Survey: Organized Religions Lose Members

ABC News reports a new survey by Aris shows Americans are becoming less religious:

According to the poll, which came out today, the percentage of Americans who define themselves as Christian has dropped from 86 percent in 1990 to 76 percent in 2008.

In one of the most dramatic shifts, 15 percent of Americans now say they have no religion -- a figure that's almost doubled in 18 years. Americans with no religious preference are now larger than all other major religious groups except Catholics and Baptists.

The number of Atheists is growing and the number of Protestants have fallen: [More...]

Mainline Protestants are down the most. Methodists, for example, have gone from 8 to 5 percent. Baptists are down from 19.3 to 15.8. And Jews are down from 1.8 to 1.2 percent.

Spirtualism, however, seems to be on the rise:

Some 2.8 million Americans now say they identify with new religious movements like Wicca, paganism or spiritualists. Catholic strongholds in New England and the Midwest have faded as people have moved toward the Sunbelt.

The only Christian denominations not seeing falling numbers are evangelicals:

Megachurches are booming, rising from 5 to 11.8 percent of the population. And with the economy in free fall, many megachurches say they're seeing increased attendance. They're praying that perhaps hard times will draw Americans back to their faith.

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    It may be that the topic of (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by hairspray on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 06:44:51 PM EST
    overpopulation cannot be broached as a public policy issue as long as religions are so dominant.  Unfortunately the religions that foster abundant procreation are some of the ones that are growing so fast.

    It is no surprise that mega churches (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by inclusiveheart on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 06:45:23 PM EST
    are seeing an up-tick during this economic down turn given the fact that many of them preach what they call "wealth creation" which essentially posits that Jesus believes that his followers have special dispensation to seek wealth and to be rich.

    Got Prayer of Jabez? (none / 0) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 07:40:32 PM EST
    Atheism (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by DFLer on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 06:59:41 PM EST
    I caught a broadcast of a speech by scientist Richard Dawkins, author of (2006) "The God Delusion" at a southern university on CSPAN author show last year. In the question and answer period, a student asked about her fear of the admission of being an atheist in a culture that emphasizes religion so much as ours does. Dawkins' reply was something about comparing this dilemma to the same dilemma faced by gays some years ago, and predicted atheists soon would or should be "coming out of the closet". That notion resonated with me. Surely today, no one running for public office can admit to being an atheist. In fact, they have to emphasize their credentials re "faith".

    My fave comment ever on here (5.00 / 4) (#5)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 07:35:46 PM EST
    is still "Amen Atheist!"

    LOL (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Dr Molly on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 07:47:04 PM EST
    Also (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by squeaky on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 09:53:52 PM EST
    From WordNet (r) 2.0:

         n : a primeval Egyptian personification of air and breath;
             worshipped especially at Thebes

    Women were most likely not included.


    Most interesting to look at this regionally (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by Cream City on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 07:36:10 PM EST
    as things haven't changed much in some parts of the country.  Like mine.  

    The rest of you are godless heathens.  That must be why I'll be taking a trek out of my region and heading to godless country in a couple of days. :-)

    Take me with you (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 07:38:38 PM EST
    Is there an athiest nudist colony somewhere up North to 'hang out' at?  My life could use some reframing.

    I'm sure we've got (5.00 / 2) (#29)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 12:33:00 AM EST
    some o' that in Vermont, but the nudist folk wisely wait for another few months before doing their thing.

    LOL this reminded me (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by Amiss on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 12:41:34 AM EST
    of the nudist colony around the cove on Lake Griffen near Leesburg where the Methodist Youth camp is located and where I was sent every summer for years by my parents.

    Nudist Colony? (none / 0) (#38)
    by squeaky on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 12:59:22 PM EST
    I would opt for clothing optional operations, myself. Nudist colonies are pretty orthodox and thus more restrictive than places like Harbin Hotsprings.

    Alright you two, Traci and Cream, where (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by easilydistracted on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 07:40:34 PM EST
    is the godless country you speak of? I'm there too.

    Where else? The Northeast (5.00 / 4) (#15)
    by Cream City on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 08:24:05 PM EST
    that has lost so many godfearing folk, according to this survey.  So that's where I'm headed, you bet.

