Monday, April 27, 2009

Faith in Flux study...worth a look.

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.


David said...

Absolutely right on the money!

"About half of those who have become unaffiliated cited a belief that religious people are hypocritical, judgmental or insincere."

If we are ever going to make a real difference, then we are going to need to love like Jesus did. I am amazed at how many sermons quote the Bible, "and the pastor goes after the 1 and leaves the 99." Sheep are those in church already (saved), how come they are leaving, and who is going after them?

I am working on doing my part, but like all folks in church, I need help. And before we go after the lost, we need to love the ones that are already there! This is going to take a fresh vision. (I wrote about it on my blog)

Great insight, Tony. Go get 'em!

Matt @ The Church of No People said...

Yeah, I want to shake every last person who left the church and say, 'You saw some hypocritical Christians? Then find new ones!' But I can't. Instead I can just try to stem the tide in some way.

katdish said...

Bear with me, Tony. This is going to be a really long comment.

In his book "The Reason for God", Tim Keller writes:

There is a great gulf today between what is popularly known as liberalism and conservatism. Each sides demands that you not only disagree with but disdain the other as (at best) crazy or (at worst) evil. This is particularly true when religion is the point at issue. Progressives cry out that fundamentalism is growing rapidly and non-belief is stigmatized. They point out that politics has turned toward the right, supported by mega-churches and mobilized orthodox believers. Conservatives endlessly denounce what they see as an increasingly skeptical and relativistic society. Major universities, media companies, and elite institutions are heavily secular, they say, and they control the culture.

Which is it? Is skepticism or faith on the ascendancy in the world today? The answer is Yes. The enemies are both right. Skepticism, fear and anger toward traditional religion are growing in power and influence. But at the same time, robust, orthodox belief in the traditional faiths is growing as well.

The non-churchgoing population in the United States and in Europe is steadily increasing. The number of Americans answering "no religious preference" to poll questions has skyrocketed, having doubled or even tripled in the last decade. A century ago most U.S. universities shifted from a formally Christian foundation to an overtly secular one. As a result, those with traditional religious beliefs have little foothold in any of the institutions of cultural power. But even as more and more people identify themselves as having "no religious preference", certain churches with supposedly obsolete beliefs in an infallible Bible and miracles are growing in the United States and exploding in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

This is a book I would highly recommend to the devout believer and the skeptic alike. If you're interested, you can go to my blog and search "Tim Keller". I have 3 more excerpts from the book. I big pink fuzzy heart Tim Keller.

Anonymous said...

Religion is something most people have had enough of. What they want is something real and relevent, an experence my family and I have found through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and by attending the right church, one that talks to you not down to you.

Z said...

Katdish, this is a phenomenon I've been following: "But even as more and more people identify themselves as having "no religious preference", certain churches with supposedly obsolete beliefs in an infallible Bible and miracles are growing in the United States and exploding in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.:"

It's TOTALLY true and they're growing by the day. I go to a church of a denomination I'd rather not mention but it's mainstream....I only don't mention it for helping me with anonymity because people on my site know the city in which I live.
Anyway!'s very bible-based and true. And, we're suddenly getting a LOT of young people, including many young married couples.. It's almost bizarre, frankly. Something's happening.
It's a great feeling.

If we don't stem the tide back to respecting and championing Judeo-Christian values, this country is toast. Everyone knows that. Except the left, which only wants to butter that toast.

with jam.

Thanks for this info, Tony.xx

Bud said...

Good stuff Tony. I am going to read the entire study. Hadn't heard about it.

Lula! said...

For the past 2 weeks I've been meaning to write you about 2 friends...and this post reminded me. So when I get a few minutes, I'll pen what will probably be a very long e-mail regarding my friends and their faith in flux. It's heartbreaking...and has been on my mind/heart for some time now.

And then I'll read the cliff notes version!

texasholly said...

Really interesting stuff.

Anonymous said...

Unless you're mental, the jury's out and will remain so until some kind of evidence can back up claims for some divine creator. What an embarrasment to humanity...