Login - Become a member

The Changing Demography of Nonbelief

Forums home -> Post 3D Art -> The Changing Demography of Nonbelief

post reply

The Changing Demography of Nonbelief 
By xiguai on Jul 07, 2014 06:14 AM
<P>The Changing Demography of Nonbelief</P>
<P></P>
<P>In American society today more than 93% of adults say they believe in God or a higher power, and about 38% say they attend religious services weekly. Among the world's advanced industrialized countries, the United States is the most religious in terms of belief in God and in organized religious participation. Compared to the 7% in the United States who are nonbelievers, 22% of Canadians do not believe in God, 39% of those in Great Britain, 56% of the French, and 56% of Swedes. At the same time, public opinion polls show that religious involvement such as church membership has declined considerably since the 1970s and is significantly lower than its zenith in the postWorld War II period. The number of adults who never attend religious services or attend less than once a year increased from 18% in 1972 to 28% in 2008.</P>
<P></P>
<P>More noteworthy, the proportion of the adult population that reports no affiliation with a particular religion has increased dramatically in the past two decades, nearly tripling from 6% nationwide in 1990 to 20% in 2012. These changes are much greater in younger age groups. Millennials today are significantly less attached to organized religion than their elders were in their youth. In 2012 almost onethird of young adults ages eighteen to twentynine were unaffiliated with a religious institution, while in the 1970s only 13% of young adult Baby Boomers were unaffiliated. Young men are much more likely to be unaffiliated than young women.</P>
<P></P>
<P>These trends are occurring in a society in which there has been, and still is, a stigma attached to being nonreligious. It turns out that atheists are one of the most disliked groups in America. In a poll asking which of the following groups "shares my vision of American society," out of a list that included Muslims, homosexuals, Jews, Hispanics, and immigrants, atheists were in last place. Asked if they would disapprove of their child's marrying someone from a list of minority groups, atheists again were last.</P>
<P></P>
<P>Why have the nonaffiliated in younger age groups increased so substantially? One factor has to do with demographic changes: Today's young adults marry and have children later than their predecessors and also enter the workforce later, extending the life cycle phase (the college years) when religious attachment tends to wane. Increased rates of higher education may be another factor. A Harris Poll reported that 86% of Americans without a college education believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, while only 64% of those with a postgraduate degree believe so.</P>
<P></P>
<P>A third explanation for the rise of Americans claiming no religion is the increasing politicization of religion. Michael Hout and Claude Fischer argue that the political right has become so identified with a conservative religious agenda that it has alienated moderates who consider organized "religion" a synonym for an antigay, antiabortion, procivic religion agenda. At the same time, while they may feel disenfranchised from organized religion, many of them remain privately religious or "spiritual."18 This reaction against the politicization of religion is seen particularly among young adults.</P>
<P></P>
<P>A fourth important factor, one that has not before been pursued in detail, involves intergenerational transmission: the increase in the number of religiously nonaffiliated parents who raised their children without a religious tradition. National data show that the number of adults raised without a religion increased from 2.5% in the early 1970s to over 6% in the 1990s.19 However, these and similar results are based on crosssectional survey data and respondents' retrospective reports and are open to the risk of recall bias. The most convincing test of nonreligious transmission would be based on data from parents and data from children.</P>
<P></P>
<P>The Adamses: "A Humanistic Point of View that Comes from My Family"</P>
<P></P>
<P>In some cases we found that a nonreligious identity had been imparted intentionally and specifically from one generation to the next. Gina Adams, thirtysix, is an atheist, but she is not a religious rebel who turned against the religious beliefs and practices of her family. Instead, she perceives that she is part of a family tradition, a generational heritage of secular humanism and nonreligious values. "I put a lot of value on a liberal, humanistic point of viewnot dogmaticand I think that comes from my family," she explains.</P>
<P></P>
<P>The Adams family exemplifies the varieties of nonreligion in our society. Some members are atheists, some are agnostic, some are "spiritual but not religious," and some are "religiously unaffiliated" Christian believers who do not go to church. We also noticed considerable fluidity among these categories of nonreligion by some family members as their religious selfidentities shifted to accommodate new experiences or relationships. Many drifted in and out of organized religious involvement as they moved from one church to another or away from religion all together. Yet at the time of their interviews, all the family members were quite articulate about what they believed. They talked about values being passed down from generation to generation, and we detected continuity in spiritual values and behaviors despite their apparent disparity in religious beliefs and practices.</P>
<P></P>
<P>We begin with the story of the G1 [Generation 1] greatgrandfather, Ted, a labor union leader who moved his family to California during the Depression. Describing his father as a nominal Catholic in his youth, Ted's G2 [Generation 2] son Victor, now age seventyeight, said he was a Social Democrat. "We would call him a socialist today. But they believed in a great measure of private freedomyou know, like freedom of the press and so on. As a result of that heritage, he really denied the existence of the need for a church." Victor did attend church regularly with his Wholesale NFL Jerseys mother, and his father did not stand in the way of that.</P>
<P></P>
<P>Victor sees his mother as having been the most influential in terms of his religious views. But when asked whether his father's values of helping others had anything to do with his own social activism, he responded,</P>
<P></P>
<P>Oh, absolutely. But it wasn't so much that as it was my [religious] training. But my father was a great humanitarian. Forget the religion. But anybody around who neededand this is during the Depression, when nobody had anything. . . . He would find a family. We'd bring them some groceriesas little as we had. So, I learned a lot from that. I'll never forget that day we brought some groceries to this lady's house with a little kid. And they just cried so, in addition to the church going, I grew up with the kind of idea that [if] you've got it made, you need to give back.</P>
<P></P>
<P>This tradition of helping is woven throughout the stories of each generation of G1 Ted's descendants. Today, Victor is not a church member, so he would be defined as a none although he is not antireligious. During his interview, he mentioned several religious books that he is currently reading and talked enthusiastically about what they had to say.</P>
<P></P>
<P>Like her father, Victor, G3 Dawn also has taken an eclectic and unconventional religious pathway throughout the ups and downs of life. She had some exposure to religion in her family while growing up, through her mother and grandmother. As an adult, she married an abusive man, which led to the end of organized religion for her. "I stopped going to church and I was really mad at God," she says. "I just couldn't do it. . . . And all the stuff that, in church, didn't offer me any comfort. It didn't make any sense." Because she knew some alcoholics who were "driving [her] crazy," she started attending AlAnon. "And that is kind of where I get my religion these days, from AA." Now fiftysix, Dawn says that she believes in God but that she just does not go to church. "I just feel like I can have a spiritual connection without that. But it's important to me. I mean, in my personal life, it's something that I think about quite often."</P>
<P></P>
<P>Dawn's daughter, thirtysixyearold G4 Gina, defined herself as an atheist. In her interview she told us how highly she values the liberal, humanistic point of view she received from her family. She describes how she and Gabriel, her husband, who is also an atheist, view religion:</P>
<P></P>
<P>Religion is not important to us. In fact, I would say that we are antireligious. . . The Golden Rule is pretty simple and you don't need God to come down and tell you that. Religion is so dogmatic, so it contributes a lot to people hurting each other and not understanding each other.</P>
<P></P>
<P>When asked what religious values and beliefs she would like to pass on to her young children, Gina replied, "I value reason and science and treating people the way you would want to be treated, and I think that's a good basis for teaching my children the right values." Gina commented further that she would want her children to be atheists like herself and her husband:</P>
<P></P>
<P>Honestly, yes, I do. I'm not going to try to force them into anything, because I think that's wrong, but I will definitely be disappointed if they end up with some beliefs that I think are not very enlightened. So yeah, I'm going to raise them that way think there are kinder religions out there than Christianity. I think I would be most disappointed if they came and wanted to be like Baptists, Evangelicals, or something.</P>
