Big Drop in Share of Americans Calling Themselves Christian

One reason is that many former Christians, of all ages, have joined the rapidly growing ranks of the religiously unaffiliated.

Comments: 268

  1. I wonder what these numbers might have been had not the evangelical cohort politicized their convictions after 9/11. They made patriotism in a politically fraught moment equivalent to belief in God. I can attest that I found the requirement to agree with George Bush's Iraq policy if I were to remain an evangelical Christian completely impossible to swallow. And, as I examined the line of argument, I found that belief as an evangelical also seemed to require me to support various political causes, including the Republican ticket. This stunk, and it turned me off of religion entirely. As my religion happened to be evangelical Christianity, well, there you have it.

  2. Used as a litmus test that one must pass in order to be a true Christian or a real American. It was (and is) very off-putting. My journey is similar to yours.

  3. News flash. Most Christian churches are not what you describe. There are wonderful churches out there, filled with bright, well-educated thoughtful people, worshiping together and trying to find and be found by God.

  4. I made a switch from Republican to Democrat with the excitement of electing Barack Obama. I have not been disappointed and (maybe rightly or wrongly) I regard him as a fellow Christian. As a social worker raised by a socialist father, I have always held humanitarian concerns, civil rights, to be paramount. I don't check any of these values at the door when I attend worship in a mainline historic church around the corner. Yes numbers are dwindling. The brownstone, the stained glass, the old hymns and the new concerns for diversity and elimination of prejudice, the acceptance of gay marriage.. many elements come together in modern mainline denominations!

  5. Welcome to the 21st century.

    Atheist, agnostic, unaffiliated, and none-of-the-above are all improvements on identification with organized religion: they represent a grown-up way to understand the world. Morality and religious belief are independent variables; the presence of one does not indicate the presence of the other.

  6. A grown-up way to understand the world would implement that the presence of it does not indicate the presence of nations either, nor monetary claims of ownership well beyond any individual's needs and desires. Rich fantasy and traditional heritage are 1 and the same as well, as a matter of fact; the gods remain optional.

  7. My thoughts exactly. It sounds like Americans are finally growing up. In the Netherlands only 10% of the population believes in God. The lack of religion allows them to think, instead of clinging to old edicts on blind faith. In the government, thinking gives them freedom to make decisions based on morality, compassion and logic. On an individual basis, thinking, without the strictures of arbitrary religious beliefs, contributes to more honesty, healthier sexuality, and greater happiness overall. http://www.livescience.com/50613-happiest-countries.html

  8. True, however, I believe that religion provides a framework in which the simple can be trained in moral values. Without that, we see problems like out-of-wedlock birth. Atheism seems to work better for educated people with middle-class values.

  9. If the GOP were to cease its attempts to exploit religion and the religious, it would likely hasten its return to something other than a tool for the wealthy. If nothing else, it would have to develop a platform aimed at a significant portion of the population not dependent upon their prejudices and blind spots.

    Would this drive fewer people from the Christian faith that plays so central a role in current GOP propaganda? Perhaps so. Perhaps religious leaders will recognize this and take those necessary steps to protect their cultures on their own.

    It doesn't take a great leap to recognize that this is just another consequence of the weakening of the wall between church and state, which clearly has a cost on both sides.

    ...Andrew

  10. Republicans only appeal to the religious because the religious choose belief over evidence, so they are easy to convince, and Republicans need that demographic to promote their policies that favor an extremely small portion of the population.

    As there are no alternatives to the republican faithful, once the demographic shrinks, republicans will loose the class war they are fighting.

    They are aware of this and are trying to extract as much wealth as possible before that happens.

  11. And religion provides for a lot of confirmation bias if you have the right person interpreting it for you.

  12. Pithy and right on. Republican strategy leaders are rarely stupid, just without soul and demonstrably against the people of America en masse.

    Stealing from the group well before they can be stopped, how virtuous is that?

  13. These days, joining a Christian congregation requires committing to a political program these days, greatly diluting the spiritual experience. No wonder many young people are not committed to the religions of their parents.

    As for the growth of non-Christian faiths, yes, it's a little more than a 1% increase in the total population. Viewed differently, it's more than a 25% increase in those of non-Christian faith, which is notable.

  14. Really? No one asks one their political affiliation in my church, and our Rector presages the Gospel from the pulpit, not politics. Don't know where yore looking in San Francisco, but clearly you haven't looked very hard.

  15. Raised in a mainline active Protestant family and a conservative Republican for decades I nevertheless abhore the opportunistic appropriation of Christianity for political purposes by people with no commitment to its spiritual or ethical values. It is for show and exploitation, capitalizing on the mentally-impoverished and fearful to project claims of moral significance when in fact political Christianity is primarily about mobilization in support of rapacious economic elites. The Bible tells us Christ drove money-changers from the temple while today's make-believe Christians embrace them and offer a favored place near the altar. They are usurpers preying on the weak-minded, not believers letting their behavior bear witness to their faith.

  16. Do you believe in nations though?, how silly it may seem to ask such a question nations (just like religions) claim to have authority over those who live their entire life under them. Do you believe in traditional heritage by law?

  17. As a non-believer for lo, these six decades, please allow me to commend your stance, usa999. What American needs these days, it seems to me, is a lot more people like you speaking their convictions. An uphill battle, but do not falter!

    p.

  18. usa999....Well stated, Thanks. While a retired Lutheran pastor, I would not have to be a believing Christian, to agree with the word "abhore" as a word descriptive of my reaction to the self-pronounced Self-Righteousness seen and heard in the Repulsive Republican "front-runners" in this Life-Long Election. In my weakened Stroke-related mind, I believe some Believers will choose to stifle their expression of Faith, rather than be involved in identification with such public exposure of Political verbalization by those
    indicated. I also believe that I have had Muslim friends, in the past, who are among the "Silent Peaceful", who would disavow Muslim violence. We have
    need for discussion within Christian presence....the same way expressed by
    Ayaan Hirsi Ali..."Why Islam Needs Reformation Now". Usa999, Thank You for your more lucid words....appreciated at the top of "Commenters" for good reason.

  19. The Republican attempt to sever reason and compassion from religion has made religion unpalatable to many. The Republican exploitation of the church, which sought to make the church a primary delivery mechanism for Republican Party politics, is finally generating alienation from the church. These strike me as sound and sensible reactions against the church.

  20. Perfectly observed.

  21. Religions form bonds (that's what the word actually means), but they also draw borders. And borders spawn conflict.

    In our long climb out of our Pithicine past we needed them to explain the many questions for which we had no answers. But now they are becoming relics, just a few more sets of stone tools like the Oldowan and Acheulean hand axes now at home only in museums.

    If only the other faiths would take the same course we could be free of so much strife.

  22. Philosophy is the study of questions that cannot be answered.
    Religion is the belief in answers that cannot be questioned.

  23. The growth of political Christianity, and the hijacking of the religion's core message as a vehicle for open hate and disdain of the different, protection of the most greedy among us, and a sort of xenophobic nationalism, was bound to have a corrosive effect on the religion itself. Younger people today, living in a multi-ethnic country and world linked by technology, with a worldview that is wider and less fearful of others, but with increasingly limited economic options, see no particular reason to affiliate with a religion that has, in the public eye, largely become a protector and an apologist for all of the counter-trends against these things.

    The "fundamentalist" Christians and the far right they've allied with have given a public face of seething hate, castigation, and exclusion to a faith that was supposed to be about universal love and inclusiveness.

  24. The goal is to provide those disillusioned youths someone to blame. That is the role that organized religion has undertaken in it's partnership with the political machine/GOP. And, of course, as we know...that's all about getting that key demographic vote.

  25. Nothing ever supposed to be anything but a political excuse, period

  26. To Al O: Sadly, you have precisely summarized the situation. It makes me sick that people like John Boehner, Paul Ryan, the majority of the Supreme Court, and other officials call themselves "Christians" when they enact laws and policies exactly counter to the teachings of Jesus. Where is mercy? Where is justice? Where is love? I don't see much evidence of these qualities in our economic system, our criminal "justice" system, our educational system--any of our systems--today.

  27. As most of us already know, the 3 Abrahamic religions share a common root. Abraham was a great Babylonian sage that dedicated his life to teach those of his time about the concept of unity. Throughout history the Jews have done a great job at being an example of how unity can ultimately lead a small group of people to achieve great power and influence. Along came Jesus that reiterated the "golden rule" of those before him -- the rule of "Love thy neighbor as thyself", or more practically "that which you don't like don't do to others". The latter being attributed to Rabbi Hillel who lived around the time of Jesus. Islam teaches this very same rule -- almost all religions -- each with their own variety of diction. The overall point being made here is that religion is only a clothing, an identity, and a method that we've become accustomed to. Granted we are practicing under the right intentions, we see that underneath all of the labeling there is a commonality that we all share. Namely, we are all humans that seek happiness, pleasure, and do all we can to avoid suffering and pain. We are slowing starting to understand that it doesn't require religion to practice the aforementioned precepts. In doing so, we allow ourselves to be more open to all walks of life without any negation of a person's values or beliefs. Moreover, we live in an interconnected world that forces us to maintain connections and respect for others in order to sustain a healthy, tasteful, and meaningful life.

  28. ZAbraham wasn't from Babylon.

  29. I long for the day when politicians don't need to lie about their faith in order to get elected. While the numbers in this story are encouraging, atheists are still the most reviled group in America. (Barney Frank couldn't come out of the atheist closet until after leaving office.)

    If 23% of adults are religiously unaffiliated, and the educated and affluent are more likely to be non-believers, then of our 535 Senators and Representatives (an educated and affluent group) I'd guess there must be at least 100 closeted atheists/agnostics, likely many more.

    It's time to come out of the closet already!

  30. I am pretty much an "in the closet" Agnostic. To be honest, I do feel somewhat uncomfortable about openly declaring it. In the past, when my Agnosticism has come up in certain conversations, some people have reacted negatively or in such a way that indicated they did not understand what being Agnostic represented.

    I look forward to the day when those of us who consider themselves to be secular can discuss it openly without fear of any sort of reprisal, including openly secular candidates running for (and being elected to) public office.

  31. I concur with the statement about lying about thier faith. In fact, many of them almost have to be closet atheists. What person would otherwise claim that he knows what an omnipotent, omniscient being wants? That person must not fear being called into question by that supernatural being.

