Latest Pew report reveals alarming rise in belief in 'none'

11/3/2012

   No warning lights flashed. No bells rang. No caged canary fell.
   But the news is certainly alarming.
   Last month’s release from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life should be a wake-up call for people in the U.S. who love the Lord. Pew reported that, for the first time since it began tracking the religious identity of Americans, fewer than 50 percent said they were Protestants. Only 40 years ago, two-thirds of the population of the U.S. identified themselves as Protestant.
    In contrast, the number of Americans who do not identify with any religion is climbing rapidly. Five years ago, 15 percent of those surveyed said they were unaffiliated with any religion, identifying themselves as either atheist, agnostic or no particular affiliation. Last month, Pew reported that number of “Nones” has skyrocketed to 20 percent.
    It is frightening wake-up call. We are not losing the spiritual battle to a competing belief system, we are losing it to none.
    Perhaps most concerning is the significant drop-off in belief among young adults. In this latest survey, more than one-third of 18-22 year-olds identify themselves among the religiously unaffiliated. 
    “We really haven’t seen anything like this before,” Gregory A. Smith, a senior researcher with the Pew Forum, told the The New York Times. “Even when the baby boomers came of age in the early ’70s, they were half as likely to be unaffiliated as compared with young people today.”
     When the four sub-categories of Protestants are combined, they total 48 percent of those surveyed, down from 53 percent in 2007. The “Nones” now constitute the nation’s second-largest religious group at 20 percent. Catholics, at 22 percent of the population, are the largest group. According to Pew, “The continued growth of the religiously unaffiliated is one of several indicators suggesting that the U.S. public gradually may be growing less religious.”
     Of course, we see anecdotal evidence of that almost every day in our culture, and a growing aversion to Christianity. Some of it borders on the bizarre.
     Louisiana State University (LSU) officials were recently forced to explain why they altered a photo of football fans they sent out in a digital news release.
     LSU officials had featured a fan photo of “The Painted Posse,” a group of Christian students who paint themselves up with school colors for football games. The students were surprised to see that LSU officials had digitally blotted out little crosses they had painted on their chests for LSU’s game against South Carolina.
   School spokesman Herb Vincent said the image was altered to prevent other students from being offended. The crosses were barely noticeable in the photo.
    Meanwhile, at Tufts University in Medford, Mass., a Christian group has been banned from using the Tufts name in its title or at any activities or reserve space through the Office for Campus Life because of its requirements that leaders must adhere to “biblical truths of Christianity.”
     Imagine that, a Christian organization that requires its leaders to hold basic Christian beliefs. 
    Of course, falling church membership in the U.S. and a decline in people professing a faith in God is a complicated issue. It is a trend that has been ongoing for years. Unfortunately, the trend seems to be picking up momentum. 
     Is there anything that might slow the growth of the “Nones?”
    The North Georgia Advocate would like to hear from you. Why do you think the church in the U.S. has been on the decline? And do you think there is any way to slow the trend or reverse it?
    To share your thoughts, email North Georgia Advocate editor Glenn Hannigan at glenn@ngumc.org or by mail: 4511 Jones Bridge Circle, Norcross, GA 30092.
 


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