FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Milestone for America’s Culture

by

Slowly, relentlessly, America’s culture is undergoing profound change.  But the transformation mostly is under the radar, hardly noticed.

A new study by the Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service finds that the largest faith category in the United States now is people who say their religion is “none.” Apparently, this marks the first time in U.S. history for the churchless to reach top status.

Specifically, the PRRI-RNS report says the three chief groups among all ages in 2016 are: nones, 25 percent; Catholics, 21 percent; and white evangelicals, 16 percent.

Among young adults under 30, the gap is enormous:  Nones, nearly 40 percent; Catholics, 15 percent; white evangelicals, 9 percent; white mainline Protestants, 8 percent; black Protestants, 7 percent; other nonwhite Protestants, 11 percent; and non-Christian faiths, 7 percent.

Many of the unaffiliated young adults say they simply don’t believe church dogmas.

As these younger Americans advance to middle age, the churchless segment is expected to increase. It surely will alter U.S. society.  It has snowballed rapidly, unexpectedly.  The report says:

“One of the most consequential shifts in American religion has been the rise of religiously unaffiliated Americans.  This trend emerged in the early 1990s.  In 1991, only 6 percent of Americans identified their religious affiliation as ‘none.’ … By the end of the 1990s, some 14 percent of the public claimed no religious affiliation.  The rate of religious change accelerated further… reaching 20 percent by 2012.”

For senior West Virginians like me, who came of age after World War II, this secular tide is astounding.  The world of our youth has been turned upside-down.

When I was a young adult, the only Americans who mattered were WASPs (white Anglo-Saxon Protestants). They were the overwhelming majority.  Their laws and customs dominated everything. But now, they’ve dwindled to just 16 percent among those under 30, according to the PRRI-RNS figures. And they’re destined to keep shrinking as nonwhite Americans rise, the Census Bureau projects.

Politically, the situation is a mess.  The “nones” strongly hold liberal, conmpassionate, progressive, Democratic values — but they tend to avoid voting.  They shun politics as much as they shun church. The report says:

“By the last presidential election in 2012, religiously unaffiliated Americans had grown to comprise 20 percent of the public, but… comprised 12 percent of voters. By way of comparison, in 2012 white evangelical Protestants also comprised 20 percent of the public, but they accounted for more than one in four (26 percent) voters.”

While other American groups are more committed to political action, about one-fourth of “nones” aren’t even registered to vote.

“At the start of the 2016 general election season in early August,” the study says, “religiously unaffiliated voters expressed a strong preference for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump (62 percent vs. 21 percent).”

Despite their low voting rate, “nones” have become the largest segment in the Democratic Party base.  The report says:

“Among Hillary Clinton’s supporters, 7 percent are white evangelical Protestant, 12 percent are white mainline Protestant, 11 percent are white Catholic, 30 percent are religiously unaffiliated, and 15 percent are black Protestant.” (That’s only 75 percent of her backers.  Perhaps the others are supporters whose religion isn’t known.)

It’s fascinating to watch the culture evolve. It’s tantalizing to wonder where America is heading.  Keep reading the news and try to find clues about the transformation that is in progress.

More articles by:

James Haught, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is editor emeritus of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail.

February 22, 2018
Jeffrey Sommers
Bond Villain in the World Economy: Latvia’s Offshore Banking Sector
Mark Schuller
Haiti’s Latest Indignity at the Hands of Dogooders, Oxfam’s Sex Scandal
T.J. Coles
How the US Bullies North Korea, 1945-Present
Ipek S. Burnett
Rethinking Freedom in the Era of Mass Shootings
Manuel E. Yepe
Fire and Fury: More Than a Publishing Hit
Patrick Bobilin
Caught in a Trap: Being a Latino Democrat is Being in an Abusive Relationship
Laurel Krause
From Kent State to Parkland High: Will America Ever Learn?
Terry Simons
Congress and the AR-15: One NRA Stooge Too Many
George Wuerthner
Border Wall Delusions
Manuel García, Jr.
The Anthropocene’s Birthday, or the Birth-Year of Human-Accelerated Climate Change
Thomas Knapp
Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Russiagate
February 21, 2018
Cecil Bothwell
Billy Graham and the Gospel of Fear
Ajamu Baraka
Venezuela: Revenge of the Mad-Dog Empire
Edward Hunt
Treating North Korea Rough
Binoy Kampmark
Meddling for Empire: the CIA Comes Clean
Ron Jacobs
Stamping Out Hunger
Ammar Kourany – Martha Myers
So, You Think You Are My Partner? International NGOs and National NGOs, Costs of Asymmetrical Relationships
Michael Welton
1980s: From Star Wars to the End of the Cold War
Judith Deutsch
Finkelstein on Gaza: Who or What Has a Right to Exist? 
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
War Preparations on Venezuela as Election Nears
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Military Realities
Steve Early
Refinery Safety Campaign Frays Blue-Green Alliance
Ali Mohsin
Muslims Face Increasing Discrimination, State Surveillance Under Trump
Julian Vigo
UK Mass Digital Surveillance Regime Ruled Illegal
Peter Crowley
Revisiting ‘Make America Great Again’
Andrew Stewart
Black Panther: Afrofuturism Gets a Superb Film, Marvel Grows Up and I Don’t Know How to Review It
CounterPunch News Service
A Call to Celebrate 2018 as the Year of William Edward Burghardt Du Bois by the Saturday Free School
February 20, 2018
Nick Pemberton
The Gun Violence the Media Shows Us and the State Violence They Don’t
John Eskow
Sympathy for the Drivel: On the Vocabulary of President Nitwit
John Steppling
Trump, Putin, and Nikolas Cruz Walk Into a Bar…
John W. Whitehead
America’s Cult of Violence Turns Deadly
Ishmael Reed
Charles F. Harris: He Popularized Black History
Will Podmore
Paying the Price: the TUC and Brexit
George Burchett
Plumpes Denken: Crude thinking
Binoy Kampmark
The Caring Profession: Peacekeeping, Blue Helmets and Sexual Abuse
Lawrence Wittner
The Trump Administration’s War on Workers
David Swanson
The Question of Sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
Walter Clemens
Murderers in High Places
Dean Baker
How Does the Washington Post Know that Trump’s Plan Really “Aims” to Pump $1.5 Trillion Into Infrastructure Projects?
February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail