Monday, April 27, 2009

More religiously unaffiliated, but many are open to religion

On the one hand, the New York Times reports that "More Atheists Shout It From the Rooftops" and that "that those who claimed “no religion” were the only demographic group that grew in all 50 states in the last 18 years. Nationally, the “nones” in the population nearly doubled, to 15 percent in 2008 from 8 percent in 1990. In South Carolina, they more than tripled, to 10 percent from 3 percent." Some of the new atheists are a kindler, gentler form:
In keeping with the new generation of atheist evangelists, the Pastafarian leaders say that their goal is not confrontation, or even winning converts, but changing the public’s stereotype of atheists. A favorite Pastafarian activity is to gather at a busy crossroads on campus with a sign offering “Free Hugs” from “Your Friendly Neighborhood Atheist.”

On the other hand, U. S. News & World Report notes that the religiously unaffiliated are actually rather open to religion:

The Pew report also provides a striking new portrait of those religiously unaffiliated Americans, the fastest-growing segment of the American religious landscape. The report finds that religiously unaffiliated, widely considered to represent a dramatic spike in avowed secularists, are actually quite open to religion and that only a minority feel that science disproves religion.

Just like Protestants who left their denominations, religiously unaffiliated Americans are more likely to have grown disenchanted with their particular congregations or clergy than with religion per se. "Paradoxically, the unaffiliated have gained the most members in the process of religious change despite having one of the lowest retention rates of all religious groups," the report says. "Most people who were raised unaffiliated now belong to a religious group."

Maybe the grass is always greener. People raised in church give up on it, while those raised without religion gravitate toward it.

The U.S. News article also notes that "There are now 8 million nondenominational Christians, according to the Trinity report, up from 2.5 million in 2001." Another sign that we've moved into a post-denominational era.

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