Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Religion in America

The latest Pew survey found that only 71% of Americans identity themselves as Christians, down from 79% in 2007. This is not because of other religions, which have risen only from 5 to 6 percent, but because of the "unaffiliated":
Over all, the religiously unaffiliated number 56 million and represent 23 percent of adults, up from 36 million and 16 percent in 2007, Pew estimates. Nearly half of the growth was from atheists and agnostics, whose tallies nearly doubled to 7 percent of adults. The remainder of the unaffiliated, those who describe themselves as having “no particular religion,” were less likely to say that religion was an important part of their lives than eight years ago.

The ranks of the unaffiliated have been bolstered by former Christians. Nearly a quarter of people who were raised as Christian have left the group, and ex-Christians now represent 19 percent of adults. . . .

Younger adults have been particularly likely to join the unaffiliated in recent years. In 2007, 25 percent of 18-to-26-year-olds were unaffiliated; now 34 percent of the same cohort is unaffiliated.
The surveyors did not find any evidence that young Americans who are now irreligious will become more so as they age; on the contrary more people of every age group are leaving church than joining.

It is interesting to me that the percentage of Americans who identify as Jewish is unchanged, even though many American Jews are completely secular. To be Jewish is an identity that survives the loss of the religious component, whereas a Christian identity is specifically religious.

3 comments:

G. Verloren said...

Well Jewishness, at least in America, has long had less to do with going to temple and far more to do with speaking Yiddish, eatting brisket, and living comfortable and unassuming middle class lifestyles.

David said...

Judaism is by its own self-definition an ethnicity as well as a religion. Under Jewish law, if you have Jewish blood from a Jewish mother, you're Jewish, whether or not you believe in God, practice anything, or even know anything. Unless you have the blood, or go through the intentionally discouraging conversion process, you're not Jewish. There are various ways you can lose your Jewishness, but apathy or even unbelief aren't usually among them.

I strongly suspect that stable poll number means that the percentage of people identifying themselves as having Jewish ancestry is stable, not that Jewish religious practice or belief is going strong.

pootrsox said...

I believe David is correct.

I'm a secular humanist, but I still call myself "Jewish" as well.

BTW, there is at least one humanist Jewish congregation where one can worship, as it were, without a god.

http://bethadam.org/ and also their online identity:
http://www.ourjewishcommunity.org/

The female co-rabbi was an elementary school classmate of my daughter's.

And another BTW-- speaking of the latter young woman, my daughter is, of course, Jewish by definition, though her father is Italian-American and has reverted to his Catholic practice. Yet if you ask her, I am certain she would never think to say she's Jewish-- and probably answers "none" to religious questions.