Religion in America
Back in 2002, the Pew research folks reported that "Religion is much more important to Americans than to people living in other wealthy nations. Six-in-ten (59%) people in the U.S. say religion plays a very important role in their lives."
Prompts one to wonder what questions they are asking since other research shows nearly 90% of the world's population participates in an organized religion. If the same people were asked, would we learn that while those 9 out 10 people actively participate in religion, only 6 out of those 10 do so because it is important to them? Thereby making 3 out of the 10 participating in religion, but it not being very important to them? Oh, never mind.
Many religious affiliation studies tout findings that break down with every respondent being religious, just some being more so and some being less so. This suggests quite clearly a flaw in their study since obviously 100 out of 100 people are not religious - by any definition - in America. See below.
Averaging the other studies, it seems that roughly 80% of ATRTRS's (Americans That Respond To Religious Surveys) are Christian. Unfortunately, these public opinion polls are usually wrong; see below. Nonetheless, the rest of the breakdown:
80-ish% - Christian
10-ish% - Non-religious
7 -ish% - Jewish
3 -ish% - others, including Muslim, Unitarian, Scientologist, Buddhist, Native American, etc.
Perhaps this is why it was such a gimme when a recent Harris Poll said that the bible was America's favorite book? But on the other hand, considering that the barely 1/2 of America had even read a single book in a whole year according to a study by the National Endowment for the Arts; picking the bible probably seemed like a safe pick.
Looking closer at those affiliation numbers, not even 20% of Christians go to church once a month. There is a more publicized figure of around 40% of church attendance, but it has also been determined to be more perpetuated myth than proven fact.
A few years back in Ohio, a couple of researchers went to a local Catholic Mass, every one, every week, for several months. And they counted each person. Then they got on the phone and conducted a phone survey of church members, asking specifics about if they had been to church. Guess what? The reported numbers doubled, which means that half of them were lying through their holy, non-tithing teeth (more on tithing later). This study has been replicated in other denominations in other areas with the same results. The truth to flat out lie conversion factor is 1 to 2. Can I get an Hallelujah?
No Child Left Behind?
Currently among youth's, 18 and younger, religious non-affiliation jumps to nearly 20%. And those youth that claim to be religious attend church even less frequently than their older counterparts.
People that identify themselves as Christians are doing so less and less each year, dropping almost 1% per year in total participation. And statisticians believe that all told, with the current shift away from world religions, that most Americans will self identify as non-religious or at least non-Christian in just 15-20 more years.
Break it Down, Michael!
So what does all of this mean? For starters, it means that I likely have nearly a 100% chance of pissing off at least everybody at least once during this series of articles.
It also means that whether we accept the numbers as presented or apply the 2-to-1 fudge factor, organized religion is facing a gradually diminishing flock of followers.
But where are they going?
The recent press release on religion I mentioned in the first article touts a finding that people hop between religions on their way to eternal salvation the way Frogger hops from safe zone to safe zone on his way across the highway.
For example, the 25% of America that is reportedly Catholic is not comprised of the same 25% of Catholics from say, 5 years ago. Those folks are now Baptists, or Muslims, or Theosophites, or Agnostics. Or maybe even Frisbeetarian with a side order of Vegetarian. Seems that on average, the turnover rate among Catholics is one third of all their followers because they didn't like what they were being served ... and went elsewhere. Kind of like being disappointed with the steak tartare at the Western Sizzler and deciding to try The Bonanza, I presume.
Historically however, when the Pope did a headcount, roughly the same number appeared in church each Sunday. It turns out according to that according to Pew, it just wasn't the same people in the, you know, pew's.
Because like cellular service plans, Thursday night sitcoms and Jenny Craig, it seems that many people just aren't always that committed to just one brand to have their proverbial bread buttered.
And in the land of the Mega Church, not having steady customers can hurt the bottom line. So church leaders now more than ever must devise more plans on how to market, how to "witness" more potential converts, how to sell their service and their, ahem, faith, to the church hopping masses.
Sticky is as Sticky Does
The Pew Dude said: "...once you attract these folks, how do you root them within your own particular tradition when people are changing so quickly..."
Now, to the religious oriented out there, this may not be a secret at all. Remember, it has already been established that some religions will limit their followers options by codifying behavior that requires them to follow a certain set of guidelines.
But what they really mean is not tradition, like watching America's Funniest Home Videos on Friday nights, eating bagels and lox on Christmas morning or cheering for Notre Dame football on Saturday. Those are traditions. What they mean is institutionalizing people within the ever restrictive confines of their religion's policies and procedures. And to partially concede his point, there IS a tradition in organized religion to confine people - by whatever means necessary - into that religion's policies and procedures. Stick around and I will disclose those unsavory origins.
And like any Policy & Procedure manual, the passage of time merely create more opportunity for the meddler to add more to it. Sound familiar?
Remember the topic about the death of common sense (book by the same name is available on my recommended reading list)? The procedure for making bricks has been virtually the same since bricks were first invented. Clay, water, heat, etc. Yet the Regulatory Policy & Procedure manual has grown from a pamphlet to a phone sized document. Same dog, different fleas.
Oh, but I digress...
Next up, we will cover the little known path, yet crucial origin to today's "bible-banging", the selling of faith, role of "spirituality" and we will expose more guilt driven methods of the church.
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