  32. Flatlander, do yourself a favor and come out of the closet. I hate to see people carry secrets around. I've been an open atheist for most of my 55 years and virtually no one has ever bothered me about it since I'm an adult and barely before that. In fact, when you do come out, a number of people will likely confess to you their secret disbelief or doubts - you are not alone. Sure, some people won't like it and think poorly of you, but that is life. I have discussed atheism with evangelicals in the Bible Belt and elsewhere and all anyone wanted to do was convert me by persuasion. If someone gets upset, you don't need to discuss it with them. That's their problem. Besides, if LGTBs can come out, why can't atheists? They risk far more antipathy and stigmatism from their family and society than we do. In fact, if you are agnostic, you are only expressing doubt and will find many more people than you thought have the same doubts you do.

  33. While I am sure there are many causes and reasons for the decline, I cannot help but think that the, well, "popularity" of actually saying publicly or even on a survey that you are non-Christian, agnostic, atheist, or "other than Christian" has much to do with conversations on social media. When people can see that they are not alone in their lack of belief and/or interest, they become more comfortable with declaring it.

  34. As I have been saying, in the USA today the only right that is guaranteed is the right to make a profit. I guess I should add that as a consequence, the only values that are widely shared are getting rich and buying stuff. Traditional Christianity is going out of favor because it clings to non-materialistic values. Evangelical churches on the other hand have adopted the business model and they know how to pander to their customers.

    But what explains the fashionable appeal of the Atheist faith? I think they are peddling self-regard. "Aren't we clever to have freed ourselves from those silly old superstitions"?

  35. To Paul Easton, it's hardly "self-regard." My own path started in early adolescence, struggling with so many evangelical beliefs that didn't make sense to me. Scientific thinking made sense to me, even as a young girl. But imagine the private conflict I felt, alone, disbelieving. This was in the 50's and 60's. To arrive into atheism was hard won, and was also due to a growing fascination with what REALLY is the case, what is reality.

  36. To me this is a very encouraging trend and, as the survey results indicated, one that is likely to continue.

    I was raised in the Methodist Church and am now in my early 60's. Once I left my parent's house to go to college I stopped going to church altogether. In my early 40's I came to the conclusion that Agnosticism best described my spiritual views.

    So many of the super natural tenets of the Christian religion stopped making any sense to me as I entered adulthood and learned to think critically for myself. I now look to science and explanations that are verifiable as the ways to understand our physical world.

    I don't need any organized religion as a basis for my moral values. I simply try to be the best person I can be and treat others with respect and dignity.

  37. I have had the same experience. As a former Sunday School teacher, I still enjoy going to church with my mother when I return for Christmas, but that's about it. It's just too hard to square the 13.7 billion years old age of the universe with the Bible creation story. I've stopped trying.

  38. Mktguy: I did the same as you when I would travel to visit my grandmother who was very religious. I would go to her church services with her because it made her happy.

  39. If everybody tapped into the innate spirituality that we posses the world would be a better place because their spirituality would not be wrapped up in power and control as it is now with all organized religion. It would rather come from within you and in the process empower you, not the church.

  40. I don't need a book or a label to lead a moral life. Frankly, the hypocrisy of organized religion and their (all of them) meddling in the lives of others and the operation of a secular government is enough for me to steer clear. Be that as it may, I have no qualms with those who do align themselves with a religion of their choosing, so long as they are not pushing to have their version of morality legislated to all others.

  41. There is one organized religion that doesn't try to proselytize or force its principles on others. The Unitarian Universalists (UU's) welcome "nones," agnostics, atheists, and those from faith traditions such as Christianity and Judaism. There are no creeds or specific statements of doctrine. The denomination and its churches and societies provide a welcoming and loving community to those who want to be "spiritual but not religious." UU's generally follow a set of denominational principles, but these are non-binding. They can be found at uua.org/beliefs/what-we-believe/principles

  42. But why is it okay for you to push to have your non-religious based version of morality legislated to others? Laws enforce some kind of moral code.

  43. Ed - I don't know how to break it to you but the U.S. is not a theocracy.

  44. We dont need freedom of religion; we need freedom FROM religion. This article gives me real hope.

  45. We do have freedom from religion in this country. That is why we are not experiencing the horror stories in the Middle East and other countries.

    You can thank the founding fathers, Lincoln to name a few and others.

  46. Agreed. Freedom of religion without freedom from religion is almost worthless.

  47. Finally....the tide is turning.

  48. I dream of a time when a non-religious can become president of the United States and when the industry of religion can be regulated and taxed.

    We will see a host of former pretend religious politicians starting to court the non-religious. The wind is turning, and they turn with the wind.

  49. We've had plenty of non-religious presidents in the US regardless of what you think you see. And we've had some that had regular talks with God that were war-mongers, charlatans and liars.

    Let us not forget that the brilliant Ronald Reagan regularly consulted an Astrologer.

  50. Actually you can make a case that Lincoln was that. Although he extolled some virtues of religion both because they were right and also him being PC, but he never joined a religion/denomination of any kind and rarely went to church..

  51. I'll never forget meeting David Kuo who headed the faith based office for GWBush. In the end, Kuo realized the GOP only wanted their votes, nothing else. When one sees "Christians" being so un-Christian, it's off-putting. Politics has poisoned religion.

  52. Everything is politics.

  53. Or has religion poisoned politics?

  54. Religion poisoned politics too!

  55. Many are realizing they don't share the same interests as the 1%, that reason & science are preferable to superstition, that meds deliver greater relief than myths.

  56. I'm not certain that I understand this. One can still be a "christian" and not necessarily belong to a church. It looks like membership has been confused with moral and ethical principles.
    I don't belong to any church though I was raised in a family of catholics, but I would consider myself having "christian" morals and ethics when it comes to the treatment of living things.
    I'm surprised anyone goes to a catholic church given their history of pedophilia and denial, but those who adhere to the teachings of the church must still consider themselves christian. or have they become Muslim as an alternative?

  57. While I do not say it is a survey or scientific, I know a large number of people who are not affiliated with any specific church or congregation or denomination -- but who will tell you "but of course, I am still a CHRISTIAN". They believe in Jesus Christ and the basic moral principles of Christianity, but they either don't like their old church, OR they resent having to give up a Sunday morning to attend services, OR they hate dressing up for church, OR they dislike having to contribute money on a regular basis.

    It is also not unusual among Christians OR Jews to stop attending a specific house of worship once the children are grown to adulthood. They have not all gone "atheist", they simply don't want the obligation of time, money or volunteer effort.

  58. A few have become Muslim, yes. But many more are just more comfortable admitting in public that they don't believe, owing to the substantial attention garnered by outspoken and articulate atheists and agnostics in recent years.

  59. Not sure the labels fit. Evangelical Christian types I see on television tend to judge and discriminate against various groups- not what I grew up thinking of as "Christian" values. Acceptance, inclusivity, generosity don't seem to fit very well with them.

    The bargain made between Evangelicals and the GOP, whatever it was, doesn't seem to be serving either side very well. What we get are these politicians with this rigid set of things they preach. Every box must be checked, no deviations allowed. And of course the promises they make, they mostly can't or won't keep. Doesn't seem like a match made in heaven.

  60. The main reason that GOP politicians pander to the religiosos is because they want their votes and money -- pure and simple.

  61. I have never been contacted by these research people, so I wonder how accurate their results are. Regardless, 70 percent of adults considering themselves Christian is still very significant. Legal principles are derived in large part from biblical law, regardless of whether you want to be considered an agnostic. Why be critical of those who want to be Christian? The choice is yours.

  62. Not sure where you're going with tying legal principles to biblical law but I think we are all in agreement that this nation is and always has been secular and shall remain as such.

  63. I'm not critical of anything but you, counting everything nor wanting to 'be' any religion makes the religious claims a fact. As is law is criminal if only in intent any way, traditional heritage of any kind that is. In that 'respect' I'm quite critical of those who call 'self' after nations as well, so relax.

  64. "Why be critical of those who want to be Christian?"

    One good reason, it seems to me, is that a large number - even, perhaps, a majority - of Christians refuse to speak out against those who are trying to re-brand it as a religion that worships wealth and ignore what I was taught are its basic tenets.

    p.

    p.

  65. Conservative politicians, those purchased by the 1%, have converted Christian love into hate, contentment into fear, satisfaction into greed, cooperation into no-compromise, and love of all life into the love of all money. Liberal religions, such as Unitarian Universalism, are growing rapidly by emphasizing love and the fundamental value of the Golden Rule.

  66. But yet the liberals love to bus certain church groups to the polls. Funny how some church people are good and others are bad.

  67. Moral values are not the exclusive domain of religion. They are necessary conditions for the survival of the human species which has a preponderance of self destruction.

  68. Liberal religions (such as socially active Protestant churches, Unitarianism, Quakerism and others) are actually NOT growing, let alone rapidly. They are dying out. The only growth is in the most conservative religious faiths. Even this highly slanted article notes that Evangelicals have lost fewer numbers and percentages than mainstream churches.

  69. SO, freedom of religion is fast-becoming freedom from religion. Separation of Church and State is becoming separation of Church. More curious would be the reading of Article 6, which prohibits religious tests as qualification for office. Could newer generations use article 6 to ban presidential candidates from pitching themselves on the basis of their religion? The grounds certainly exist. If God is the stated reason for a candidate's pro-abortion stance, well then, that could be increasingly be read as self-disqualification (according to article 6). The bigger question however is, who's listening?

  70. Recent advances in quantum theory may also contribute to people abandoning the Jesus model in favor of something more like a unified theory. Once could conclude the latter makes more sense. If, for example, If God is omnipotent, why would he have to kill his son to forgive us?

  71. He and His son are one and the same. Having given us freedom (so there could be love), He gave His own life to pay the price for all the wickedness we've done.

  72. Killing one's son is totally contrary to the basic command you shall not kill. It makes God inconsistent and untrustworthy of his own word. it is nonsense!

  73. Who was the price of wickedness owed to? God? And you say God is his son are the same thing. So if I am understanding you, you are saying God killed himself to pay himself? So God is dead?