<P></P>
<P>Gina affirmed she does not think her sisters are still going to church or are religious: "I don't think they are family is very centered around humanistic values, like enlightenment values, like being open to ideas and being aware of history and science."</P>
<P></P>
<P>In the Adams family we see a tradition of nonreligious, secular humanist values over several generations. G4 Gina defines herself as an atheist who married an atheist. She has not rejected the values of the older generation; rather, it appears that she has made them even more explicit. The Adamses, within and across generations, display a range of religious beliefs (or lack of religious beliefs) and practices, and they seem to celebrate their diversity. Consciously, but more often implicitly through example, they have transmittedover several generationsthe values of being open and tolerant in religion, Cheap NFL Jerseys as well as a pattern of religious seeking. These values have helped them through many crises. Although this is a family whose members have faced a wide range of challenges including divorce, financial reversals, disabilities, and longterm illnesses, they show affection for each other and have a high degree of contact and interaction, despite geographic distance.</P>
<P></P>
<P>The Bakers: "Drenched in Atheism and Socialistic Values"</P>
<P></P>
<P>Eric Baker, age thirtyone, has a negative view of religion. As we saw in chapter 2, he is an atheist who thinks religion is only interesting from a sociological point of view. "It's amazing the stuff we've created out of our heads, as a human race," he says. But unlike the findings of earlier studies that would suggest that atheism like Eric's arises as a backlash against an intensely religious upbringing, he sees his atheism as part of his family's secular humanist tradition. "My grandfather was [a] liberal academic and my great uncle was [a Communist]," he says. "So we're pretty much drenched in atheism and socialistic values."</P>
<P></P>
<P>The Bakers are a Jewish family with strong intergenerational traditions of social and political activism as well as Jewish cultural identity. But with the exception of G1 Donald Baker's mother, G0 Golda, none are religiously observant Jews and none follow the practices and beliefs of any branch of Judaism. Donald's daughter, G2 Robyn, told us that her grandmother was "the only one that I felt carried on the Jewish traditions in her life. Nobody else did." This is a very close family made up of strong personalities who are intensely committed to humanistic values and liberal ideals that are rooted in the history and experiences of previous generations of the family. As Donald's soninlaw, Frank, put it, "They're lefties from way back."</P>
<P></P>
<P>They are decidedly nonreligious. Donald and his wife, Lydia, the latter of whom was ninetyseven when we interviewed her, were political activists who met at an antiwar organization meeting during World War II. They were "socialists and not religious"; they never went to synagogue or practiced Jewish religious traditions, even though they routinely joined Donald's parents, who lived close by, for Hanukkah and Passover. But Lydia emphasizes that she is not antireligious:</P>
<P></P>
<P>No, I'm not an atheist. I believe in a spiritual something that has been a miraculously fantastic idea. But I never believed in a God. I would love to. But I think if there had been a God, I cannot imagine that He would allow this kind of brutal killing of each other.</P>
<P></P>
<P>Lydia and Donald's seventytwoyearold daughter, Robyn, who said she was "none" in each of her LSOG surveys throughout the thirtyfive years of our study, talks about her religious identification in ambiguous terms. "I don't know if I am a spiritual person. I still kind of leave myself open. I think if something came along, maybe like Unitarianism or something, I would still be open if I felt the need for something additional in my life. [I'm afraid] not to believe. . . . God knows, when my daughter was sick, and my husband was sick, I was afraid not to."</P>
<P></P>
<P>Robyn's G3 daughter, Laura, age fiftytwo, has no religious affiliation and does not believe in God or a higher power but says she is a spiritual person. Laura attributes her morality to what she learned from her grandparents:</P>
<P></P>
<P>I think [my values came] from my grandparents when I was young certain values of equality and justness, what's right and what's wrong values were definitely put on us or passed on to us through their efforts, their political efforts . . . to make social change for the benefit of all. That definitely was part of their lives, and I think that was passed on to us.</P>
Reply with quote

post reply

Page 1 of 1 Go to page: 1
Subscribe to RSS
Follow us on Twitter

 

Copyright © 1996-2010 Raphael Benedet - Contact Us