphere. This is simply a fact of history. And, much of its importance has been very, very positive (we can start with the Constitution itself). You, on the other hand, seem incapable of acknowledging anything bad that came of WASP culture. Native American genocide? Slavery? The exploitation and injustice of the Gilded Age? These are either revised away, or, at most, viewed as minor glitches in an otherwise glorious history of WASP ascendancy.

Hey now, don't give the Anglo-Saxons all the credit. Some nice Scottish Presbyterians and German Lutherans were surely involved as well.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:49 PM on May 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


[A couple comments deleted - if you want to talk about what trollish behavior patterns look like, MeTa is the place. Thanks.]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 4:23 PM on May 12, 2015


If the Episcopal Church would do a better job of marketing itself, it could pick up disaffected evangelicals put off by the right wing politics of the movement. It also could pick up disaffected Catholics who were fed up with the Catholic Church. My diocese is very liberal and very gay-friendly; its ethos is a lot like MF's. But Episcopalians are not very good at self-promotion.
posted by persona au gratin at 4:31 PM on May 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Judging from the reception of "God's Not Dead" among former HS friends on Facebook and its position on streaming lists, the continued strength of evangelicalism doesn't surprise me.

I teach philosophy. I wonder how much that movie will affect perceptions of the discipline going forward. Evangelicals have this weird persecution complex.
posted by persona au gratin at 4:34 PM on May 12, 2015


Evangelicals have this weird persecution complex.

Their deity says that they will be persecuted for their beliefs. If they're not being persecuted, by god, they will try to be.

It's the whole culture of victimhood.
posted by qcubed at 4:39 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Judging from the reception of "God's Not Dead" among former HS friends on Facebook and its position on streaming lists, the continued strength of evangelicalism doesn't surprise me.

Oh god people have positive opinions of that movie?
posted by griphus at 4:42 PM on May 12, 2015


tivalasvegas: insightful comment at 9:21. I know some Episcopalians who are former evangelicals who are still very orthodox in their religious beliefs. So they are 'evangelical' in in believing in things like Incarnation, Atonement, Trinity. But they won't identify as 'evangelical' because they've renounced the conservatism and bigotry of that tradition.

Also, the post-evangelical movement is encouraging. Wish it were bigger.
posted by persona au gratin at 4:43 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


griphus: middle-class white evangelicalism loves that movie. really.
posted by persona au gratin at 4:44 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


It fits in with the whole 'the secular culture is out to get us' complex they have going on.
posted by persona au gratin at 4:45 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


One last comment and I'll sit out for a while. qcubed: Jesus told the disciples they'd be persecuted. (And they were!). It's a serious hermeneutic failing that produces a reading wherein Jesus is talking to middle-class white contemporary Americans when he said that.
posted by persona au gratin at 4:52 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


If the Episcopal Church would do a better job of marketing itself, it could pick up disaffected evangelicals.

But wouldn't they first have to buy a Cadillac CTS or at least a high-end Buick.
posted by JackFlash at 5:19 PM on May 12, 2015


I honestly think some (most?) people just have a personality or disposition where they have the feeling of persecution, and depending on their affinity groups they'll find reasons why it's actually true, some more serious than others. This explains a lot of sports fandom (go Sox!). But also conservative Christian rhetoric about persecution/suppression of Christianity. White people who are convinced they have been held back by "reverse racism".

(Of course, some people actually are being persecuted, and if they have this personality type, they don't need to delude themselves.)
posted by vogon_poet at 5:33 PM on May 12, 2015


I don't think it's an accident that the societies America most resembles - Australia, Canada, the UK - are themselves largely white and Protestant.

Not only is evangelical religion responsible for most of what's terrible about America, it's specifically a form of evangelical authoritarianism derived from the Puritans that's not really a factor in any of the other countries mentioned. Colonialism and slavery aside, the white Protestantism of the Church of England has more to do with Roman Catholicism than American/Puritan fundamentalism.

As it is, America is basically at the bottom rung of the "first world" ladder in a lot of ways (poverty, social mobility, healthcare outcomes, etc.), and if it hadn't been for the forethought of the secularists among the founding fathers, the USA would probably be an even worse place to live.
posted by infinitywaltz at 6:47 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is it really not obvious that American culture is predominantly (white and) Protestant in nature? That isn't to say other people don't exist, or that they didn't contribute things, but I don't think it's an accident that the societies America most resembles - Australia, Canada, the UK - are themselves largely white and Protestant.

That's a pretty terrible understanding of the underlying cultural commonalities of the Anglosphere. Former British colonies, settled by British colonists. The largest ethnic ancestry group among Americans? The census will tell you that it's German, as self-reported, but it isn't; it's British, and probably specifically English. Something like 40-50% of Americans have at least some English ancestry; for most of them it's so far in the dim distant past that they identify with the ethnicity of whoever their most recent immigrant ancestor was, whether that was German, or Irish, or whatever, or, like substantial numbers of whites in the US South...which historically had much lower levels of immigration, in the post-colonial era, than anywhere else...they identify as merely "American". Of course it isn't an accident that countries with a shared cultural history are very similar (and the original British colonists brought their culture with them and established new cultures in the New World that later immigrants adapted and assimilated to).
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 7:35 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


OMG. Before this post I had never heard of God's Not Dead. Being something of a connoisseur of religious kookery, I had to watch it. So I just watched it on Netflix and it may be the most awesome specimen I have ever encountered. It's like the writers made a list of kooky tropes and challenged themselves to squeeze in as many as possible:

Liberal College Professor? Check.
Atheists as universally embittered and Christian-hating? Check.
Hateful and violent Muslims? Check.
Godless communists? Check.
Deathbed conversions? Check AND Check! Two!
Liberal Christian-hating reporter? Check.

I might have to take away a few points because the movie clearly doesn't take a young earth or seven literal days perspective. Also, I'm not sure whether I should take away points for fundamental misunderstings of how anything works:

The secret Christian pretending to be a Muslim wears a kind of cross between a hijab and a niqab (essentially a hijab tied loosely and then partially pulled across part of the face) that I don't think actually exists as a thing.
A professor who wants to be deprtment chair?
A philosophy professor who gives a rat's ass whether his students believe in God?
An intro philosophy course where the primary topic appears to be a Christian god?
A philosophy prof who lists Ayn Rand, Noam Chomsky, and Richard Dawkins as noted philosophers?

One the one hand, these seem to be things they could have gotten right without damaging their kooky point. On the other hand, a lot of these are the kinds of things lots of people get wrong because sometimes people outside a world don't know how that world works.

Anyway, if you're in the market for kookery this is just as good as Fireproof. 4.75 stars , only because Kirk Cameron did not star.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:07 PM on May 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


I prefer Fireproof because God's Not Dead lacked a subplot centered on obsessive masturbation.

But it did have both Hercules and Superman as dangerous psychotics.
posted by griphus at 8:13 PM on May 12, 2015


If I only had a penguin: it is an amazing specimen, isn't it? Your comment made me think--I wonder how much of its streaming popularity is due to people hate/horror-watching it.

My HS friends were really thrilled by it and posted as much on FB. I felt the need to issue a defense of my profession.
posted by persona au gratin at 8:15 PM on May 12, 2015


Speaking as a Californian, whose state looks like the future of America, the America I see daily isn't white and Protestant. And we're better as a people for it.
posted by persona au gratin at 8:18 PM on May 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also my theory is that Professor Hercules was trying to get fired and get his girlfriend to leave him because there's a Last Temptation Of Christ/Jacob's Ladder thing going on and he realized he was living in a false reality.

It's the only reasonable explanation for his behavior.
posted by griphus at 8:19 PM on May 12, 2015


I prefer Fireproof because God's Not Dead lacked a subplot centered on obsessive masturbation.

I think we're meant to assume that the guy who looks like the guy from Saved by the Bell who dumps his girlfriend because she has cancer is an obsessive masturbator. He comes of as an obvious wanker to me, anyway.

Also, can we add to the kooky tropes "Atheists cannot be moral"? I mean seriously. She tells him she has cancer and he breaks up with her in his next breath because she has cancer and she "broke their agreement" by getting cancer and thus not being hassle-free arm-candy.

As far as things atheists do in kooky christian movies, it doesn't get more canonical than that.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:21 PM on May 12, 2015


My favorite character was Stern Chinese Dad who was coincidentally the only character with a lick of sense:

“dad! college in America is fascinating! I’ve been learning about Jesus”
“what? don’t talk about these things to me”
“no really Jesus is great. Remember those clandestine Christian meetings that neighbor of ours used to have?”
“who is this? Prank caller! Prank caller!”
posted by griphus at 8:29 PM on May 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh yeah, and the prof who insists that his girlfriend call him Professor when they're on campus. Classic.

I swear if I didn't have the season Finale of The Returned to watch, I would watch that movie all over again right now.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:43 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, can we add to the kooky tropes "Atheists cannot be moral"? I mean seriously. She tells him she has cancer and he breaks up with her in his next breath because she has cancer and she "broke their agreement" by getting cancer and thus not being hassle-free arm-candy.

This is extra amusing because the person most famous for actually doing this was founder of the Contract With America himself Newt Gingrich.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:56 AM on May 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


if it's really true that American society was 'built on the backs' of slaves and laborers

Not all that controversial among historians, really.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 7:01 AM on May 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Linda LaScola - "Clergy Fuel the Flight from Religion"
Thanks to the research I conducted with Dan Dennett through Tufts University, I know there are clergy who are purposely or inadvertently discouraging their parishioners from holding some of the foundational beliefs of their religion. They no longer believe themselves, so are not very convincing when conveying religious beliefs. In some cases they are not even trying. Instead, they are subtly trying to get through to people about the facts of religion.
posted by audi alteram partem at 7:05 AM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


If only I had a penguin… : I realize that your beef is with the cultural change not the candles per se, but you may have the causal order wrong on the candles.

If only. :7( No, this definitely came from him, and not the kids.

Also, I very much doubt that the parish priest moves brothers around internationally. That kind of decision would be made at the diocese level and above.

Very possibly; the accepted explanation in the parish is that the pastor brought them in. (Certainly there were no ELL Peruvian novices in that part of St. Paul before! :7) The bishop, Rev. John Neinstedt, is pretty very conservative, too, so I wouldn't be surprised that it was his idea. No matter, they are there now.

Serious Q: What's your beef with having a high mass once a week?

With that specifically? Nothing, if the parishoners wanted it. Look, that parish has a beautiful, traditional "upstairs" church: nave, apse, stained glass, gold leaf on the walls, and a church organ in a loft. There is also a low-ceilinged basement where Mass was far more often held; two or three musicians stood at the edge of the altar and strummed their guitars while a slide projector threw old, blurry images of the lyrics on the walls. In the summer it was delightfully cool. And other than my uncle's wedding Mass, I can't recall going to Mass upstairs more than a handful of times…but Father only stayed down there a while, and now the Masses are held upstairs. Truth be told, upstairs is waaay more splendid. But I never heard agitation to use it more by any regular parishoners.

... I bet the nonnas and such like it.
My mom is actually the one who complains about it the most. :7) But I do hear grumbling about him from more than just her.

Anyway, I have hijacked this thread far too much already.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:38 AM on May 13, 2015


and one Mass per weekend is a High Mass, which lasted over two hours on Mother's Day last weekend!

Oh let me get out my tiny violin! I'm Jewish: in my shul, morning services are two hours minimum. In a language which most of us don't understand. And, like, at least 45 minutes of that is monotonous chanting.

Oh yes, and all the other Jews think we're wimps for doing the short version.

At least the multi-hour late services Yom Kippur are less bladder-challenging... because you haven't drunk any water for twenty hours!
posted by Dreadnought at 2:20 PM on May 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


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