Survey: Americans switching faiths, dropping out

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Survey: Americans switching faiths, dropping out

....The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey estimates the United States is 78 percent Christian and about to lose its status as a majority Protestant nation, at 51 percent and slipping.
More than one-quarter of American adults have left the faith of their childhood ....
One in four adults ages 18 to 29 claim no affiliation with a religious institution....

The Roman Catholic Church has lost more members than any faith tradition because of affiliation swapping, the survey found. While nearly one in three Americans were raised Catholic, fewer than one in four say they're Catholic today. That means roughly 10 percent of all Americans are ex-Catholics...

...Hindus claimed the highest retention of childhood members, at 84 percent.

The group with the worst retention is one of the fastest growing -- Jehovah's Witnesses. Only 37 percent of those raised in the sect known for door-to-door proselytizing said they remain members.

... most Buddhists were converts. More people in the survey pool identified themselves as Buddhist than Muslim, although both populations were small -- less than 1 percent of the total population. By contrast, Jews accounted for 1.7 percent of the overall population....

...more...
 
Now this could be either very encouraging or very disappointing, depending on how you choose to look at it. A seeker and an optimist such as myself would say that people are no longer content to blindly accept the faith of their fathers and are seeking their own truth, refusing to be spoon-fed. A more fundamentalist religious person might say it's a horrible tragedy that people are turning away from God, and that our country is most certainly headed towards ruin. A pessimist or non-spiritual person could see it as simple laziness, perhaps an improvement on our Christian based society.

As someone cursed with the ability to see both sides of a situation, I often have a hard time choosing. Part of me thinks this is a sad commentary on our times, and part of me wants to see it as a hopeful turn from fundamentalism. Hmmm, thoughts, anyone?
 
The baseline is that every new generation starts over again. The percentages always go up and down just like in political factions. The negative aspects of the dominant party stimulates interest in the other party -- not because its so much worse but because its so much better understood. The dynamics of religion balances and dances with government dynamics over the long term, stabilizing and destabilizing.
 
Interesting survey. Of course like any survey it only gives us a little knothole to peep through. For instance it cannot show us the number of people beginning to look inside themselves to find universal truths, nor can it show us the percentage of people attracted to alternate types of spiritual endeavors.
Not being a statistician I couldn't tell you what it would take to get a broader or more concise view, but hopefully mankind is spiraling upward in values and consciousness.
 
I think it is interesting that Hindus have such a high retention rate. As a social scientist, I wonder why this is. Is it tied to ethnic enclaves? Or that Hinduism is very diverse internally, so it allows for everyone to do something that fits with their spiritual experience? Hinduism always seemed to me to be very inclusive, so perhaps it's hard to leave if you're included no matter what your spiritual path is! ;)

The Amish have exceptionally high retention rates as well (I believe over 85%). Interestingly, as they have increasingly become more different from their surrounding subcultures, this retention rate has gone up. They retain more of their youth now than they did 100 years ago.

What I wonder about with the statistics is the group of folks like me- I was raised spiritual but not religious and without religious affiliation. Well, my dad was Lutheran, but I was mostly raised by my mom who did not have religious affiliation. She considered herself a follower of Christ but not a member of any Christian church. While I sometimes go to church, I don't consider myself a member of any church either. So I am pretty much stable to how I was raised. I wonder how many people these days fit into that category- raised spiritual but not religious and now are the same.
 
Perhaps people migrate from path to path because as they grow spiritually or intellectually, they can no longer be supported by the group. If you speak a language outside of what the group considers its normal parameters you might find yourself being marginalized more and more. Most groups I associate with are like this. For example, twelve step groups are fairly dogmatic in their application and understanding of the texts used. Even Buddhist groups are this way as well. Religious science (new thought) are the same way and members can often be heard to say things like " well, whats in your consciousness?" if you discuss experiences or have an inquiry not covered in their doctrine.
I guess it would take a Social Scientist to figure stuff like this out. :)
 
Most of the major religions on earth today built big pictures of belief thru mythos in the past to justify doctrinal veracities upon abstractions that fit the increasingly outward oriented lives of their followers. About the only religion that did not fit that pattern is Hinduism, simply because their foundational stories and myths still rest upon a foundation of individual observations and mythos based upon observations of nature. This also might speak to it's internal diversity and cohesiveness.

flow....;)
 
I'm glad somebody pointed to this, it was all over the news yesterday.

Although I do think the parameters are a bit harsh, going by what I heard on the tv last night. Apparently the surveyors considered it "changing" if one switched from one denomination/sect/variation of what I would call a religion. I can understand a Christian becoming Buddhist or an atheist becoming Muslim being called a change in religion, but I hesitate to say that switching from Methodist to Presbyterian is really changing religion.

FWIW, I still "feel" the same way I do about G-d now as I did as a child, although the words and labels I use to describe that may have altered a bit through the years. ;)
 
While I sometimes go to church, I don't consider myself a member of any church either. So I am pretty much stable to how I was raised. I wonder how many people these days fit into that category- raised spiritual but not religious and now are the same.
That's pretty close to where I come from. Mom was nominally Catholic, but I think I saw the inside of a Catholic church maybe 4 or 5 times that I recall. She did take us to an assortment of Protestant churches from time to time while I was growing up. Dad didn't get religion until many years later, long after I did.

I still don't think G-d is about churches. In some way, that whole concept of "church" just doesn't resonate with me, since I can remember (around 5 years old). Churches might as well have been meat ("meet"?) markets, so many of the young adults I remember went primarily looking for a date for the next weekend... :confused: :cool:
 
Hi Still Thinking ...

I wasn't going to respond here ... being orthodox Roman Catholic, our attitudes are rarely welcome in modern society ... but as you invited I thought I'd put in a view.

Now this could be either very encouraging or very disappointing, depending on how you choose to look at it.
As is the case with most things statistical.

A seeker and an optimist such as myself would say that people are no longer content to blindly accept the faith of their fathers and are seeking their own truth, refusing to be spoon-fed.
A seeker and optimist such as myself would say this implies the content of faith is inadequate ... which from the ample evidence is obviously not the case.

It also implies that people can't be bothered to make the effort to look for themselves, but rather look to who's offering the bigger spoon to feed them with. It's a symptom of a me-orientated consumer society. As consumers, we're educated to reward ... if there's no tangible reward forthcoming, we change product loyalty.

"One's own truth" is something of a modernist fallacy — truth then becomes utterly subjective, a matter of opinion. Looking for the 'truth of self' is setting oneself to be the arbiter of truth, and to function properly, without error, requires one to be omniscient.

In a culture that is aimed at self-comfort, the challenge offered by religion is often an unapetising one...

Thomas
 
"One's own truth" is something of a modernist fallacy — truth then becomes utterly subjective, a matter of opinion. Looking for the 'truth of self' is setting oneself to be the arbiter of truth, and to function properly, without error, requires one to be omniscient.

Thomas

Thomas,

If you were not seated in your own truth would you have found the omniscience of the Catholic church as connective truth?

- c -
 
A seeker and optimist such as myself would say this implies the content of faith is inadequate ... which from the ample evidence is obviously not the case.

It also implies that people can't be bothered to make the effort to look for themselves, but rather look to who's offering the bigger spoon to feed them with. It's a symptom of a me-orientated consumer society. As consumers, we're educated to reward ... if there's no tangible reward forthcoming, we change product loyalty.
Namaste Thomas,

I believe that is evidenced by the study.
The Roman Catholic Church has lost more members than any faith tradition because of affiliation swapping, the survey found. While nearly one in three Americans were raised Catholic, fewer than one in four say they're Catholic today. That means roughly 10 percent of all Americans are ex-Catholics....
Perhaps you'd have some insider insight why those seekers raised Catholic moved on?

At our church we seem to be a sort of way station for seekers. We have any number of various denominations go thru our doors. Very few people are raised in Unity, I know of two in our congregation, most are ex-somethings. While our church (started 15 years ago) has a consistent and steady growth there are probably an equal amount of folks who pass thru our doors than stay. ie they come for a year or so, and then move on, (or back). Unity started not as a church but as a metaphysical study of the bible, its founders teaching weekday classes expecting attendees to return to their regular church membership on the sabbath. I think I still see that today, folks with issues the way something is presented develop a new understanding and which allows them to return to their old churches with new eyes and ears.

