Saturday, November 10, 2012

Is America Becoming More Like Europe And Canada?

survey conducted by the Pew Forum on religious and public life indicates that the "nones" - those who do not consider themselves part of any organized religion, represent about 16.1 percent of the U.S., and are growing at a quicker rate than any religion. The statistics are even more encouraging when you factor in age. According to the American Values Survey 2012, the number of those "unaffiliated" by any organized religion jumps to 32 percent for those between the ages of 18-29, and falls to 19 percent for those between 30-49. This shows that the younger you are, the less religious you will tend to be. No surprise by most measures; it is already generally understood that young people tend to rebel against the religious institutions they're raised in and then become religious again as they age. But what is encouraging here as a long term trend, is that the survey also shows that as people grow older, smaller numbers are keeping the religion they were raised in.

For example, among Catholics, there is a 9.4 percent loss from those who were affiliated with Catholicism when they were children, to those whose current affiliation is still Catholic. White Mainline Protestant, Black Protestant and White Evangelical Protestant affiliations saw drops as well although not as dramatic. Those who were unaffiliated with any organized religion as children grew from 7 percent, to 18.6 percent as adults, and represent the only group that saw dramatic increases in numbers between childhood and adulthood.

See the interactive survey results here:

All these statistics provide an encouraging trend towards a gradual reduction of Americans being affiliated with any organized religion, a trend already mimicked in Europe and Latin America. For those 16.1 percent of Americans who are unaffiliated, that does not mean they are atheists. In fact, the survey shows that only 39 percent of the unaffiliated or "nones" consider themselves atheist/agnostic. Some of them believe that god is an impersonal force, others believe in a more traditional god but reject any religion organized around it. Either way, the rejection of organized religion even if one retains their belief in a deity is good news for secularists like myself.

Now even considering the good news, an openly non believing presidential candidate today has little chance to get elected in the U.S. That can all change in a moment however, but in my estimation it will take another 15 - 20 years or so until the hostility towards atheists subsides enough to the point where we can get a plausible chance at the White House.

I suspect as many others do that Barack Obama is a closet atheist, or that he is really far less religious than he has to pretend to be to the American people. This is one of the reasons why I like him. One day I hope in the not too distant future, we will see a time when presidential candidates do not have to pledge their undying love for Jesus Christ, and make the ignorant declaration that their faith guides their every decision.

In some European countries, like in England, candidates running for office do not have to overplay their religion and doing so can actually be seen as a negative. It is odd how in a country like England, which has an official state religion - the Church of England, they have a more secular approach toward their elected officials then we Americans do. I predict given the trend, that this will change in the decades to come.

On issues like healthcare, Americans voted for keeping Obamacare. Now I have given my two cents on healthcare, and fully support a system of "socialized medicine". I believe that it is a basic human right to not have to die if you cannot afford healthcare, and I also think corporations should not be profiting by being able to decide who gets to live and die based on how profitable it is for them. All signs indicate that we are headed towards a more European-style system on healthcare and in the absence of religion from politics.

During the Bush administration in the last decade there was this growing fear among liberals that the U.S. might be heading towards a fundamentally religious and conservative political system, while the rest of the developed world moved closer towards secularism. Since Obama became the president this fear has not been actualized and we are seeing the reverse, but those on the right continue to beat their war drums in the fantasy of a full-blown conservative Christian take over of American politics.

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