Thursday, November 19, 2009

Unaffiliated... for now

The Pew research group recently completed their Landscape survey and reported the results here. The focus of the survey was to examine the practice of switching religions. In the survey they found that Americans are switching religions at a faster pace than ever before. All this switching leads to some groups growing and some shrinking. The group showing the most shrinkage is Catholicism. The group growing the most is those who say they are unaffiliated. The reasons for unaffiliated growth are telling:

About half of those who have become unaffiliated say - in response to the survey's yes-or-no questions - that they became unaffiliated, at least in part, because they think of religious people as hypocritical, judgmental or insincere. Large numbers also say they became unaffiliated because they think that religious organizations focus too much on rules and not enough on spirituality, or that religious leaders are too focused on money and power rather than truth and spirituality. . . Fewer people, however, say they became unaffiliated because they think modern science proves that religion is just superstition, indicating that the belief that science disproves religion is a less important reason for becoming unaffiliated than disenchantment with religious people or institutions.

Despite what online forums and message boards may lead you to believe, people aren't leaving church for science (which is too bad, because science is an easily knowable enemy). Instead, they're leaving because of their perception of religious people. Hypocrisy, judgmentalism and insincerity are much more difficult opponents. They are matters of the heart, matters that each individual must master on their own.

The survey has some rather inspiring findings as well.

At the same time that the ranks of the unaffiliated have grown, the Landscape Survey also revealed that the unaffiliated have one of the lowest retention rates of any of the major religious groups, with most people who were raised unaffiliated now belonging to one religion or another.

Unaffiliated equals unfulfilled equals uneasy. People need God, no matter what the practice of science can or cannot prove. People also need people. So, what are each of us doing to tear down the walls of hypocrisy, judgment and insincerity in our lives?

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