I often contemplate whether I'll be attending Unity services ten or twenty years from now. I don't know, I do know it feeds me now, and I am not committed to forever, I think there is a comfort level in that.
 
I'm pretty sure they do, at least our dear friend Path Of One does. It was to her that sentence was directed.

LOL. I don't think one particularly needs social skills to talk with God. For that matter, one doesn't necessarily need social skills to do social science, either!

I'd agree that going from one denomination to another within a religion should be statistically different from a shift from one religious paradigm to another. Though I recognize that, at least in Christianity, there would be a lot of debate on where to draw the line. My Quaker inspired version of Christianity seems to be really different in many ways from the Baptist version, for example. (I'd guess there are parellels with other religions- Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, for example, always seemed very different religions to me.) But even the liberal Quaker or Unity view, that still considers Christ central to the journey, is very different from those that do not. So it seems there could be some reasonable categories that are better than lumping all religious shifts together under one statistical umbrella.

I found your and flow's thoughts about shifting around intriguing, as well as Thomas'. I think there is some truth to both sides. Some people probably do switch faiths because they want an "easy" way (but is there one, really?) or something new and exciting. I personally have not found many religions that are more or less easy than Christianity (in fact, Christianity seems to be one of the easiest to follow), so while people may think it will be easier or more feel-good in another religion and start seeking as a result of this, I don't think that's why people genuinely convert. I know more than a few Jews and Christians who converted to Buddhism, and all of them find Buddhism more difficult to practice than their first religion (and a lot more work).

However, most people I have met who converted to something else or switched churches did so because they could not overcome the cognitive dissonance between their own beliefs and spiritual experience and what their religion and/or church said/did. I tried for a few years to be a good conservative Christian. That's what my friends and husband's family were. But no matter how hard I tried and how much I prayed, I am just not a conservative Christian. Many of the beliefs just don't fit with my own spiritual experience at all. It was like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. I felt like I was being dishonest- playing a role, and at the same time I felt like I was turning my back on my own experience of God. It caused a lot of emotional and mental stress, and was non-productive as far as spiritual growth goes.

I am not sure what is productive about staying in one religion or church if it is so far removed from your own beliefs/experience that it requires you to be someone you are not. While some people are fortunate enough to find one religion or church that fits with their own spiritual journey, others are not. I do not like to stagnate. God changes me constantly, molds me, reveals new things to me. As I learn and grow spiritually, my beliefs shift to accommodate new information and spiritual experience. Of course, this is "me"-oriented in the sense that my spiritual journey is the central part of my religious life and I do avoid religions/churches that don't fit with my beliefs (don't we all). Yet, I don't see how forcing myself into a religion or church's box for my entire life is productive, if that is not true to my actual experience and belief. I don't see how my own spiritual journey is any more or less challenging than that of someone who chooses one church/religion, rigidly adheres to it, and manages to not change at all over the course of their lifetime. It is likely that for those that stay in a single religion or church, that is most comforting and most rewarding. And for those that do not, likewise.
 
Hi Ciel —

If you were not seated in your own truth would you have found the omniscience of the Catholic church as connective truth?

One can only determine the truth of oneself according to an external point of reference.

Thomas.
 
I think it is interesting that Hindus have such a high retention rate. As a social scientist, I wonder why this is. Is it tied to ethnic enclaves? Or that Hinduism is very diverse internally, so it allows for everyone to do something that fits with their spiritual experience? Hinduism always seemed to me to be very inclusive, so perhaps it's hard to leave if you're included no matter what your spiritual path is! ;)
I do think it has a lot to do with wider family structure and the support it offers.
Or..
Maybe its because they party a lot, are allowed to be happy and dont need to feel guilty?
 
Maybe its because they party a lot, are allowed to be happy and dont need to feel guilty?
Ah, guild, fear, it seems the religions/denominations that resort to this the most have the most retention issues. Interesting how they are also the ones gaining new converts.

Once you see the man behind the curtain....
 
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