  74. The only explanation offered in this article for the decline in religious identification is politics. What about science? Once Galileo proved that the religious view of the world as the center of universe was wrong, people had a solid basis to question faith. This questioning was likely accelerated by the discovery of dinosaur fossils and other science-related discoveries that are inconsistent with the Bible. Scientific discoveries are likely to continue to provide an increasing basis for people to identify as non-religious.

  75. Exactly. It becomes harder to believe in God when the arguments for the existence of a powerful invisible pink unicorn are the same as those for God, and with so many cultures bumping up against each other on this tiny blue ball, it is more and more obvious that we should not be waging war to determine the one true religion of peace.

  76. When it comes to politics and candidate agendas, religion should not be part of the equation. We know more about each candidate's alleged spiritual ties than we do about their donors and what their donors want from them the day after the election.

    For me, religion is intensely personal. I don't wear it like a badge like many politicians. I'm sick of those who use religion as code for political positions on issues affecting all citizens--or as a litmus test for the ideological purity of their party.

    Liberals aren't heathens or antireligion. We just prefer to keep our religious faith to ourselves and out of the voting booth. Precisely as the framers wrote it in the first amendment.

  77. Actually, if you are talking politics, lefty liberals really ARE anti-religion. The anti-religious comments and even threats I have read in these forums are legion. The anger and frustrated rage directed specifically at the Roman Catholic Church is easily documented, and a constant.

  78. "Liberals aren't heathens or antireligious"

    Speak for yourself, some of us liberals are heathen/irreligious and proud of it.

  79. You are wrong here, I am both anti-religion and a heathen. Religion has done far more damage than good in this world.

  80. From a European perspective, it has always been somewhat puzzling to understand the religiousness of the US.

    The US truly made possible the greatest scientific discoveries; no doubt, most scientists from Europe would want to work at your universities. Not even starting about technical innovations.

    But then faith comes into the (political) picture... Is it a disease? If you found a cure, I guess there's still hop. Because, although we are mainly "none's" over here in (northern) Europe, it's really a great and fun place to live.

  81. Trust me, SO, as an American it is puzzling as well. But one thing we Americans do very well is sanctimony, and religion is a big part of that.....

  82. The problem is that religionists in the U.S. are procreating more rapidly than the educated, so that over time a greater and greater percentage of the population is at least brought up by religionism. Fortunately there seems to be a trend toward parental revolt. But there will always be a pool of the rational and the educated, who benefit from American initiative to continue providing the world with new supplies of innovation.

  83. I'm not a religious man myself, but I've known a number of lovely Christians over the years. Yet I think a decrease in religion overall, and in Christianity in particular, especially the mega-church variety, would be a good thing for this country. Perhaps we should all become Unitarian Universalists. They accept people with all sorts of belief systems, even atheists.

  84. While the decline in Christian believers is encouraging, it's depressing to hear that 71% still have those irrational ideas. No wonder our country is so messed up.

    I hope some of the people claiming they are Christians are just saying that because of family associations or a vague sense of morality in general rather than actually believing what Christians allegedly believe.

    The true believers are the ones who scare me. Their refusal to accept science and refusal to stay out of the political realm make them very dangerous to the rest of us...

  85. With "The Rapture" near, these evangelical Christians care little for the future. They are the most dangerous of all.

  86. I wonder why the German people in the 1930s and 1940s did not profess to be "Christian"?

  87. There are plenty of Christians who believe in science and evolution -- the vast majority, in fact. The Roman Catholic Church and all the mainstream Protestant churches accept evolution, and many scientists are Christians.

  88. Since 70% is still a substantial number, our corporate media will refuse to take credit for one of their few accomplishments. Each of our children is bombarded by profit-motivated entertainment products that are carefully non-denominational and morally bereft. Christianity and capitalism have always been strange bedfellows. Our media knows where its heart is.

  89. Some calling themselves Christians, ain't,
    They view compassion as a taint,
    Dislike for the Poor
    As lazy, impure,
    Is how the Poor they choose to paint.

  90. The Pew study actually found that the number of Jews who consider themselves "Jewish by religion" has declined by about the same percentage as those terming themselves Christians, and Jewish numbers have held steady only because some Jews consider themselves Jewish by ethnicity. Cohn's piece is not accurate.
    There is no evidence cited here supporting Cohn's suggestion that the "politicization" has anything to with these declines. Did he pollsters even ask about it? To me, the most surprising statistic here is that atheist and agnostics TOGETHER form only 7% of the population. I don't believe that's either good or bad news; human nature doesn't seem to change much, with or without faith. People celebrating the decline of religion seem to me as intolerant and bigoted as people who think everyone has to be religious.

  91. There is a growing subset of Christians who have moved into spiritual practices which do not necessarily entail subscribing to a set of traditional religious beliefs. These practices would include zen mediation, advaita self-inquiry, or the techniques of Eckhart Tolle. Such practitioners include atheists, agnostics, and ex-Christians who are moving away from organized religion while still adhering to principles of "core Christianity." It's not quite an atheist-believer binary out there.

  92. There is also a pretty large subset of people who are nominally Christian (at least by ethnicity and upbringing) but who don't like attending church or donating money in a collection basket -- who hate getting up on Sundays early -- but who hold pretty generally mainstream Christian beliefs.

    Many of these people also believe in stuff like angels .... reincarnation .... magic .... aliens .... new age-y stuff .... and mix it all together into a kind of unaffiliated religion belief. It is common for such folks to say "I'm not religious, but I AM SPIRITUAL".

    I am not at all convinced this is an improvement over traditional church-based religion, but it is heavily influenced by themes promoted in Hollywood films and TV, and novels.

  93. There are about 100 billion stars in our galaxy and more than 100 billion galaxies in the universe. Astronomers currently estimate that there are approximately 70 billion trillion stars in the universe, with God knows how many millions/billions/trillions of planets capable of supporting life. And yet, small groups of semi-literate beings, here on Earth, 2500 years ago were able to figure the whole god-thing out with such certainty that are perfectly willing to kill for and die for their beliefs. What sane, educated person would buy into that. To complicate it more, our universe has been "bumped" in four different places by some thing/things outside of it. Yikes!

    Enjoy and embrace your religion, but please leave everyone else in peace.

  94. I guess I agree with your central point. I've never understood, as soon as I could think for myself, why people believed in deities. But, you completely lost me at your complication, Jim. I'm guessing you mean asteroids, but I don't know what that has to do with the topic.

  95. "Our universe has been bumped in four different places by some thing/things outside of it."

    What four things are you talking about?

  96. I believe so called religious beliefs and causes masked other reasons for which populations were and are willing to fight and die. Try power, greed, expansion and national determination.

  97. This trend seems perfectly in line with general cultural patterns of greater diversity and technology power at an individual's fingertips over his own world. On the internet, you can create your own universe. I'm surprised there are no e- or wiki religions yet, which millions would join and alter just for fun, never mind religious devotion. I've never been a believer in a deity, but, what I care about are the values we got from the enlightenment which includes our political rights like free speech, freedom of religion or conscience, etc. All the piety in the world will not fix our world if we lose that. Some people find them inseparable. I don't think so, but, whether they have provided the base for people to learn cultural norms including aspects of liberty, I doubt, as religion existed long before the enlightenment.

  98. Jolly good.

    The fact that most Christians in America are fundamentalists is bad news for the future of the faith. Though it appears paradoxical, it means their belief system is fragile and, if they're young and their minds haven't shut off yet, it is extremely easy to undermine. And, once undermined, it's more likely to be discarded than transmogrified into a highbrow version of its former self.

    In biology class, Chuck Darwin is rarely mentioned, and the issue of evolution is spoken of only briefly or with a red-faced pretense of blindness to the fact that it subverts the beliefs of a majority of the kids in the classroom -- at least that's the case in the South. Very few Christians take the professedly more sophisticated view, which oddly entails not actually believing what the Bible says (though why this is thought a fitter form of exegesis than literalism is unclear). Americans, like most people, have been ingurgitating fairytales.

    The internet is doubtless responsible for most of this, what with people accessing, for the first time in their lives, arguments, and rather convincing ones, that dispute their default setting, which for infuriatingly many is evangelical Christianity. Should this continue, or even pick up pace, and I see as yet no reason why it shouldn't, it will have an enormous impact on American society. Some conservative intellectuals think it augurs the second coming of 20th-century totalitarianisms, which is dumb. But we must try to ease social discord.

  99. Whether or not the decline in self-declared Christianity is a good thing, I can't say. What worries me is the decline in numeracy and precise use of language. If a decline of 5 million adults equals 8 per cent, as I read this minute, then the population has 62.5 million adults. Out of 319 million people in the country, I'd have expected more adults. Or more attention to numbers from the Times.

  100. From the prominently linked Pew survey:

    "In 2007, there were 227 million adults in the United States, and a little more than 78% of them – or roughly 178 million – identified as Christians. Between 2007 and 2014, the overall size of the U.S. adult population grew by about 18 million people, to nearly 245 million.7 But the share of adults who identify as Christians fell to just under 71%, or approximately 173 million Americans, a net decline of about 5 million."

  101. I find most of the Christians I know to be pushy and judgmental. They look down on others and are continually and continuously attempting to recruit into their fold. I object. Being "born again" is not the measure of my life and will not be the measure of my life. It is that simple.

  102. Most Christians are not evangelicals, so that seems like an odd statement. I grew up and still live in a neighborhood that is mostly Roman Catholic, yet I have literally NEVER had any Catholic try and "convert me" (a Jew) to Catholicism. Ditto for the main Protestant churches.

    Obviously though, if one is an Evangelical, by DEFINITION you would be seeking to convert the unconverted. I've never seen this done by force. Why can't you just politely say "I am not interested"?

  103. They don't believe we Atheists don't believe; that, in a foxhole, we will discover that we really do believe..

  104. Christianity is in trouble? "Good for that" the predictable writings in these comments. "And bad for the Republicans because they have hijacked religion and can't win without them Christians" also more of the same stripe. But if the survey is correct then how to account for the massive and unprecedented domination of Republican politicians across the nation?

    The GOP now governs 37 states and its legislators even more. Congress is also under Republican control and that is a recent event - an "anti-Obama" event. There is something afoot here in so many victories and, by this survey, one has to conclude it has little to do with religion. Clearly the tide against progressive policies is sweeping across the country. Oh, there are the few predictable holdouts: New York, California among them. But the majority moving dramatically opposite.

    This bodes well for the potential Republican presidential candidate. The Christians are a lockup for the GOP just as blacks are for Democrats - the polarization is vast, deep and irreconcilable. But the non-affiliated, and for the most part, non-ideological, are there for the winning. This is the group giving the GOP its current victories. "Progressive" meaning high taxes, intrusive government, minority politics are emblematic of the Dems and are big turnoffs for this group. With the right candidate they can carry the GOP into the White House.

  105. The GOP had the vast majority of their pick-ups in midterm elections. Those are typically elections where the president's party loses. They are also elections where minority voters and young people, aka Democratic voters, don't turn out to vote. In the 2014 midterms, only 36% of eligible voters turned out to vote. The challenge for Democrats is in how to turn more voters out in off-year elections, meanwhile the GOP has lost the last two presidential elections by significant margins, and I don't expect them to do much better in 2016.

  106. Nice try but it's Republicans who are intruding into people's lives, telling them who they can and can't marry, what kinds of health care they can and can't access and of course it's Republicans who are trying to force the middle class to subsidize the low wage earners of large corporations.

  107. The shameless gerrymandering of electoral districts is the only thing keeping Republicans in power. It can work for only so long, however, and when change comes, it will come very suddenly.

  108. I'm not surprised. The example Christians set is not an an admirable one.

  109. One other reason: corruption and malfeasance in the Catholic Church. Now if we can just remove the tax breaks for all these horrid businesses.

  110. Perhaps soon the majority of Americans will believe that the universe is over 6,000 years old, that we evolved and were not created in our present form, and our nation will be able to join the world of science and reality.

  111. You've got it backwards! The Church is leaving the Christians.

    Look at the Churches' (read: Republicans') record on Christian values :

    Peace (Iraq? Afghanistan? Iran?)
    Helping those in need (Minimum Wage? Immigration? Health Care?)
    Honesty and hard work (Wall Street?)
    Loving one another (Gay marriage?)

    The facts speak for themselves. The Church is leaving the Christians.

    ....no wonder good citizens are leaving in droves.

  112. Pope Francis is the only hope we've got to live a truly exemplary live!

  113. The demographic news in the United States is all good. The future is bright.

  114. True. The growth of Islam with it's strict code of behavior is heartening.

  115. I believe Alice Walker said it best: "God is not in a church. All that is in a church are people looking for God." If I wanted to meet a few sincere people and a whole lot of hypocrites, I would go to church.

  116. Judge not, that ye be not judged.

  117. Many don't know the difference.

  118. The statistics are startling. The fact that so many Catholics and Protestants support the Republicans, a party which presents a philosophy of greed and war, and which is only too willing to critically judge those who struggle in life, demonstrates the utter hypocrisy of much of the American population.

    Those who genuinely embrace the teachings of Christ should hope that the ranks of the non-affiliated rapidly increase in America, including the agnostic and atheists, so that our country truly becomes a more Christian nation.

  119. Hillary Clinton supported the invasion of Iraq. Her more recent endeavor s included the destruction of what was left of Libya. Both parties support war.

  120. Actually Catholics tend to vote Democrat.

  121. Values change.

    We live in times that encourage and reward thinking for yourself and making a life for yourself and your family.

    As such, I struggle to respect someone who, rather than thinking for themselves, defines right and wrong by what is written in some book, thousands of years old, author unknown. Same for leaving their fate to some undefined "fate" or agency of predetermination by whatever name they know it.

    We live in the age of self now. For better and, yes, in some ways for worse.

  122. Amen Brother

  123. Long may this trend continue! As the moral philosopher George Santayana said, "one real world is enough." We have a boatload of problems in the here and now without obsessing about the hereafter. We need to use the intelligence evolution rather than God gave us to save the only planet we have rather than fighting about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. The sooner religion stops substituting for reason the better off we'll all be.

  124. Religious leaders hitched their faiths to a reactionary strain of politics, and now their former adherents are turning away?

    They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind.

  125. Of course younger folks are gravitating towards non-affiliation. We can smell the hypocrisy of most religions from miles away.

    All of these "Christians" who go to church, pray to God and believe in Jesus' teachings.

    Then go home and vote Republican, supporting discrimination against gays (Jesus said "love thy neighbor"), the poor, etc.

    Maybe if there was a little (okay, a LOT) less hypocrisy, you wouldn't see folks avoiding churches in droves.

  126. What kind of private jet would Jesus buy?

  127. If there's anything our misadventures in the Middle East should have proven by now, it's that the tribalism in countries split by religious and other factions is inimical to democracy. Wouldn't it be great to finally have it diminish here, along with the political influence of creationists and all those who've tried, and keep trying, to have their religious beliefs dictate public policy.

  128. One commenter writes that our "legal principles are derived in large part from biblical law. . ." That is a claim made over and over again by evangelicals. The Ten Commandments. . . Judeo-Christian principles. . . these are the foundation of our law, according to them.

    Having been a lawyer for 40 years, I say: "Baloney!" The Bible is almost never cited by the courts -- not today, and not for centuries and centuries past. Here in the States we have an official separation of religion from government, so perhaps it is not surprising that the Bible is largely absent from our laws. But the same is true of English law. You might find some vague reference to the Almighty here and there -- but concrete, particular principles that determine an outcome in a particular case? No. As far as I can tell, Anglo-American law is based ultimately on Germanic tribal law -- pre-Christian. In the 20th century there has been a good infusion of Civil Law principles -- also non-Biblical.

    I think when people say "Christian" or "Biblical," they mean "good," or "fair," or "just" -- as though goodness, fairness and justice were exclusively Christian -- as though Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Confucianists, Taoists, animists, or atheists could not possibly be good or fair or just. When someone does a good deed, they sometimes say, "That's very Christian of you" -- just as they used to say, "That's very white of you."

    The United States of America is NOT a Christian nation. Get over it.

  129. "say "Christian" or "Biblical," they mean "good," or "fair," or "just" -- as though goodness, fairness and justice were exclusively Christian -- "

    This is tough to accept regarding a faith whose leaders seem to quietly accept a public worship mixing God and Koch, Christ and the NRA. A number of posters have commented on the negative image many hold of the Christian faith in the US. Until its leaders stand against such decriptions of their faith, trust in this brand will diminish.

    ...Andrew

  130. Funny you say that when the national motto is, "In God We Trust". Surely Eisenhover wasn't referring to a non-Christian God?

  131. Amen! :)

  132. If less than 6% of adult Americans consider themselves to be believers of a faith other than some form of Christianity -- and that includes Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha'i, and many other groups -- how is it possible for the Christian religious right to constantly declare that Muslims are taking over the country?

    The media needs to shine a brighter and more frequent spotlight on the absurd paranoia against religious minorities in the US, especially when there is hard data like this to show what a small number of followers of minority religions there are in the US.

  133. Once I grew out of childish superstitions of an ever watchful, ever vengeful god, I left religion behind, about age twelve, never to look back. Good riddance. Despite all the protestations of peace and love, chistianity is more about superstition, judgement, exclusion, denial, coercion, punishment and persecution. This, of course, is hardly unique to christianity, it's in common with with all religion.

  134. Most people, Christian or otherwise, have as much choice in religious identity as in their names, since both come to them via the accident of birth. The majority of Indians, for example, are born as Hindus, and never question that part of their identity, since that would make as much sense as questioning why they are named so-and-so.

    It is a very hopeful sign to see that mainstream religious identification in the US is dropping, and not simply because other religions are taking up the slack. As one of the other posts here succinctly put it, we need freedom FROM religion, not OF. Thousands of years of advances in human knowledge has shown us after all that the human condition improves as we ponder things without the irrational constraints of religious dictates.

  135. Who says the newspapers never report good news.

  136. Maybe unaffiliated means Catholics who married Mainline Protestants, or their kids. Or maybe the young unaffiliated are moving often.

  137. It is nice to see the USA catching up with the rest of the developed world. It is strange that so many Americans also hold anti-scientific beliefs, such as creationism and climate change denial. It doesn't say much for your educational system!

  138. All I care about is whether there is a rise in compassion and caring for one another, independent of any religion. This, of course, is not reported in such surveys. And, if we see a GOP win, we will know this is not the case no matter what the religions might be of those elected and their supporters.

  139. Christians have only themselves to blame for their decreasing percentage in the population. In the US, instead of adhering to the compassionate, inclusive, healing, loving, merciful, gracious and just message of Christ, they have affiliated themselves with divisive, exclusive, money-driven politics.

  140. I think the gay issue has caused many to leave the church. Now that most churches are allowing gays in the pulpit and gay marriage I think many members think that if the church was wrong in their history about gays then the church might be wrong about other principles.

  141. Some are leaving for the opposite reason. I know 6 times married woman left her church because they accepted a lesbian couple into the congregation.

  142. Totally a wrong interpretation -- many of the mainstream Protestant churches have fallen over themselves to welcome gays -- have gay clergy -- perform gay marriages. This has totally alienated their base of middle-aged or older congregants, who want nothing to do with this -- it makes a mockery of their religion and their own marriages. Many do not want to have to go to gay clergy with their problems.

    Rather than be accused of being "haters", they have quietly just left. But it would be wrong to say they are "unreligious". Their religion left THEM, not the other way 'round.

    In time, a few smart churches will return to traditional values and traditional marriage, and reclaim many of these congregants.

  143. Experts in polling, of course, rarely admit that the questions themselves indicate bias.

    Would a liberal media organization, after all, ever commission (or report upon) a poll that found that male boardroom leadership is superior and more effective?

    Or a conservative one saying that white male executives were overwhelmingly sexist and oppressive?

    Of course not.

    Like everything else today, polling and pollsters are both splintered and revenue-driven, and thus often return the wanted results.

    Just last week, for example, the prospect of a big Conservative win in Britain was written off by pollsters as imaginary and delusional.

    And then when it happened was chalked up to something aberrant and unimaginable.

    So it might make some sense to question the integrity of the pollsters themselves.

    Rather than continue to rely on them to form important social opinions.

  144. Based on the secularization of Europe this trend doesn't surprise me at all, but it disappoints me all the same. Those of you who believe that religion does nothing good in modern society should read "American Grace" by Robert Putnam. Putnam repeatedly shows that people who attend a church or synagogue are more generous with their time and money than people who never attend, have more friends, and are physically healthier. Putnam particularly praises liberal Christianity for its members extremely high social engagement.

    A secular society would be more politically liberal and more supportive of wealth tranfers, but without churches which often create bonds outside of class, there would also be a bigger divide between the wealthy, middle class, and poor. Bike clubs, MeetUps, etc and other religion-independent social activities don't create interclass bonds or as tight bonds as well as houses of worship do.

    I find it ironic that people here who are delighted about this decline because they think it will be good for liberalism see no nuances in the decline at all. To me this scorn of religion and inability to see anything bad in its decline is itself illiberal.

  145. The most segregated day of the week is Sunday, by race and wealth.

  146. As someone raised by secular parents who has become a secular parent (though I tried the Unitarian church for a while when my kids were little, they stopped wanting to attend at a certain point) I agree with you that we need to replace some of the social structures of religion as we move forward, and it's not as easy as it looks to do that. Modern mass society can be too isolating. We are also tearing down civic organizations that used to bring people together, and when everybody works neighbors don't get to know each other as easily.

    But the answer is not to push falsehoods about reality. They are dangerous. I believe our lack of response to global warming is in part because people think God will take care of them, he would not allow the earth to perish (or that it is the end of times if he does, so it's a good thing). Another dangerous belief is the belief that nature, and the world, are just places, because then that explains why the poor are poor--i.e., it's karma, they deserve it. Another dangerous set of beliefs are those surrounding sexuality and reproduction.

  147. "Putnam particularly praises liberal Christianity for its members extremely high social engagement."

    There's an argument to be made there. However, there's also an argument that liberal Christians "front" for illiberal Christians; they delay the realization among larger numbers of people that religion itself is problematic and archaic, no matter how "liberal." Thus they inadvertently support their dogmatic, fundamentalist cousins.

  148. Although it's only been 8 years since the last Pew survey, I wonder to what degree, if any, scientific discoveries over that time, and the growing "body of evidence" about the (real) origin of life, have contributed to the shift away from religion. That is, as a "supernatural creator being" becomes less and less likely an explanation, and 3.5 billion years of evolution becomes a more probable (if not nearly certain) explanation, shouldn't we EXPECT a growing number of people to reject these ancient belief systems as "well-intended, yet flawed in their reasoning?" Moreover, I wonder if TV ads like Ron Reagan's "Freedom From Religion Foundation" have taken the stink-eye off public proclamations of atheism? Let's hope so.

  149. Yes, I think the growing public acceptability of atheism is as much responsible as actual disavowal of religion.

  150. Fundamentalists hold on to their numbers only by withdrawing further and further from the reality of the outside world: they not only have their own communities and churches, they now have their own news and entertainment media, their own schools, even their own museums and so-called univerisities, all designed to reinforce their beliefs and keep reality at bay.
    The downsides are obvious: children almost incapable of living a life outside of the bubble, and an opening for demagogues of dubious intellect (and even more dubious motives) to infest and impair State and Federal legislatures.

  151. The inspirational and inclusionary message of faith, hope and charity that bound communities of people together - and which Pope Francis has shown still resonates powerfully - was displaced by small leaders offering a narrow, exclusionary message of opposition to contraception, gay marriage and abortion. Thus the next generation was lost.

  152. I was there when the religious right first reared its head, when Billy Graham invited Richard Nixon to speak at his crusade in Knoxville, Tennessee immediately after the invasion of Cambodia in 1970. The result was appalling, with protesters and Baptists screaming at each other across the stadium. You know, Jesus has nothing to do with politics, liberalism or conservatism. He transcends them all.

    "Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again." (John 3:7)

  153. Looks like there will be fewer and fewer pews, according to the Pews.

  154. The fastest growing religion in the US is Consumerism and its's cathedral is the Mall.

  155. That was half a century ago. What grows fast is a tribalism rooted in Social Media. The altars are MSNBC and Fox News.

  156. If Christians really cared what Jesus thought, they would not be taking strident, aggressive, judgmental positions that drive people away from faith in God. They - the Christians who make the news, not all Christians - have allowed their religion to be coopted by political interests and turned it into a charade. Their moral high ground is based on prosecuting abortion and homosexuality with little apparent concern for things like "judge not" or "love your neighbor". The conservative Christians I know are also pro-gun and anti-global warming. How those things came to be aligned with Christianity would be an interesting story.

    Sadly, this is turning people away from religion and God entirely. This kind of Christianity dominates the news because it is so political and controversial. People are rightly turned off by it, but it doesn't really speak for God. There are not enough voices saying that.

    But even among churches that don't take a position on homosexuality or abortion there is reason to be disturbed. The church is depressingly silent on poverty, increasing inequality, and war. These are moral issues on which the church could (and should) take a prophetic stand.

  157. What you are describing is mainly the far-right, white Evangelical mindset. There are many Black evangelicals who stress social justice issues and caring for the poor. I call the people you describe 'cultural Christians," because their faith seems guided more by politics and conservatism than by the words of Jesus.

  158. So why are we allowing the most lunatic fringe of so-called Christians dictate most of the social policy in this country?

  159. Given that abortion is legal in all 50 States to varying degrees and gay marriage is legal in 36 States your argument doesn't hold water.

  160. Because the GOP found out that it gave them a winning margin in elections.

  161. Because they're the ones who vote.

  162. Would I have answered that I was a Christian had I been asked? No, as I don't go to church or identify with any denomination, and my religious upbringing was minimal. But I am aware that my cultural history and identity is Christian, just as secular Jews identify as Jewish. It's important to know where you come from and what ideas have influenced you.

  163. I really hate it when people tell me that while i might not be christian my values and history are of judeo-christian decent. That might be true in some small ways. BUT most of the values we cherish today, such as democratic participation, women rights(abortion, voting rights and in general the idea that women and men are of equal value), rights for minorities and most importantly the speration of church and state as well as a rational and scientific outlook on the world, all these the churches stood and in some cases continue to stand against, so they are anything but christian.
    Even better is when people tell me I cant have any values because I dont believe in God. Are commandment like you shouldnt murder or steal really (solely( christian values? Id say they are common sense.

  164. Jesus was actually for a strict separation of church and state. Mark 12:17 testifies to this point. Perhaps you should actually understand the other point of view before you construct straw(men) to beat to death in the defense of purportedly secular ideals.

  165. Please notice that I did not use the word values, nor did I make a value judgment, except to say I think it's valuable to know the historical forces that have shaped you.

  166. Wouldn't it be sad if this were all a dream and all the atheists out there were putting all their faith in the completely arbitrary laws of the dream-world universe? There is no way to prove this isn't just a dream -- maybe even my dream but I believe God's.

  167. When you add the agnostic nature of religions of India and China you quickly realize that majority of the World is non-religious. The Old eastern religions have learned the futility of trying to control their followers and adapted to it. Time for abhramic religions to do the same.

  168. Perhaps the number of Christians will rise once its secular "leaders" aka Republican politicians start following the words of Christ rather than Grover Norquist. It's no wonder that the number of people calling themselves Christian is falling. Those who deny care to the poor, deny science and worship Mammon make the entire religion seem ignorant, hateful and uncompassionate. It's a shame since what Jesus actually said was worth hearing.

  169. Bad news for religious minorities. Imagine what they're like when they aren't afraid of something.

  170. As a lifelong Evangelical Christian, I'm not the norm because I think God cares much more about how we treat other people than we we do in our bedrooms. As such, if I was asked to participate in this poll, I'd try to find a way to place and asterisk by my answer "Evangelical Christian." I'd try to find a way within that poll to separate myself from most Evangelicals, who seem to love America but dislike most of the people in it. I suspect nationwide, many other respondents would feel the same way.

  171. I wish more were like you. I'm consistently amazed by the degree to which many "Christians" fail to follow anything resembling the teachings of Jesus and indeed promote policies that are antithetical to anything he is known to have said.

  172. You make an excellent point. "Evangelical" is too broad and imprecise a term. Many mainline United Methodists, for example, identify theologically and historically as "evangelical" but are most definitely not social conservatives in their politics. The religious right's adherents have hijacked the term "evangelical." They are not. They are theologically fundamentalists.

  173. You cannot love America and hate it's citizens.

  174. Given the decline one would hope to see an increase in belief in science, but I'm not convinced that that's happening. It seems that belief in a rational, understandable, world following the laws of physics has not accompanied a decline in Christian beliefs.

  175. You'd never guess the results of this poll from the behavior of politicians of all stripes---by far most egregiously the Republicans, but even many Democratic politicians make a point of stressing their faith, as if churchgoing were a required testimonial to a good character. Is this yet another example of how out of touch our representatives are with the people? And---when will this trend make itself felt at the voting booth? It should drive Republicans right out of office. (To the extent that our democracy functions.)

  176. This is because the secular will not vote against a politician who claims to be religious, while the religious will not vote for a politician who is a professed atheist. In fact, a poll I saw some years ago on that topic found that more people would vote for a gay president than would vote for an admitted atheist.

    More sophisticated people know that at the higher reaches, many politicians aren't actually religious, but are forced to put on a dog and pony show for the masses. Or else, as Peggy Noonan said of her comrades in the Reagan White House, they believe in the church but not in God.

    (This isn't to say that all politicians are religious -- Carter certainly was, and that idiot Bush. Nixon described himself as a "not very religious Christian" (how can you partly believe in God?). Reagan had no religious faith that I can detect, other than his belief in callous conservatism. Obama shows no signs of being religious although he did participate in a church.)

  177. More interesting to see would be the span from 2000 to 2015. You see, omitted from the change data are major impacts that could have caused surges in religious affiliation. Of course, I'm thinking of the September 11 terrorists attacks in 2001 and the real estate market collapse in 2009.

    Likewise, the cohort analysis provides no factual basis for the quoted conclusion that age has no effect on religious affiliation. In fact, the one cited fact refutes the quoted conclusion which is has no cited factual support. It says younger millennials are less affiliated than older millennials. That could imply that as millennials age, they become more religious.

    Trust me on this. When hijacked planes slam into office buildings on live television, when people see their savings wiped out in weeks, and when your doctor begins excuses himself because a minister is waiting, people affiliate.

  178. Older people come from a different era and many cling to their beliefs. Those of us who grew up without belief have no need or inclination to adopt it -- could not adopt it, since we don't regard it as objective. So no, I don't think those millennials will be getting religion as they age. And while like many New Yorkers I witnessed the events of 9/11 in person, I didn't discard my rationality! I'm sure it's very comforting to believe one will live forever, but I couldn't have done so had I wished, as to me such beliefs are as absurd as faith in Santa Claus.

