Americans Are Becoming Less Religious & That's the Real 'Good News'

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churchWith all the political pandering to traditional Protestant beliefs, you'd think America was a nation of devout Christians. We are, aren't we? Surprise! Not so much. For the first time in history, fewer than half of Americans identify themselves as Protestant -- just 48 percent.

A whopping 20 percent of Americans don't identify themselves with any religion at all. And look where the trend is heading: A full third of Americans under 30 don't identify with any religion. We're not a nation of atheists, yet. About a third of non-religious people do believe in some sort of higher power, whatever you want to call it. But we're definitely not as churchy as we used to be.

Just like the rest of the industrialized world, Americans are becoming more and more secular. And as one of the 7 percent of Americans who don't believe in god or any divine being, that's a big relief.

Hello, I am an atheist. And surprise! I don't go around killing puppies and burning the flag.

I grew up in a devoutly religious family and made a long, slow, thoughtful journey to atheism. Leaving religion and belief in a god has made me happier, more relaxed -- and it's made every aspect of my life so much more precious because I know I'm only here once and then it's all over. Everything in life means more to me now.

I've seen the full range of behavior and attitudes from religious people. I've had the privilege of knowing some of the kindest, most forgiving, and loving people -- and some of the most appallingly hypocritical.

Just this weekend I witnessed a hot debate over religion on Facebook. In defense of his faith, one man wrote, "The [excised] in me just wants to take a weapon of mass destruction to those that are in the great and spacious building." (In this context, "great and spacious building" is a reference to the secular world.) The irony that the poster sounded exactly like a terrorist was completely lost on him.

It's the kind of thing people say when they feel like religion is under attack -- and it's the kind of thing that turns people off from religion. That and other attacks -- on gays, feminists, other faiths, you name it. It seems like the more secular we become, the more polarized the religious and non-religious get. But atheism and secularism aren't a threat to organized religion. The threat is from within, from the people who use religion as a front for hatred and fear.

Meanwhile, I'm hoping that religious dogma -- something fewer and fewer of us having in common -- will have less influence on public policy in the future.

Do you identify with a specific religion or are you among the un-affiliated?

 

Image via Qfamily/Flickr

in the news, religion

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nonmember avatar another guest

I'm right there with you, Adriana. Religion is a crutch for people who are afraid of what happens after we die. Anyone who thinks that you can't be an atheist and be a moral, ethical person is simply wrong. I was raised Protestant, but I've come to the conclusion that religion is a divisive, negative influence in far too many lives. We'd all be better off just following the golden rule, and having that be our "religion."

Procr... Procrastamom

and it's made every aspect of my life so much more precious because I know I'm only here once and then it's all over. Everything in life means more to me now.


I love this line, Adriana.  Well said. 

nonmember avatar Sarah.S.

Nope, that's not good news. But don't worry, we teens and 20 year olds who have a deep faith are on a mission. I am sure you will start to notice more and more out spoken and completely sold out Christians.

All of you 'rejoicing' about this, don't bother. You don't stand a chance of 'winning' this war.

Jessy Roos

I appreciate the distinction you made between faith, religion and religious dogma. I too, hope that religious dogma will someday play less of a role in public policy. I personally believe in a higher power and even attend a church of a certain Christian denomination, but I often find myself cringing at the things that people do in the name of religion and want to distance myself from it as much as possible. Thank you for writing such a thoughtful piece.

mustb... mustbeGRACE

Well praise the Lord and vote for Romney    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

nonmember avatar zach

@Sarah.S, Too late. We've already won.

EmmaF... EmmaFromEire

I really like your article.I myself am agnostic, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with being an atheist. 

nonmember avatar Exactly

"All of you 'rejoicing' about this, don't bother. You don't stand a chance of 'winning' this war." @ SarahS, this is a prime example of why a lot of people are turning away from religion. People like you who want to use your faith as a war. Whatever happened to leading by example and being a good Christian without being hate filled? I too used to be Christian, Catholic as a matter of fact, but comments like that above turned me off. I'd now consider myself in that hazy area between agnostic and atheist. People like Sarah S push me more toward atheist daily.

EmmaF... EmmaFromEire

And i'm with you jessy, there are some things that have me cringing, and some things that really rile me up. And one of those things is your post, Sarah, there is no ''war'', you cannot force people to subscribe to your beliefs. 

cecil... cecilmansmom

I grew up extremely religious Pentecostal Holiness to be exact. And discovered by studying the Bible that Jesus Himself condemned the religious leaders of His day. I also discovered that the purpose of Jesus was not to make us more religious if you will but for us to have a relationship with Him. He wants a family not a religion. bTW true Christianity is not a religion it is a relationship.

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