    Me, I live in that god-fearing, gun-toting region, the Midwest . . . where the Cat'lics still eat fish on Friday, go to confession on Saturday, and go to worship on Sunday.  As do the Prots, with the Lut'rans still fighting the religious wars over which synod gets to go to heaven.  And especially the evangelicals, with traffic jams for miles en route to their revivals, excuse me, services.  But all of 'em nothin' compared to the most recent immigrants to my 'hood, Orthodox Jews, who walk to services near us many a night and all day Saturday.

    We have a lot for which we must be forgiven in the Midwest, we know, because the weather tells us so.  Why would He punish us so, otherwise?


    Wow, tell me how it really is and don't hold (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by easilydistracted on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 08:29:13 PM EST
    anything back. I can handle it. You just about covered the entire spectrum there. LOL. Sounds like good ole Texas to me.

    Ahh, I like it here (none / 0) (#18)
    by Cream City on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 09:16:53 PM EST
    at the great intersection of the country, and will be glad to return -- but maybe bringing back with me some of those Northeasterners noted in the survey.  We're low on Wiccans here.  We could use them in the Midwestern mix.  The "wintry mix," that is, as all our prayers for relief from the weather have failed.  So I say, it's time to try witchcraft!

    Punished for the weather (none / 0) (#32)
    by CST on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 07:47:10 AM EST
    Sounds like us heathens up north :)

    My city has tons of "Catholics" but I don't know too many who actually believe all that stuff.  They definitely fall into Anne's second category of community groups more than any of the others.

    Of course, we had some bad church publicity a few years ago and a lot of Catholic schools and churches have closed due to lack of funding.

    Our Protestants and Jews and Muslims are definitely of the quieter variety.  My sister recently converted, and found out just how athiest our city really is.  People think you've lost your mind when you turn to God.


    That's right.... (none / 0) (#33)
    by kdog on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 08:07:43 AM EST
    c'mon over everybody...the only higher power in my house is the sunlight coming through the window, or the rain falling on the panes.

    Wait till Friday, (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by jeffinalabama on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 12:12:25 AM EST
    I get a week away from students!

    Hey, come to Vermont (5.00 / 2) (#28)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 12:32:04 AM EST
    We keep coming out in these surveys as the number one most God-less state in the union!

    We sure do cling to our guns, but church not so much.  The enormous Congo church that dominates our village center and has almost weekly flea markets and concerts and pancake breakfasts and the like I only recently learned has exactly 8 -- 8!! -- members of its congregation and no preacher.  I'm mystified and impressed by those 8 (mostly ladies, I believe) who are so determined to keep it going and doggedly raise the money to keep the building from falling down around their ears.


    Attendance (5.00 / 3) (#10)
    by indy in sc on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 07:41:11 PM EST
    at my (Catholic) church has gone up in the last few months.  I think bad economic times bring people "back to basics", which for some includes their faith.  Our collection take each week has gone up--not because the people who regularly attend are giving more, but because more people are attending.  It's nice because one of the things we do with the collection money is buy gift cards for local grocery stores so that people who come in off the street looking for assistance can buy food.  Not surprisingly, the number of people who do that has gone up too.

    Doing real things for real people (5.00 / 3) (#12)
    by Militarytracy on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 07:50:40 PM EST
    This is going to be one of the few "good things" we will all have to hold onto in the upcoming years.  I suppose it was time America had to take a crack at some spiritual growth or social maturing.....however you look at it.

    I tend to think there are three groups of (5.00 / 4) (#13)
    by Anne on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 07:56:01 PM EST

    In one group are those who may have dipped in and out of organized religion, perhaps partaking of the standard rituals, but have come to a place where they are comfortable exploring their own sense of the spiritual, who can ask important questions of themselves, and who do not need an organization to tell them how they should live or what morality is or isn't.  These are people who may believe in a higher power, or who may not, and who understand that belief or non-belief is not the measure of whether one is better than anyone else, and does not place them beneath those who perceive themselves as "more" religious.

    In the second group are those who feel their faith is strengthened in community with others; for some, it is so ingrained as a tradition or a way of life that their faith is their life.

    In the third group are people who are a little like sheep, who have no way to identify their own spirituality or their own belief unless they can look around and see others who look like them all doing the same thing.  Some of these are people who rather like being told what to think and what to believe, what is good and what is bad; they find comfort as much in structure as they think they do in faith.  It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's more superficial than they realize.  The worst people in this group are using religion to justify some rather ugly opinions that they believe allow them to treat people badly - to discriminate and subjugate and demean.

    It doesn't surprise me that the mega-churches are booming; when people get scared, they huddle.  