  179. I would argue that the opposite happened. The religious extremism behind the attacks made people question religiosity, the loss of savings and security made them question - really question - why so many bad things could happen to good people, and well, the doctor; I'm not sure what you're saying.

    Those developments - a pervasive sense that we are ultimately alone and unprotected - and the Republican "evangelists" and Catholic predator scandals were factors in me turning away.

  180. "I'm sure it's very comforting to believe one will live forever, but I couldn't have done so had I wished, as to me such beliefs are as absurd as faith in Santa Claus."

    As one who pretty much stopped going to church very young, in the early 1960s, and whose family weren't really churchgoers anyway except on those holidays when everyone came out from beneath the woodwork, I nevertheless like to think that somewhere, somehow, my parents, aunts, and uncles are all at the seashore, having cocktails together, with my grandparents and great-aunts looking on benignly.

    Someday I'll be there too. Perhaps having a Shirley Temple.

  181. This feels like long slow progress (approaching a tipping point?) from a time when almost nothing could be understood and explained except in mystical terms to a time when most big questions can be approached in scientific inquiry. Pleasantly, gently, yet relentlessly, we come to terms with life without the need for the comforting fables of our species' childhood.

  182. American (and Canadian) cultural heritage was founded on deeply Christian principles. As unaffiliation grows, the underpinnings of our culture are eroded. Without concluding if this is a good thing or not, my point is that nobody is even trying to investigate the societal impact of pulling the carpet out from under our Culture.

  183. Our culture was not founded on deeply Christian principles, but Germanic tribal law that predated Christianity. The conceit that, without Christianity, mankind would be running around in a state of wild anarchy is based in personal ego, not in fact.

  184. What important American value is uniquely Christian? The underpinnings of our society are to be a good person and to do good work. Living that has nothing to do with religion in general or Christianity in particular.
    And those founding principles were deeply flawed, in the way they treated blacks, Native Americans, women, gays, and non-Christians.

  185. Concerning the myth that the US was "founded on deeply Christian principles":

    The "Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and Subjects of Tripoli of Barbary" was signed at Tripoli on 4 November 1796, ratified unanimously by the U.S. Senate on 7 June 1797, and signed by President John Adams on 10 June 1979. It states that "the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion".

  186. i was raised Christian with 3 clergy in my family. At 15 I abandoned the organized part, but still belived in the heavenly watcher. By 18 it all made absolutely no sense, and I studied enough to understand why. But I held on to the teachings of caring, sharing, love and justice that I was raised with. In fact, it's these teachings that ensured my opposition to religion. Though, I know Christians who adhere to aspects of the religion, the faces of the belief are not them. The faces are Osteen, Dollar, and the other preachers of the "gospel of prosperity" --primarily their own. They are the Robertsons, Warrens, and the other self appointed judges and purveyors of hate. They are Santorum, and Huckabee--who put God and guns in the same sentence.
    Even people who want to believe look at these characters, and they feel that twinge inside that they are being fed lies.

  187. CalypsoArt. why are you judging Christianity by it's flawed so-called followers, rather than by Jesus, the founder of the faith. Human beings will always disappoint you; but the real God? Never.

  188. I am a Christian. I belong to an Episcopalean church that loves and respects people of all faiths, sexual preferences, and ethnicities. We try to follow the teachings of Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount, and the guidance of the saints and the great Christian thinkers. And we have a great time at coffee hour!

  189. If all faith communities were like yours, it wouldn't matter to me what % of the population was religious, and I would have great respect for religion. But the hard core Christians and others who like to impose their values on the rest of us are a big problem to me, and I'm very happy that their numbers are falling. A new era of tolerance and equality has begun.

  190. Thank you; but your church is an exception.

  191. @MJ of NYC--
    "I am a Christian. I belong to an Episcopalean church ..."
    AAAAACK!
    Every Episcopalian is told in confirmation class that it's the Episcopal Church and the members are Episcopalians.
    As a cradle Episcopalian, I found the lovely language of Rite One from the Book of Common Prayer, the traditional hymns, the smells and bells, and the ambiance of the sanctuary comforting and conducive to the meditative state. And yes--the coffee hour--Episcopalians have tended to be socially open and better educated, making for an intellectually satisfying post-service experience. After childhood I did not believe in Christian theology; the notions of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ were belied by the early history of the Church. Nonetheless, over the years, I attended church in various towns, pledged, joined the choir and the altar guild, and took an active role in many outreach programs. But during the GW Bush presidency, when the priest at the small-town Texas church I was attending began to talk politics, I got up and left. Since then, a schism has opened in the Church, with small bands of "conservatives" against gay marriage breaking away from the main body into a variety of "realignments," and people like them have hijacked the term "Christian" for themselves, giving both Christianity and conservatism a bad name. Now, like at least one other commenter here, I can't abide even the mention of Jesus--it provokes a visceral reaction of disgust.

  192. I have always felt saddened and confused by organized religion and have never understood how parents could dictate or "teach" their children what to believe about the nature of life. This seems like such a personal choice and any attempt to force or coerce children to believe as their elders always felt to me like a violation of free thought. It also seems that we are all from the same universe and that organized religion separates us, not to mention the way it perpetuates misogynistic practices that really hurt women, even in this modern era. My hope is that we humans find a peaceful, non-divisive way to get along and believe what we choose. Organized religion has done much harm and has tax breaks on top of it...

  193. I've never doubted that this country would follow Europe in this regard. It simply isn't possible for the educated, objective man or woman to maintain these hoary superstitions in the age of quantum mechanics and spaceflight.

    I think too that one has to distinguish between atheism and its polite cousin agnosticism and the decision to abandon formal affiliation with denominations that have promoted unpopular social policies. Between sexism, homophobia, and opposition to birth control, abortion, and divorce, the Catholic and evangelical denominations have managed to alienate themselves from most modern Americans. Even observant Catholics generally ignore the Church's teachings on divorce and birth control and once that happens, the hold of the institution wanes.

    But that shift likely couldn't have happened without the scientific revolution. Those who believe that they will roast in hellfire eternal if they get divorced probably won't get divorced. In that, today's Church is something like the British monarchy now that it no longer has the power to cut off heads.

    I'd say good riddance, but the loss of religious community has left people feeling isolated and lacking a rigorous moral framework that, for all its many shortcomings, had some strongly positive elements.

  194. As Nietzsche said, once God is dead, what do we put in his place? Hopufully not the Ubermensch!

  195. The Christian Church has always had its ups and downs in American history. After a decline in religious enthusiasm, there would be a period of revival which historians and theologians refer to as a Great Awakening. There were three or four of these between the early 18th and the late 19th century. Each of the "Great Awakenings" was characterized by widespread revival, a sharp increase of interest in religion, a profound sense of conviction and redemption on the part of those affected and an increase in church membership. One should not worry about the future of the Christian Church. It is here to stay. As Jesus said about his church in (Matthew 16:17) " I will build my church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."

  196. It may be inevitable that people gravitate toward a lack of affiliation with a conventional religion. In a world full of superficial labeling, statistics and knee jerk judgments, I think people more than ever want to preserve their sense of personal identity, even if it's a subliminal need. We are inundated with imagery that reeks havoc on our subconscious in the way we judge people according to their affiliations. Personally, I have great respect for Christians of all denominations as I do of all other faiths. I realize that great harm has been done in the name of faith, but I also think that immeasurable good has been done, and overall, belief in a higher power, the aspiration toward goodness and the unity it can provide has - in the broader scheme of things - been a catalyst for our betterment. And I don't think a move away from conventional churches is necessarily demonstrative of a rejection of Christianity. Rather, I think people are looking to broaden, explore as well as preserve a sense of spirituality and are on a personal quest, which - in my travels - seems to be more important than ever to individuals in our nation. I'm heartened to see it.

  197. Your humanity, to me, is cherished; your religion or you lack of religion is your choice and will have my respect.
    Religion, like wealth is often used as a symbol of status or class.
    It is a strange phenomenon but it seems that many devout Christians use their faith to foster a self delusion that the intensity of their professed faith or religiosity is an indication of their special class or perhaps their intelligence; this has a tendency to irk some who are "Christian lite," as I am.
    I do believe in God; at times I question the validity of my faith.
    When I was young I would sometimes annoy adults by stating that belief in heaven is rubbish; I still do believe this.
    It may be considered unscientific, not very modern but I certainly believe that there is another dimension of "spirit" after death.
    I do not understand the after death phenomenon of spirit world but I do hope that there is such a dimension.
    To me the Bible, like Shakespeare's works, are literature to be consumed as literature; sometimes the latter is more credible than the former.
    There are some of us who just want moral guidance; many just want to play it safe when it comes to religion... just in case.

  198. Pascal's Wager

  199. One must wonder whether the decline in self-identified Christians is tied to changing economic conditions in the U.S. People who are employed are working long hours for little pay, so fewer and fewer have either the time or the money to attend and support Church activities.

  200. Who among us has not seen or heard creditable stories of preachers demanding definite political voting/actions of their parishioners. Such actions are against the law, because churches are tax-exempt.

    Altho it would jostle a hornet's nest, I would love to see the prohibition of political activity by churches enforced, absolutely. Revoking their tax-exempt status would be even better.

  201. I attend church every Sunday and have never had my pastor demand political actions or voting for certain candidates by members of the congregation. But, this open hostility towards religion is troubling. While this administration refused to grant federal disaster status to my hometown several years ago when it was struck by a tornado, the churches led the way for disaster recovery. It was all Christian denominations; I personally witnessed the work of Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists, and non-denominational churches. I will never forget talking to the Lutheran aid worker who asked me where he was, as all the street signs were gone along with all the houses.

  202. Thank you for 'jostle a hornet's nest.' I doubt I'll ever be able to use it unsell-consciously in my writing or speech, but it sure is tempting.

  203. That is wonderful and is exactly what churches should do. Too many politicians are using Christianity as a marketing tool to promote their agenda for narrowing the rights of citizens as in women's health care, gay relationships, and education. Churches need to speak out against this kind of proselytizing. I sincerely believe that has a lot to do with the ambivalence about Christianity for many.

