- 1:55 pm - Tue, Oct 9, 2012
- 5 notes
One of our favorite organizations, the Pew Forum, released a report today on the rising numbers of people in the United States who consider themselves religiously unaffiliated.
The big headline is that Americans are no longer majority-Protestant, but we were also struck by the huge increase (see above) in religious non-affiliation among the young. If you’ve read Robert Putnam, Charles Murray, or Christian Smith, you’ll know that this has implications far beyond Americans’ private practice of spirituality: religious affiliation is a major source of social cohesion, voluntary association, and interaction between otherwise unlike socioeconomic groups.
The prescient words of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) circa 1970 come to mind as well:
“The church will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes … she will lose many of her social privileges… As a small society, [the Church] will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members.”
Alan Jacobs asks:
Has there been an actual increase in religiously unaffiliated people, or do people who are in fact unaffiliated simply feel more free than they once did to acknowledge that fact? My suspicion is that until quite recently a person born and baptized into the Catholic church who hadn’t attended Mass in fifteen years would still identify as a Catholic; but recently is more likely to accept his or her unaffiliated status. There is less social (and perhaps also psychological) cost in saying “I have no particular religion that I’m connected to” than there once was.
You can peruse the summary, read the Forum’s theories about the trend, or download the full report. And as always, we’d love to hear your thoughts!