Most mainstream media sources blurbed a sentence or two today about a recent study on religious affiliation in our country conducted by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Naturally, the spin was about large numbers moving away from religious affiliations and the underlying reasons why.
People leaving their faith is not a new trend...despite the Chicken Little approach of the media. The study focuses on people who claimed an affiliation and now consider themselves either unaffiliated or affiliated with another religion. The term religion is used mostly to differentiate sects of Christianity which are broken down into the two major categories of Catholic and Protestant. For those astute readers, I'm betting you already see an exploitable conclusion by the mainstream media who seem to love to hate Christians.
In the 75 page study available at Pew Forum, I was grabbed by these three findings/statements:
Age is another factor. Most people who left their childhood faith did so before turning 24, and a majority joined their current religion before 36.
"If people want to see a truly free market at work, they really should look at the U.S. religious marketplace," said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Sixteen percent of U.S. adults identified as unaffiliated in the 2007 survey; 7 percent of Americans described being raised unaffiliated, suggesting that many Americans end up leaving their religion for none.
About half of those who have become unaffiliated cited a belief that religious people are hypocritical, judgmental or insincere. Large numbers said they think religious organizations focus too much on rules, or that religious leaders are too focused on money and power.
That last one should break the heart of every Christian. I won't start a sermon here...just read those words over again. Better yet, take a few moments and read the entire study. There is a 9-page synopsis (CliffsNotes style) available at the website also. No spin... just an overview of the findings.
But, I'll encourage you one last time to read the whole study. Whenever you get to a table that shows percentages now unaffiliated with God...try to remember each number in those statistics is made up by real souls...people...young and old. As Christians, we should be more concerned with the souls than the numbers.
I'm not doing enough for my part, and that has got to change... God deserves a better effort.