  204. I think this trend comes from an increased willingness to think critically and not simply accept ideas as "givens." Organized religion (I was brought up Catholic) demands a certain level of obedience, conformity and acceptance of authority. Once people step outside the confines of that structure, start to think for themselves and ask questions, it's difficult to go back. Either you buy it or you don't.

    The harping on evangelical Christianity by ultra-conservative politicians like Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee simply strengthens the link between religion and the most reactionary elements in our society. Now, whenever I hear anyone invoke "Jesus" I cringe, and immediately stop listening. I guess that's unfair - I am sure there are plenty of decent, progressive people of good will who are upfront about their faith - but it's become a visceral reaction.

    I hope - in vain, I am sure - that some day religion will no more be part of this country's political life. No more National Days of Prayer, no more photo ops with the next Billy Graham, no more invoking deities in speeches. You have your beliefs, I have mine, it's entirely private and nobody's business. I am greatly heartened by this article - it feels like progress.

  205. And no more tax exemptions for church-owned properties.

  206. Believe it or not, when I was growing up and through my young adulthood, (1950'-1960's) politicians didn't discuss their religion. Oddly, this was at a time when most people were much more religiously "affiliated" than they are now. As I recall, it was sometime in the 80's that this became a "thing".

  207. As a mental health professional I'm very aware of the importance of being reality-based. Many biblical stories served to explain what, at the time, was unknowable. As science finds more and more answers, a greater stretch is required to continue to believe in phenomena that directly contradict hard evidence.

  208. This is good to hear. Among other possible causes I would throw into the pot the intolerance, and denial of science by politically enmeshed American right wing population, the scandalous acts of Catholic priests and the global violence by fanatic Moslems. Religion has been making a very bad reputation for itself and is alienating many. Huge advances in science also challenge the veracity of religious myths and make it harder even for some of the religious to believe in their literal truths. In so many ways, religion just doesn't inspire or add up.

  209. Congress needs to immediately enact legislation halting this. We are a christian nation, based on christian laws. These individuals are making a decision to attack our religious foundation. I recently read that some legislator somewhere wanted to make church attendance mandatory. I think it's a great idea as long as we can exclude those religions that aren't included in the majority, just like that county commissioner did down here in York County, NC, where they specifically barred non-christians from delivering the invocation at country meetings.

  210. Ha ha.

  211. I think this has already been discussed: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." (1st amendment)

  212. You cannot be serious

  213. Over a year ago I moved back to north Atlanta after over 30 years of living in the north central states. I was truly amazed at the number of churches and learned to never ventue on the roads on Sunday mornings.
    The non establishment clause in the bill of rights also means freedom from religion and I exercise that religion.
    I did some research to find out what percent of people by state were active religious people and found out MS has the highest percentage of people who go to church.
    MS also has the lowest level of education of any state.

  214. As a composer of Jewish-atheist background, I must respect the contributions of Christian thought to music, art, and architecture even though, in my own field, many in the past were equally non-believers (e.g. Verdi, Berlioz, Brahms and probably Faure.).

    But it is really about time to stop believing in any of the tenets of these religions as they have manifestly proven harmful against other groups and against any scientific evidence that we have been given.

    Sorry, there is no large long-bearded man in the sky and there never was except in various human creators' imaginations.

  215. There are still a couple of problems. The Republican party is still being manipulated by the evangelicals, particularly in the primaries and second, many republican candidates are claiming to be make their decisions based on their faith. I suspect this will change over time as the unaffiliated and other thinking individuals continue to increase and begin to influence elections.

  216. Tom,

    I think you have it backwards. It's the Republican party that is manipulating evangelicals which is why, as you point out, many Republican candidates are claiming to base their decisions on faith, Christian version of faith. One can suspect that this profession of faith is cynical and false but it works politically.

  217. When large numbers of people choose belief over reason it enables the Koch brothers and others to manipulate those beliefs in order to push further an agenda. If you can believe in virgin birth and coming back from the dead you can be convinced that human use of fossil fuel has no affect on climate. Reason allows one to see beyond the manipulation and more and more people see the choice between one of reason and belief and more and more of them are choosing reason. It's about time.

  218. If you can believe that scientists know everything there is to know about birth and death right than you can believe that eggs are bad for your. No, wait, good for you. No, wait bad for you.

  219. There is no intrinsic relationship between religion and politics. Many Catholics are liberal Democrats who cannot be convinced that the corruption of the Koch brothers and their anti-science stand is tenable.

  220. Although ascribing cause and effect is always dubious in matters such as these, I suspect that the political rabidness of evangelical Christians has poisoned the Christian brand for many. One of the principal attractions of organized religion has been the "community" aspect. Promoting angry hating of anyone not exactly like you as an overriding religious philosophy is not exactly community building. People are finding community elsewhere.

  221. I read this article just after viewing the PBS program "Religion and Ethics" which has been marginalized to 5.00a.m. here. I was most inspired by the subject matter: the Yale School of Sacred Music. The extremely talented.. students is not the right word, so accomplished were they.. the performers when interviewed also seemed not to be worrying about "career" goals but were just into the love of the works and the desire to present this music to others. I believe one of my favourite poets is also teaching at Yale: Christian Wyman "My Shining Abyss". Rev. Danielle Elizabeth Tumminie has written "God and Harry Potter at Yale". I am also inspired by the testimony of my President! Although I don't need a guru or even fellow travelers along my Christian path I keep finding much encouragement to stay on it.

  222. Some of the decline can be attributed to the co-opting of the term "Cristian" by biblical literalists who are often political and social Regressives. They give Christianity a bad name.

    An insistence on holding certain beliefs that are called 'essential' to the faith also pushes thinking religious people away. Distaste for much of institutionalized religion, with 'experts' telling one what to believe or do is another reason.

    Christianity may be changing in ways not seen in centuries, with individuals discovering what Jesus really said -- not what was determined 'gospel truth' by bishops and rulers in late antiquity. The closeness of teaching with other traditions is being recognized. Authority, self-.proclaimed, holds no sway. The identity of the Self -- as defined by the Vedas, Jungian psychology, and American Transcendentalists, among others -- with the Christian concept of the Soul is accepted. Growth and learning, not punishment and salvation, are seen as the center of spiritual life. And compassion for humans and animals -- part of what Jesus taught -- is being taken seriously. It doesn't matter what this is called.

  223. I don't dare ask my fundamentalist friends and acquaintances, "Do you need to accept Ronald Reagan as your personal savior in order to be saved?" -- but only because I'm not a jerk (usually). I saw how the idolization of Francisco Franco in Spain destroyed the allegiance of Spaniards to Catholicism. Unfortunately, I see the same confusion of religion and tribal allegiance (and politicization of religion) taking place now in the US. I don't think fundamentalists realize that gaining power over government structures doesn't reach the core of political influence: winning hearts and minds. Many have made this error before; it's strange to see American fundamentalists falling into this trap.....

  224. I don't believe it is a confusion - its always been so. Tribal allegiance and religion co-evolved in human society. Religion, with all its right and rules (admittedly, many of the latter are quite beneficial), evolved to tighten tribal allegiances, making those tribes more successful in competition and conflict with other less tightly bound tribes.
    The trick for modern society is to try to hold onto and embrace the morality of religions and ditch the myths and tribalism associated with them.

  225. Without knowing how this poll was conducted and what/how the questions were asked, it is hard to evaluate this information. It SOUNDS to me like more people are unaffiliated with a particular church or branch of Christianity -- but NOT that they suddenly all identify themselves as atheist/agnostics.

    I know quite a few people who stopped going to church in a formal sense -- and because they didn't want to contribute donations, OR their children were grown, OR they simply loathed getting dressed up and having to go early on a Sunday morning for church services -- but who absolutely consider themselves to be "Christians".

    I also entirely fail to see in society or media or any other way that there is a tremendous growth in atheism or agnosticism. If 8% of the US did anything that dramatic, I think it would be demonstrated in obvious ways. I also think it is self-serving to read this as "support for the Democratic party" because that is not born out in other polls nor in election results.

  226. Bravo, Concerned Citizen in Anywheresville, - In a modern drama, you can be Everyman. The mindlessness of the era is very apparent in the media and among readers. Religion is dismissed because it is "too much trouble" just as life is "too much trouble" for many.

  227. Many people identify with a religion without an active affiliation.

    I consider myself an atheist.

    I am not affiliated with anything religious.

    But, depending on how the question is asked, I might identify myself as 'of Jewish heritage', or Jewish.

  228. This decline is troubling. Although secular leftists would deny this, our country was founded upon Christian values, which do not have a political point of view. We need look no further than the recent riots in Baltimore to see the breakdown of society that occurs when Christian values and morality are thrown away. We view a society of massive illegitimacy, rampant criminal activity, and concern for nobody but oneself. That is sad, because every one of us was created in God's image, and we are all equal in His eyes.

    It is also interesting that a large percentage of atheists are not merely personally non-Christian, but seem to have an open hostility towards it. If you wish to be a nonbeliever, that is your prerogative. While I disagree with you, it is your free choice. But don't attempt to limit my religious observance or tell me that it must stay behind the walls of my church.

  229. That last sentence is pretty rich considering the politics of the religious right particularly when it comes to women's health care and the rights of people in "non traditional" relationships. The recent riots have nothing to do with religion and everything to do with police brutality and racism. I'll bet every one of those rogue policemen involved identified as Christian.

  230. The Enlightenment deists among the Founding Fathers would dispute your statement. The separation of church and state and religious freedom for those of different beliefs or of no beliefs were part of the principles of the United States from its inception.

  231. "But don't attempt to limit my religious observance or tell me that it must stay behind the walls of my church. "

    I will absolutely tell you both things. Your right to freedom ends where my nose begins. We in the United States, have a Constitution that guarantees it. Your practice of your religion is subject to the laws and regulations of the United State of America. You do not get to choose for anyone else based upon some arcane ritual or book, how they may live their lives.

    The sooner you accept that, the sooner we can all get back to focusing on what is important like ending discrimination and making sure children are fed and educated to the standards of what is widely accepted as appropriate for their integration into the world.

  232. There are a number of comments here that conflate morality with Christianity. While one of the tenets of Christianity is moral behavior, the Ten Commandments which are the basis for "morality" are actually a Jewish tradition. Recall that Moses brought the tablets down from Mt Sinai, and while I can't remember who begat whom, he was way before Christ.

