Gallup released the following information several months ago. I was familiar with the first finding, but I didn’t know about the second one. The first graph below indicates that about 16% of Americans don’t identify with any religion. This continues an upward trend away from religious identification that has been tracked in recent decades. I think I’ve cited this stat in the past few months, either in a post (or two) or some comments around the atheosphere.
The second graph reports a finding that I find very interesting: 28% of Americans believe that religion is old-fashioned and outdated.
I’ll begin by noting my assumption that this 28% figure is comprised of the 16% of non-religious-identifiers, plus 12% of others (I’ll call them the 12%ers). Since I don’t have enough information about the poll to find out for sure, I’ll go with that conservative assumption for this post (a more liberal assumption would be that the 28% figure consists of people who are not included in the 16% who aren’t religious; I’d love it if that were the case, but I won’t assume it simply because it’s my preference – I have a hunch that the conservative assumption is more likely to be correct). My question for the 12%ers is this, if religion is old-fashioned and outdated, why do you continue to identify with it at all? Are there specific features of religion that you find irrelevant, but others that continue to make religion attractive to you? If so, what are these features, and why do they repel or appeal to you? I can guess what some of the features are in each category, but I’d like to hear from others who have some thoughts about this topic. In the meantime, I’m content (for this weekend only!) to know that more than 1/4 of Americans don’t really take religion – or some aspects of it, at least – very seriously.
— the chaplain
UPDATE: The Gallup post I linked to above reports that “trends on an additional Gallup question indicate that there has in fact been a slight uptick in the percentage of Americans who say religion is not very important in their daily lives — from a range of 11% to 14% through most of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s to 19% over the past two years.” It appears that some of the 28% who think that religion is outdated/old-fashioned still consider it to be somewhat important in their daily lives. I’d be very interested in knowing why they feel/think that, as it strikes me as an inconsistency in thought.