I do come back to this on occasion, just to show that it wasn’t a fluke, that the direction hasn’t changed and Americans aren’t flooding back to religion. As should come as no surprise at all, Americans, particularly younger Americans, are abandoning traditional religions by the boat-load and the trend is only increasing. According to the Public Religion Research Institute, while only 7% of Americans surveyed were raised without religion, more than 19% of Americans profess no religious belief whatsoever. The General Social Survey tells us that the number of irreligious Americans has more than doubled since 1990. The Pew Religious Survey has consistently shown a growing number of Americans that reject traditional religion. One-third of Americans under the age of 30 report no religious belief and while this isn’t a majority, it certainly is a move in the right direction.
Oh yes, I hear the religious say that these people aren’t becoming atheists, a lot of them claim to be “spiritual”, but since that word has no real definition or meaning, those who don’t actively believe in a deity are, by definition, atheists. That’s what the word means whether the religious like it or not. More and more, traditional religions in America are hemorrhaging members and, in increasing numbers, those people are not joining another religion, they are going out on their own.
The Catholic Church is one of the biggest losers, with millions of former Catholics leaving the church. The only reason they are maintaining any sort of parity is because of the massive influx of Latino Catholics into the United States. Let’s be honest, the only reason the Catholics are so pro-immigrant is because they benefit from it. Yet even among Latinos, they are waking up to reality. Since 2010, more than 4 million Latinos, approximately 12%, have abandoned the Catholic Church and the rate is only increasing. The Southern Baptists report that they are closing approximately 1000 churches per year as their numbers dwindle. In most churches, they are performing few, if any new baptisms, they are quickly becoming a ghost town in the pews. Jehovah’s Witnesses are falling apart, only 37% of those raised in the church retain those beliefs in adulthood. And, of course, age plays a dramatic role, 31% of those reporting no religious belief are under 30, 71% are under 50. As the older generation dies off, less and less people are filling their places in the pews.
So what does this all mean? It means that the fight continues and the war isn’t over, but it certainly seems to be moving in our favor. Rejecting irrational beliefs seems to be on the rise, caused by increased education, a better grasp on rationality and the fact that modern science has done away with the need to believe in imaginary friends in the sky. As we continue to advance, more people will move away from religion. It’s not a rational panacea by any means, there’s lots more work to do, but early signs have been extremely promising.