Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dulles Meetings Part 2 - Rise of the Nones

Greg Smith, Director of U.S. Religious Surveys, Religion and Public Life Project, Pew Research Center is now presenting. The Pew Research Center is a non-profit  research institution that receives no payment for its studies, does not hire out to clients, and is completely independent in attempting to provide objective information for policy-makers, religious leaders, and institutions can benefit from.
His thoughts were preceded by a few statistics of a survey that is reviewed annually by the NAD:

81% of American Public 'knows' of SDA's. However, 63% know too little to form an opinion. 27% knows 'something' but is not favorable - among these respondents, we are sometimes confused with JW's or Mormons.

16% are favorable. 2% like 'very much' or, very favorable.

In the last 40 years the Protestant portion of the population is dramatically declining. In the 80's, 60% identified themselves as such. But by early 90's the decline began; somewhat gradually, but now less than 50% of American's call themselves "Protestant."

The "Nones," which in the 80's was 10% choosing 'none,' has now doubled. Presently, 20% identify as atheist, agnostic, or 'nothing.'  That figure has increased 5% in the past seven years. Most of these are not 'agnostic' or 'atheist' but are choosing NOT to identify with any denomination, AND, the percentages are true across gender, economic classes,  education attainment, as well as race (though the increase in "nones" is less among african american than whites). AND, the numbers are larger among singles, than married individuals. By a high percentage, most of these individuals are "liberal" in both their political and social views.

Catholic numbers are "steady" in the U.S., benefiting largely from migrant populations from Latin America.

The decline in Protestantism is not only in the 'mainline' churches, but the Evangelical community as well.

What are the factors that are impacting this?

Generational replacement; one-third of adults under age 30 declare themselves as "none." Among those 65 and older, that percentage is only 10%. The question: as American's age, might they become more attached to religion?  Pew Research has interestingly identified that the "Baby Boomer" generation in particular is becoming much more "prayer focused" as they age. However, the same number who identify as "nones" 13%, are entering their retirement years as "nones" rising slightly to 15%

Gen X has also shown evidence that as they are getting older they "pray more." and Pew is not sure why this is true. Gen x are those born in the 1980's.

HOWEVER, religious affiliation, identification with churches, DOES NOT tend to change as individuals age. So, people pray more as they age, but do not choose to align with religion or church.

Key Finding: The Present generation is less religiously affiliated than any previous generation in the history of the U.S., and nothing in the data suggests that these individuals will return to religion as they age. There is also an increasing percentage who "doubt the existence of God."

The number of people who say both religion and prayer are important to them, percentage wise, has not changed in spite of the above statistics. The U.S. continues to be a much more religious country than other industrialized nations. Greg Smiths comment: "More people are aligning their practice with what they believe. Almost half of people who seldom attend religious services identify themselves as "nones." For those who DO attend with some regularity, identification with denominations remains very high. The result is that people who don't go to church, increasingly say they are "nones." In the past, there was perhaps a number who were of this classification but would CLAIM they were Catholic, Adventist, Lutheran."  Now, without embarrassment, these individuals say "I'm a 'none' and do not nor plan, to align with a church.'

Most of those individuals who were ever invested in church, -childhood or youth -  tend to stay in it. However, those who were on the margins from birth through youth, or had no church exposure,  are much more likely to choose "none."

Finally; 25% of adults in the U.S. who identify with a religion, or no religion, now connect with a faith OTHER than the faith they grew up in. More than 50% of adults who are religious have changed religions in their lives, with Catholics being the biggest "net loosers." Their are four former Catholics to every one new convert, in the U.S., with almost the same number of Protestants leaving their faith as those joining.

Half or more of those raised with "no religion" WILL join a religion in their adulthood.

Conclusions: "nones' mean non-believers. Many are, but many are not. Only 3 out of 10 'nones' say I'm agnostic or atheist. The rest, are not anti-religion, but are not associated with any faith.

Among all nones, 2/3rds state, "I believe in God," although a lot of them would add, " not certain whether he exists."  3 out of 10 say religion is 'somewhat important,' and 14% of them say 'religion is VERY important.'  The point is, that there is a "spiritual pulse" that is still beating among them.

Finally, 90% of the 'nones' are  NOT looking for any religion; most of them are NOT and feel no "need."

After Lunch, our agenda is "State of k-12 Education," "NAD HealthCare 2015 and Beyond," and break-out sessions for discussion among treasurers, presidents and secretaries.

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