    One of the good ideas of religion is the respect for people, animals and broadly speaking, the planet, but in fact this is found in many non-Judeo-Christian religions. I suppose that the leading classes of early societies figured out that the tribe would do better if they all put aside some of the selfish instincts and gave at least a nod to the common weal. (Note to self: are we losing that vision?). Anyway, that is morality, and while it is a good thing that Christ picked up on the idea, it wasn't really novel by the time he came into the picture.

    Christianity is the adherence to the tradition that the Jewish God, apparently frustrated with the state of affairs on Earth, created a son to provide an example of good behavior. People who agree that happened and follow his teachings are Christ-ians.

    However one can be moral without being Christian, nor any other religion. Furthermore, as a number of commenters are pointing out, we would be well served if the moral aspects of religion were practiced more zealously.

  233. A couple of minor points.
    1) Christian versions of the 10 commandments are not the same as the Jewish version (google '10 commandments different versions'). For example, the Catholic version dropped the Graven Images prohibition.
    2) Jesus practiced Judaism, the Last Supper was a Passover Seder, including presumably keeping the Sabbath on Saturday and keeping Kosher. Christians are very selective as to which aspects of his behavior they model.

  234. "note to self: are we losing that vision?"

    You have to ask? Guess why.

  235. Where do they come up with these numbers? I don't know a single person who identifies as Christian. In fact I only know one person who is religious. I find them very suspect.

  236. In Palo Alto, in 1970, when I was a graduate student, I thought everyone was against the Vietnam War. I was wrong. "We" didn't know "everyone."

  237. Many people have grown tired of tax exemptions for religion, especially the politics dressed up as evangelical Christianity.

    I hope these trends foreshadow the repeal of all religious tax exemptions which are a clear violation of the First Amendment. At a bare minimum, all religious real property and all politics cum religion should be taxed like any other business.

  238. Or at least taxed like any other non-profit.

  239. And look at other trends during this time:
    1) increase in out-of-wedlock births,
    2) increase in income inequality,
    http://inequality.org/income-inequality/
    3) more suicides since 2000,
    https://www.afsp.org/understanding-suicide/facts-and-figures
    4) more drug use and abuse, including more deaths from overdose,
    http://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death...

    When you consider the Christianity focuses on families, helping the poor, and promoting life, these trends all make sense. "Secular humanism" may work if people are already wealthy and live in luxury, but it has not translated into helping the poor.
    And for the record, there is a big difference between Christianity and the Republican party. If you fail to realize that, then you really don't understand the religion.

  240. Christianity and Republicanism are both faith-based and ascribe great value to adhering to beliefs that defy facts and reason.

  241. Neither do the "christians"

  242. Nice try but it's the economic policies of right wing politicians who have aligned themselves with Christian fundamentalists that have been responsible for the economic decline and the despair and broken marriages that poverty breeds.

  243. Nothing pushed me down the path to atheism faster than the religious right's continuing level of vitriol against the gay community. I am gay, and years of listening to the religious right's hate speech against the gay community forced me to question whether the religious beliefs I grew up with were valid and based on fact. I concluded that there was no evidence that God exists, and that religion was nothing more than a dysfunctional denial of reality.

    The hate agenda of the religious right, and conservatives in general, have pushed me away from religion and I suspect it has also caused a lot of other people to realize that Karl Marx got at least one thing right: religion is the opiate of the masses.

    Give me provable facts, not wishful thinking.

  244. I am waiting for day when our politicians stop the nauseating display of falling all over themselves to declare how Christian they are.

  245. Don't hold your breath!

  246. Excellent. To paraphrase Diderot, Americans will never be free until the last conservative Republican is strangled with the bowels of the last religious fundamentalist.

  247. Historically, religion has explained the unexplainable, offered control of the uncontrollable, bestowed identity, dignity and meaning, prescribed morals, and denied death. Science explains more and more and tests the limits of control. Other (nonreligious) affiliations can provide identity, dignity and meaning. The secular sphere seems to be ahead of Catholicism in recognizing the equal (separate is not equal) moral value of women. Widespread scandal has undermined the Church's moral authority as well. Civic society is ahead of Christianity in general in accepting gays. Christianity still denies death, so it still has life in it.

  248. Death is part of life. Denying it doesn't invalidate it, it's just stupid. Religion should rethink its business model.

  249. Many Americans are sick and tired of the "culture wars" in which we're supposed to demonize our neighbors and roll back the modern age. As many pastors (and in the Catholic church, bishops and cardinals) have embraced the role of culture warrior leaders, the sort of person who joins a church now likes to get righteous and join the fight against the 20th century.

    Meanwhile many of us are opting for a walk at the lake instead.

    In most communities in my state, "Christian" and "conservative" are synonymous. Conservatives have been unwilling to recognize the danger in this--the examples of Europe and the Middle East is just lost on them. Meanwhile, a young relative of mine who hoped to teach science and is about to graduate was advised by an older teacher to leave the state. What sort of future do we have when the young science teachers feel they cannot stay?

    I am at an age when I'm expected to be "churched up"; but I find more and more friends and relatives my age are joining me, lacing up their hiking boots, and looking for God out on the trail instead.

  250. I have walked away from Christianity. I think Jesus was a wonderful, enlightened man who would be horrified at what we have done in his name. I like the nature religions, like shamanism. I don't need a fake miracle of rebirth - all I have to do is look outside the window today to see the rebirth that happens to the Earth every single year.

  251. This is good. As Voltaire put it, more or less, men will not stop committing atrocities until they stop believing absurdities.

  252. I have a good friend who seemed to lose interest in religion, because the way that it was used by politicians and others to force their views and beliefs on others. She said another factor was the way that the these people would use the pulpit to criticize. As she said once to me: "These are not the Christians that I grew up with."

  253. On the one hand, I'm happy that the fog seems to be lifting from people's eyes. You don't have to believe in a bronze-age religion.

    On the other hand, I know that many people (maybe even a few readers of the NYT) are lonely and are experiencing hard times in their life. Many people are not strong.

    To where do they turn for solace? Not everyone has family or friends nearby. Not everyone has a philosophy of life that helps them navigate the inevitable storms we experience.

    Many (not all) of the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth have been a great help to many millions. Local congregations provided friendship and support. Of course, not all aspects of church life were good, but so much of it was.

    What replaces an active religious life? Hopefully wholesome and moral pursuits and activities, and a mature philosophy of living. But as religion declines, the outcome may not be so happy. Be very careful what you wish for.

  254. You can also join a bowling league.

  255. The most prominent people calling themselves "Christian" today are extremely hateful toward LGBT people, deny that mankind is influencing climate, want to control woman's bodies, protected rapist priests, believe African American men had to coming when they are shot to death by cops, and are hugely hypocritical in their favoritism of the elite wealthy vs. the needy poor.

    All of these are un-American attitudes, so Americans are looking away.

  256. Spirituality is a beautiful and relevant part of the human experience. Unfortunately, religion has almost nothing to do with it.

  257. For all of my 76 years I’ve been hearing about “spirituality,” I seem to lack the gene. I’d really like a thoughtful definition. It seems to me that in most cases when I’ve experienced (been told about) spirituality, it indicates an extraordinary self-satisfaction with ones illogical prejudices and quirks, and the ability to maintain them in the face of fact and/or logic.

  258. I totally agree that politics has something to do with this, but in my experience charismatic and evangelical groups also refer to themselves as "Christian" and make a distinction between themselves and people who adhere to other sects—who are "not Christian". So possibly the difference here also relates to this narrow definition of Christianity, and people who might be on the fence deliberately dissociating themselves from it.

  259. I predict that Christianity will make a big comeback when we are all economic serfs. After all, wasn't submission to feudal economy what the Roman Catholic Church preached for centuries? thereby undercutting the ability of the peasants/serfs to resist, and enriching the feudal masters and themselves.

  260. @comp-
    We already have that. The Catholic hierarchy in the US has almost totally ignored the decline of the economic prospects of the 99% with the obscene growth of the 1%, they have stayed silent when Catholic politicians like Paul Ryan espoused the gospel of Ayn Rand (all the while openly threatening politicians who were pro same sex marriage and pro choice), the hierarchy in this country basically allied themselves with the GOP because of their obsession with abortion and sex related issues (and are now nervous that they have a Pope that thinks maybe, just maybe, the faith is not about cheerleading for the well off). The evangelicals are even worse, they now preach a 'prosperity gospel' and from the pulpit, condemn those who criticize the well off and claim that the poor are poor because of government regulation and the lack of 'economic freedom', not greed of international corporations and stockholder management policy, that the rich are blessed and shouldn't be taxed and other drivel. Even young evangelicals are disgusted by this, they see the effects of economic dislocation right in their own backyard and know the causes, and to hear preachers say that Jesus loved capitalism or blessed the rich turns their stomachs, the way that Catholics feel about their leaders.

  261. This is good news for America. Christian conservatives vote Republican, who offer no vision or solutions for the problems facing America today. Separating church and state not only is Constitutionally correct, it can only help lead to real debate and hopefully better choices in government policy. Maybe there is hope after all.

  262. As Norm Chomsky beautifully explained the emergence of human thought machine 70,000 years back that separated the homospines from other animals. The capacity of generalization is the unique capability of that machine and God is the highest from of generalization in human thought. The book based religions contradicted this generalization process by introducing dogmas that contradict the computational rules. Advance of human society will gradually separate them using generalization rules to 'Christians' and 'none' and 'non-Christian'. This is a routine evolutionary process and can not be stopped. This does not mean God as highest generalization is disappearing from human thought process. The survey brings hope for human society and confirms the evolution of human thought machine.

  263. I love Norm Chomsky!

  264. The notion that any form of ritual, profession, or idolatry could cause a person's personal experience of life to continue past death is truly one of the most preposterous propositions of all time.

  265. True - but is there any religion that doesn't sell its adherents on this very proposition?

  266. It's a shame that this article conflates religion with "faith." As Carl Jung once said when asked if he believed in God, "I don't believe; I know." Naturally smart young people today, familiar with both science and superhero myths, easily see through claims that one should believe fantastical tales from centuries past. Yet that in no way means they lack faith in the human imagination, from which both science and superhero myths spring. All they are doing is making a modern, knowing distinction between science and mythology.