One practical lesson of the Pew report is the crucial need for mainliners to focus on passing the faith on to the next generation.
There’s little for us mainliners to celebrate in this new Pew study. We’re losing people, and fast. I appreciate Heidi Haverkamp’s realistic-yet-hopeful words here and Rob Rynders’ there. But, like them, I’m not interested in spinning an argument that the numbers are somehow lying. The numbers are clearer, however, than the reasons for them.
I often think I hear colleagues asking, “How could we attract nuns to our church?” Actually they’re talking about “the nones,” of course. One of the clearest findings of the Pew Forum’s new religious landscape study is that fewer and fewer people have any religious affiliation at all. Catholics and mainline Protestants show the biggest drop. I feel pretty conflicted about all of this.
How do American people-of-faith feel about American people-of-different-faith? The Pew Forum has a new polling report on this question. It seems Catholics have a slightly higher view of Jews than vice versa, while white evangelicals' view of Jews is much higher than Jews' view of evangelicals. White mainline Protestants have moderately positive views of Jews, Catholic, and evangelicals, while the opposite is.... Huh, okay.
Last week Pew released some more data from its spring survey on the rise of the nones. They asked people if they thought the growing number of "people who are not religious" is good, bad or neutral for American society. One interesting finding: while most of the nones said neutral, nearly as many said "bad" as "good." Almost a fifth of the nones think the growth of the nones—of their own group—is bad for society. Lots of people seem surprised by this finding.
The possibly-spiritual-but-definitely-not-religious are growing in ranks, says the Pew Forum, and the resulting Nones On the Bus blogo-tour is as usual drawing good crowds. Paul Waldman highlights one interesting subpoint: the Nones are growing not just more plentiful but also more Democratic. He credits Republican hostility to nonbelievers.
The Census Bureau avoids collecting data about religion. So most of what we know is based on what people reveal to independent researchers.
Anytime you say something is new while also ignoring something old, it begs the question of what labels you use and how slippery their definitions are.
So most Jews know where Jesus was born, even though few Christians know much about Buddhism. Jesus makes the cover of one general-interest magazine or another ever month or so, and it only takes a couple shopping trips between Thanksgiving and New Year's to accidentally memorize the words to "O Little Town of Bethlehem."