FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Milestone for America’s Culture

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.

January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Que Syria, Syria
Dave Lindorff
A Potentially Tectonic Event Shakes up the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case
Nick Pemberton
There Are More Important Things Than The Truth
Brian Cloughley
How Trump’s Insults and Lies are Harming America
David Rosen
Sexual Predators in the Era of Trump
Tamara Pearson
Everything the Western Mainstream Media Outlets Get Wrong When Covering Poor Countries
Richard E. Rubenstein
Trump vs. the Anti-Trumps: It’s the System That Needs Changing Not Just the Personnel
Christopher Ketcham
A Walk in the Woods, Away from the Screens
Basav Sen
Democrats Failed Their First Big Test on Climate
Lauren Smith
Nicaragua – The Irony of the NICA Act Being Signed into Law by Trump
Joseph Natoli
Will Trumpism Outlive Trump?
Olivia Alperstein
The EPA Rule Change That Could Kill Thousands
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
The New Congress Needs to Create a Green Planet at Peace
Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin
Cuba: Trump Turns the Vise
Ramzy Baroud
When Bolsonaro and Netanyahu Are ‘Brothers’: Why Brazil Should Shun the Israeli Model
Mitchell Zimmerman
Government by Extortion
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail