Monday, March 09, 2009

A religious "nahafoch hu"

A guest post by JS:

According to a new study (ARIS - American Religious Identification Study) conducted by Trinity College, the number of non-religious in America has risen again. The latest ARIS study was conducted late in 2008 and follows studies released in 1990 and 2001. See reports on the study here and here.

In 1990, 8.2% of Americans said they had "no religion" and this number has steadily climbed ever since to 14.2% in 2001 and now 15% in 2008. Nearly every single religious group has declined over this time span. Notably, Catholics have declined in the Northeast from 43% in 1990 to just 36% in 2008. Concurrently, the Northeast has become the least religious part of America, with 34% claiming no religion. The percentage of Christians has fallen from 86% in 1990 to 76% in 2008.

Jews present an interesting case as we are a "people" and a "religion." The percentage of Americans who describe themselves as religiously Jewish fell from 1.8% in 1990 to just 1.2% in 2008. Meanwhile, the number of "ethnic" Jews has remained stable since 1990.

The number of atheists (though many don't like this term, see here) and agnostics has also risen. However, people are still afraid to outright self-identify as such (though the number of self-declared atheists did nearly double since 2001). Only 1.6% said they were atheist or agnostic, but 12% of the population stated beliefs aligned with atheism or agnosticism. Another 12% are deistic in that they believe in a higher power, but not in a personal God.

So, does this mean the decline of religion in general? The decline of religion in America? Will more people find or lose religion in the economic crisis? Will atheists and/or agnostics soon become a majority in this country? What do you believe is behind this trend? How do you think it can be reversed (if you're religious) or accelerated (if you're an atheist, agnostic, etc)?

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