    I think for a lot of people, their eyes have been opened by the many failures of the religious community, and they have learned to count on themselves for strength, hence the drop-off in people who identify with a particular religion.

    Wow, is this judgmental! (5.00 / 2) (#25)
    by Upstart Crow on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 10:55:07 PM EST
    Beginning with the implication that people in organized religions do not feel "comfortable" exploring the spiritual (John of the Cross, Francis of Assisi, Hildegard of Bingen anyone?), need someone to tell them right from wrong, and descending from there to a description of all those "sheep" -- clearly different from the people on, say, this blog!

    Don't mean to pile on you, Anne. There's a lot of judgment and ridicule of others throughout this thread.

    Read a little Dietrich Bonhoeffer, everyone, and reconsider your sense of superiority!


    personally (5.00 / 2) (#26)
    by shoulin4 on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 10:58:29 PM EST
    I'm in the first group. I believe in a higher power but I don't necessarily subscribe to any organized religion. At the same time, I don't see having faith or not having faith as a criterion of a good person. Although, I do like going to church because of the work they do in my community and because of the general good message that they offer, and a place to be with people as if they were your family, especially when your true family lives hundreds of miles away.

    T'was my two cents, sorry for rambling :)


    Atheism (5.00 / 3) (#21)
    by Left of center on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 09:57:18 PM EST
    I find it very ironic that religious institutions pay no taxes, yet get full political representation, while atheists pay full taxes, and get no political representation.

    Kinda of Like (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by squeaky on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 10:04:26 PM EST
    Living in DC, or being in prison.

    I'm pretty sure (none / 0) (#35)
    by AlkalineDave on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 10:20:21 AM EST
    that if you wanted to make a group of people who met weekly to discuss matters relating to atheism and give money for charitable reasons, you would not be taxed.  

    hm (none / 0) (#39)
    by connecticut yankee on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 01:55:43 PM EST
    I'm sure there would be a major fight.  Even scientology didnt get tax exempt status until 1993.

    And did any non-christian charity ever get a dime under the Bush administration's faith based programs?  Didnt think so. The cult members protect the cult, they just do it all in the back channel.


    According to google (none / 0) (#40)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 02:16:27 PM EST
    yes, non-christian orgs got money from Bush's FBPs. I only googled for the Jewish faith, I'll let you google for the others...
    August 25, 2004
    Jewish Philanthropy: Benefiting from the Faith-Based Initiative

    Below are some examples of Jewish charities that have benefited from President Bush's Faith-Based Initiative:

    Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty (New York, NY)

    Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty

    Jewish Family Service (Albuquerque, NM)

    Jewish Family & Children Services (JFCS) (Long Beach, CA)

    Jewish Renaissance Medical Center (Perth Amboy, NJ)

    The Weinberg Campus (Geltzville, NY)

    The Faith based initiative was introduced by former president Bush shortly after taking office and expanded to a dozen federal agencies that provided grants and programs to faith groups for supplying social services.

    These services included treatment of substance abuse, homelessness, domestic violence and many other programs, including abstinence education.

    The Faith Based initiative was initially rejected by many Jewish groups, which cited their concern over weakening the Church and State separation and specific concerns relating to two major fields: proselytizing and discriminatory hiring by groups that receive federal funds.

    Jewish groups, according to a communal official, were not large recipients of grants provided through faith-based programs and were reluctant to apply for such funds during the Bush administration.

    I take solace in realizing that the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives that now sits outside the White House gates has effected change.

    The Office has used regulations and executive orders to end overt religious discrimination in the government grant-making process.

    Groups like the Metropolitan Council for Jewish Poverty, once denied an HHS application because it had "Jewish" in its name, are now welcome partners.

    Tens of thousands of faith-based social service groups, churches, synagogues, mosques, and secular non-profits attended free White House conferences where they were given information needed to navigate the federal grants labyrinth and the rules about what to do with money if they get it.

    A website now allows all social service groups to sort potential grants by category. These are good things.

    hm (none / 0) (#42)
    by connecticut yankee on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 02:22:06 PM EST
    So christians and jews.  Well, that's a spectrum.

    I wonder how the dollar percentages break down.


    Dunno. What % of the population is Jewish? (none / 0) (#43)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 02:39:29 PM EST
    A stand-up guy would just admit that the money did not all go to christian orgs and then move on...

    well (none / 0) (#44)
    by connecticut yankee on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 03:30:20 PM EST
    Having read several of the Bush administrations own men say that the system was rigged toward christian orgs I would say that a standup guy would do one or several of the following:

    A) read my comments in context, not cherry pick a single point.

    B) Not use snarky and sarcastic language like, "Im sure you can google the rest". That got you a sarcastic response. What a shock.

    The people who staff these organizations are often unaccredited christian college grads who live in a that parallel universe job track of xian colleges, churches and political jobs. THey arent the people I want dispensing billions of  tax dollars.   Some members of the office said that money was also used to buy political support from strategically placed churches.  

    Unless there are some secretive and politically valuable buddhist, muslim, hindu or scientology based charities, I doubt the money was divided in a fair way.  Seems pretty obvious.


    What seems pretty obvious (none / 0) (#45)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 03:52:01 PM EST
    is that your (snarky, sarcastic, bombastic and challenging) original comment that started this whole thing was decidedly wrong:
    And did any non-christian charity ever get a dime under the Bush administration's faith based programs?  Didnt think so. The cult members protect the cult, they just do it all in the back channel.

    Man up.


    Sure (none / 0) (#46)
    by connecticut yankee on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 04:32:56 PM EST
    No problem.  It looks like some jewish charities have gotten some money.  Now you can go up to mom's kitchen and get yourself another bowl of cheerios.

    But for the larget point, it's still there.  And these chrisitan charities are like states who claim that lottery money goes to education.  But is the old money still there?  Or is it reduced and going to some other program?

    In the case of christian churches, that could be anywhere.  Prosletyzing, African Missions, etc.  You cant pump billions of dollars into organizations and claim they wont benefit. Unless they are bailed out banks...


    Seraching for God in all (none / 0) (#3)
    by SOS on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 06:49:55 PM EST
    the wrong places ♫ ♪♫

    It's about time (none / 0) (#14)
    by mmc9431 on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 08:15:11 PM EST
    Now all we have to do is get someone in DC to read the report! If you listen to to them you would think we were all bible thumping fanatics.

    I wonder (none / 0) (#17)
    by lentinel on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 08:59:36 PM EST
    Will politicians take notice of this?
    Will they stop falling over each other trying to tell us how religious they are?

    I'm thinking they will - or some of them (5.00 / 2) (#19)
    by Anne on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 09:41:45 PM EST
    will, anyway - race to announce that this survey proves incontrovertibly the connection between the decline in those who identify with a religion and the rise of the Democratic majority.

    And from there, it's a short hop to the economic meltdown and every other bad thing going on.

    Come on - you've seen this movie before!


    Light bulb flahses. Why (5.00 / 4) (#24)
    by oculus on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 10:45:28 PM EST
    do does the Obama family leave town on the weekends?  Answer:  so they won't be ratted out for not going to church?

    I have (none / 0) (#37)
    by lentinel on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 11:26:35 AM EST
    indeed seen the scenario you mention.

    My thought simply was that some politicians might use the information that there is a significant number of people in this country who are offended by the ongoing violations by the government of the concept of separation of church and state.

    This block of Atheists, Agnostics and Americans who find themselves sickened by the public piety of our Presidents and the rest of them, might have the same appeal to some politicians. Not everybody has to lick the boots of Robertson or Warren.


    I'm sure they are... (none / 0) (#41)
    by kdog on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 02:21:47 PM EST
    and ready to assume the role of high priests in the church of government...that is the new religion.  The politicians are just waiting for the official death bell to toll for superstition-based religions.

    good (none / 0) (#23)
    by connecticut yankee on Mon Mar 09, 2009 at 10:15:09 PM EST
    This is why atheists never had a better friend than the creationists.  Extreme religious belief is driving away the middle-of-the-road believers.

    It sure has driven (none / 0) (#30)
    by gyrfalcon on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 12:38:09 AM EST
    the not-so-long-ago rock-ribbed Republican Vermonters into the arms of the Democratic Party, where they've discovered they're a lot happier than they were with the GOPers to begin with.

    The long-time farm folks around here literally physically cringe at the evangelical domination of the Republican Party in recent years.


    Evangelicalism and Vermontism (none / 0) (#34)
    by Cream City on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 10:00:51 AM EST
    do seem at odds.  Ayuh.

    Organized Religion (none / 0) (#36)
    by ricosuave on Tue Mar 10, 2009 at 10:24:35 AM EST
    I belong to no organized religion.  I am a Jew.

    (With apologies to Will Rogers)