This is news.
Washington (CNN) – More than three in four of Americans say religion is losing its influence in the United States, according to a new survey, the highest such percentage in more than 40 years. A nearly identical percentage says that trend bodes ill for the country.
Maybe that’s why Americans re-elected President Obama last year. The Republicans are supposed to be the Party of God, and if voters are abandoning God they may also be abandoning the Republican Party.
According to the Gallup survey released Wednesday, 77% of Americans say religion is losing its influence. Since 1957, when the question was first asked, Americans’ perception of religion’s power has never been lower.
OK, the poll did not ask respondents about their own religious convictions or lack thereof. What the survey speaks to is our perception as to to what extent religion is running our lives and our politics. My interpretation: we think people are ignoring God when it comes time to make critical decisions.
For example, the sexual revolution, the Vietnam War and the rise of the counterculture fed the perception that religion was on the wane during the late 1960s, he said.
There seems to be a bit of a problem here. Reading this I get the idea people are concerned about a decline in morality. This indicates some confusion between religion and morality. There is a difference:
Morality is treating people fairly, not stealing, not hurting people, not killing people, not breaking promises, not lying. It is also working to make this a better world by protecting the environment for future generations and promoting the advancement of the human intellect.
Religion is belief in life after death, belief in miracles, belief in one or more gods and possibly also conversing with disembodied and nonexistent spirits.
I guarantee you we can have morality without religion.
So, forget about morality. Let’s talk about religion. What is the actual status of religion? How’s it doing? Tom W. Smith, NORC/University of Chicago conducted a survey released 18 April of last year. Here are some excerpts:
The ISSP [International Social Survey Program] Religion studies covered 18 countries in 1991 (counting East and West Germany and Northern Ireland and Great Britain separately), 33 countries in 1998, and 42 countries in 2008. This paper analysis the 30 countries that were in at least two of the three ISSP rounds and appear in the 1991–‐2008 merged ISSP Religion file created by GESIS [of the Leibniz Institute for the Social Sciences].
The survey asked three questions:
A. Please indicate which statement below comes closest to expressing what you believe about God.
I don’t believe in God.
I don’t know whether there is a God and I don’t believe there is any way to find out.
I don’t believe in a personal God, but do believe in a Higher Power of some kind.
I find myself believing in God some of the time, but not at others.
While I have doubts, I feel that I do believe in God.
I know that God really exists and I have no doubts about it.
Can’t Choose No Answer
B. Which best describe your beliefs about God?
I don’t believe in God now, and I never have.
I don’t believe in God now, but I used to.
I believe in God now, but I didn’t used to.
I believe in God now and I always have. Can’t Choose No Answer
C. Do you agree or disagree with the following… There is a God who concerns himself with every human being personally.
Strongly Agree/Agree/Neither Agree nor Disagree/Disagree/Strongly Agree/Can’t Choose/No Answer
These questions are not about religion in general, because they seem to imply the “God” in question is Yehweh, the God of Abraham. Of course some religions have multiple gods, and some have no god. Anyhow, taken all that, the following findings are significant.
East Germany, the part of the German Republic ruled for 40 years by the atheistic Communist Party responded “I don’t believe in God” by 52.1%. The United States was near the bottom of this list at 3%, and the Philippines were dead last at 0.7%. On the flip side, “I know God really exists, and I have not doubts about it” was most prevalent in the Philippines at 83.6%, and the United States was near the top at 60.6% with Chile, Israel and Poland also beating out the U.S. The survey numbers are from 2008.
A general review of the tables reveals that countries that tend to be more pragmatic also tend to be less religious, Japan and France being examples. China (PRC) was not included in the survey, but I have seen another poll that puts that country at the very bottom of belief in God. This is hardly surprising, since prior to the 20th century China was a mostly Buddhist country, and the communist government since 1949 has impressed atheism on the population.
What does the future hold? The authors of the survey have this to say:
Belief in God has decreased in most countries, but the declines are quite modest especially when calculated on a per annum basis. It is only the repetition of the modest declines across measures and countries that makes the case for a general diminution in belief in God. This is further illustrated by the situation in the United States. Belief in God remains high, but has slowly eroded from the 1950s to the present (Chaves, 2011; Smith, 2009 & 2012). If the modest, general trend away from belief in God continues uninterrupted, it will accumulate to larger proportions and the atheism that is now prominent mainly in northwest Europe and some ex–‐Socialist states may spread more widely. But it is also possible that the pro–‐belief “exceptions” (Russia, Slovenia, and Israel) may become more widespread and belief may make more of a general rebound perhaps in response to a growth in “existential insecurity,” from a nationalistic, in–‐group growth in religious identity (e.g. Arab, Islamic movements, Hindu nationalism, etc.), or from some other societal impetus.
Thus, while there is a drift towards lesser belief in god consistent with secularization theory the changes are modest in magnitude and mixed in scope. Countries have shown and are likely to continue to show huge differences in levels and trends about belief in God and a homogenization of belief (or disbelief) is unlikely to occur in the foreseeable future.
Don’t look for the end of religion anytime soon. I predict we will get rid of head lice before we see the last of religion. What we should look forward to, instead, is a decline of the rule of religious dogma over our daily lives and over government affairs. CNN had this to report recently.
Baptists plan exodus from Boy Scouts
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN) – For Southern Baptist pastor Tim Reed, it was Scripture versus the Scouts.
“God’s word explicitly says homosexuality is a choice, a sin,” said Reed, pastor of First Baptist Church of Gravel Ridge in Jacksonville, Arkansas.
So when the Boy Scouts of America voted to lift its ban on openly gay youths on May 24, Reed said the church had no choice but to cut its charter with Troop 542.
“It’s not a hate thing here,” Reed told CNN affiliate Fox 16. “It’s a moral stance we must take as a Southern Baptist church.”
Pastor Reed states “It’s a moral stance…” A moral stance? Really? You’re going to kick a troop of Boy Scouts out of your church because some of the kids may have been born differently from the others? A moral issue? Reed is saying an imaginary person stated several thousand years ago that homosexuality is a choice and a sin. I do believe the Reverend Reed is, like many others, confusing religion with morality. A few more Reverends Reed in this world, and we may not need to wait another three thousand years for religion to become irrelevant.