Saturday, March 28, 2015
What do you believe?
The role of religion has declined too. In 1994, 88% said religion was important in their lives. Today, only 78% say it's important. In terms of relevance, that too has declined, albeit not significantly, from 79% to 70%. However, what may actually be a more important indicator is the result of five Gallup polls averages which shows that overall religious importance has declined from 78% to 69%. That is significant. According to a recent Gallup Poll, 53% of those surveyed said they were satisfied with religion's role in public life. While that is a majority, its certainly isn't a commanding majority, especially when you consider than in January 2001, that number was 64%, and a year later, in 2002, that number was 68%.
How does that break down along demographic lines? This is an important question given that religion has been interwoven into the
Millennials (ages 18 to 33) are the next big demographic wave to hit as we've often discussed on this blog. With 50% of them self-identifying as independent, Millennials have no love for the current social/economic/political system. This includes the two party duopoly, the corporate capitalist economic system, with a split between small "L" libertarianism and democratic socialism (with the later getting the slight nod), as well as discrimination of any sort, including gay marriage, or interracial mixing. They are the most diverse of all the generations (43% are non-white). They tend to vote Democrat, though they are not aligned with the Democrat Party; they just like the more liberal stance of Democrats on social issues than the GOP (for instance, 68% favor gay marriage while 69% support legalization of marijuana). So it should come as no surprise that Millennials have little positive to say about religion; at least organized religion. Millennials have proved to be both optimistic about the future and on the whole, willing to roll of their sleeves and get to work when they find an issue or cause that's important to them. They are also the most technologically connected of any generation. They've never known a time without handheld electronics, computers, or social networks. They are also more inclined to delay marriage and have the largest percentage of debt (mostly school loans).
So, what's the takeaway here? I think it's the realization that religion---particularly mainstream organized religion---will likely decline as Silents and the first wave Boomers (those born between 1945 and 1964) age out. Non-organized religions, especially non-traditional faiths like those which emphasis spirituality (Native American, Wiccan), as well as Buddhism or even moderate Islam will continue to take hold due to the increased internationalization of the average American continues amid the decline of the once dominate WASP (with the increase of Hispanics, remember most are Catholic and while some are embracing Protestant churches, most remain, at least nominally, Catholic). What is expected to remain stable is the traditional mostly conservative and socially active black churches such as the Baptists, and AME.
In addition, Millennials do not support church activism when it comes to politics. Again, I think we can, therefore, expect the
On another level, religion, regardless of denomination, has served as a basic foundation to establishing and maintaining a moral foundation for most Americans. America was founded on Judeo-Christian values along with ideals from the Enlightenment. Religion laid out a set of broad guidelines or boundaries of behavior; or what's acceptable and what's not, which was usually reinforced by our parents and the schools we attended. Americans have always turned to religion when times were rough, either personally or for the nation as a whole. It has been a guiding light or safe harbor. It's also provided inspiration for us individually and for us as a nation. How does the decline in religion impact this? First, I think it's instrumental in defining our moral compass. Just look around you or watch the television and you'll see what happens when people lose their moral guideposts. I guess you can say that this system of Judeo-Christian values and ideals of the Enlightenment helped to create the American character.
5 Signs of the 'Great Decline' of Religion in America
U.S. Satisfaction With Religion Settling at Lower Levels
Poll: 9 in 10 Americans Still Believe in God
Millennials in Adulthood
Generation Atheists! Millennials to religion--get out of politics!