Leftover has pointed that out several times, most lately with this Washington Post analysis of the 2014 General Social Survey.
Basically, Americans are staying away from church in record numbers, but they continue to participate in some religious practices, such as prayer. From the Post story:
The stability of prayer contrasts sharply with erosion on other measures of religious commitment. Since 2006, the percentage of people describing themselves as “very” or “moderately” religious has declined eight percentage points, from 62 percent to 54 percent. The share affiliating with a particular faith has fallen from over 90 percent in the 1980s and 1990s to 79 percent in 2014. Just over 4 in 10 report attending worship services at least once a month, down roughly 10 points from three decades ago. All are record lows.
People aren’t leaving religion, they’re leaving Religion™.
I wonder if any of this trend can be attributed to spillover from the diminishing trust in self-government that has been carefully cultivated for the last 35 years? If all I’ve heard for 35 years is how incompetent the State is for solving human problems, why would I have any reason to think the Church is any more competent?
If I can find the study, I can bolster this argument, but: The erosion of trust is pretty universal.
I would imagine there might be some correlation. The GSS no longer supports my outdated OS and browser so I’ll have to wait to run any queries through the new survey.
But you’re correct: cynicism is replacing optimism, probably more chronic in the political sphere than the religious. I think people generally want to have faith in their institutions, but become disenchanted when the people administering them are seen as corrupt…disconnected from the ethic professed to be the foundation of those institutions. When hope disappears, faith evaporates.
Given the trend, I wonder why religion seems to have such a strong presence in politics. I’m also wondering if it’s stronger now than it was 20-30 years ago, or if I am just more aware of it.
Great questions. Weirdly, the evangelical hold remains firm on politics. Go figure.
It’s still a Christian Nation. Two hundred years of In God We Trust has burned religion into our political DNA.
I think Religion™ does play a more overt role in politics than it did 20-30 years ago. That’s because as public attitudes on religion become more diverse, the monolithic maximalism inherent in Religion™ becomes threatened, inspiring those dependent on it to respond, in one way or another, in defense of their share of the market.
Yeah, weird, as you say. Religion (the evangelical kind very often, and the belief that every single word in the bible is the exact and inerrant word of God) retains a firm hold on a lot of zealots. So does Fox “News.” So also Glen Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Alex Jones, Sarah Palin, Pat Robertson, etc., etc., ad nauseum. Inquiring minds wonder why. “Weird” is a decent description, but it doesn’t provide the answer to “why.”
I don’t have that answer, but I have a theory. For some people, the world is easier to understand if viewed through a simple lens of right-wrong. There’s a right. And there’s a wrong. There is nothing in between. It’s my way, or the highway. Fundamentalism in all forms removes the responsibility of thought and reason from the believer, and places it in the hands of interpretations of sacred text that may or may not be the Honest-to-God-Word-Of-God. People who cleave to this belief aren’t stupid, but they may be guilty of intellectual laziness, just a bit.
Check their bank statements.
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