Those fickle faithful

Interesting study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life:

More than a quarter of adult Americans have left the faith of their childhood to join another religion or no religion, according to a new survey of religious affiliation by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The report, titled “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey,” depicts a highly fluid and diverse national religious life. If shifts among Protestant denominations are included, then it appears that 44 percent of Americans have switched religious affiliations.

What’s interesting about this is that most Americans who call themselves religious probably couldn’t tell you much about the actual beliefs their church or denomination subscribes to, which probably makes it easier to jump from church to church. And in some cases, the churches deliberately play down the more intolerant aspects of their faith in order to attract members who are driven by a need to belong, not a need to subscribe to a strict Pentecostal theology or scary Apocalyptic revenge fantasies (yes, I’m looking at you, Rick Warren). Though I’m sure that there are people for whom the consigning-all-those-other-sinners-to-hell (because we are godly and we are saved) bit is the main attraction.

And then there’s the Catholic church, which is what I left. And lookee here:

The percentage of Catholics in the American population has held steady for decades at about 25 percent. But that masks a precipitous decline in native-born Catholics. The proportion has been bolstered by the large influx of Catholic immigrants, mostly from Latin America, the survey found.

The Catholic Church has lost more adherents than any other group: about one-third of respondents raised Catholic said they no longer identified as such. Based on the data, the survey showed, “this means that roughly 10 percent of all Americans are former Catholics.”

That means there are about as many ex-Catholics than there are, say, Southern Baptists. I don’t suppose that the fact that the Pope and the Bishops, theoretically celibates all, are out there telling Catholics not to use birth control, and how to vote, and all kinds of fun things like that, has anything to do with it. Losing one-third — ONE THIRD! — of cradle Catholics is a pretty big deal. It would be interesting to find out how many of them left after the Church began its rightward lurch under JPII after many years of liberalization, cracking down on liberation theologists, stopping cold the expansion of the role of women in the Church, and reinvigorating the office of the Inquisition (which was Papa Ratzi’s last job). I’ve often thought that JPII shrunk the Church to the point where little other than abortion and regulating female sexuality* is its focus.

Another interesting finding is that the religiously unaffiliated have been growing, although those that do not belong to a particular religious affiliation are not necessarily nonbelievers:

In the 1980s, the General Social Survey by the National Opinion Research Center indicated that from 5 percent to 8 percent of the population described itself as unaffiliated with a particular religion.

In the Pew survey 7.3 percent of the adult population said they were unaffiliated with a faith as children. That segment increases to 16.1 percent of the population in adulthood, the survey found. The unaffiliated are largely under 50 and male. “Nearly one-in-five men say they have no formal religious affiliation, compared with roughly 13 percent of women,” the survey said.

The rise of the unaffiliated does not mean that Americans are becoming less religious, however. Contrary to assumptions that most of the unaffiliated are atheists or agnostics, most described their religion “as nothing in particular.” Pew researchers said that later projects would delve more deeply into the beliefs and practices of the unaffiliated and would try to determine if they remain so as they age.

Thoughts? Does this bode well for the country?

_____________
* Regulating male sexuality? Only when they’re gay. Or when they’re priests who get caught, but that’s blamed on either Teh Gay or on the wanton temptingness of 12-year-old boys.

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49 Responses

  1. Ailei
    Ailei February 26, 2008 at 10:39 am |

    This IS quite interesting. I, too, am an ex-Catholic, for 2 main reasons:

    1. I couldn’t be a ‘cafeteria Catholic’. My early Catholic education as well as later high-level theology classes made it quite clear that cafeteria Catholics are not, in fact, Catholic. I couldn’t reconcile the official, patriarchal, cruel bullshit that denied the very humanness of women with the strong, social justice, crusading nuns I knew in high school, who risked everything to harbor the female refugees of our own CIA sponsored death and rape squads in Central America. These women brought refugees in to talk to us (it was an all girls’ Catholic prep school), made us very much aware that doing the ‘right thing’ and doing the ‘legal thing’ were often at odds, and if we were ever confused about which to do, ignore the law. They fully laid the groundwork for my own exit from the Church, because yeah – I couldn’t do the ‘legal thing’ as far as the Church was concerned, and the Church was only shifting more and more rightward. So I left.

    2. I realised I’d been a heathen all my life. *g*

    The church of my adolescence, flawed though it was, was still full of the hope and social justice energy sparked by Vatican II. I’ve watched it drift ever, oppressingly rightward back into pure hatefulness of women and gays and spite. I never, ever though I would see a day when the Church advocated voting for Republicans, for instance. My school, the first year I could vote, I voted for Dukakis (I know, but really – what moron would vote for Bush I?), and there were far, far more Democrats than Rebulicans in the Church back then. They seemed to get the concept of subtlety – that you can disagree with one thing (abortion) and still agree on everything else. Now, that subtlety is lost, and you’re right. It’s become all about controlling women and their sexuality, with piddling shit like justice and charity and love becoming meaningless in comparison. Tragic, when what *could* have grown into a phenomenal source of good in the world given time and nurturing becomes yet another yammering voice in the chorus of hate.

  2. Courtney
    Courtney February 26, 2008 at 10:47 am |

    Bode well for the country? Well, I’m an atheist, so I say absolutely yes. Lack of a church telling you what to do does not an immoral person make. In fact, I think it would increase the amount of people able and willing to think for themselves, instead of allowing religious dogma to dictate their moral beliefs.

  3. Sarah J
    Sarah J February 26, 2008 at 11:20 am |

    I read Religious Literacy, by Stephen Prothero, over the summer. It was all about America’s lack of knowledge of its own religions, and though it advocated for education ABOUT religions, it was still a good book. I differentiate between education about religion and religious education. I went to a Catholic university (I was raised Jewish) and I enjoyed the religious studies courses I was required to take, because they were just that-studies courses, and you can’t deny the effects of religion on our society.

    Is it good for Americans to be fluid about their religious choices? Sure. It’d be better if I thought that more of those choices were truly educated, but I’ve been around a lot of people who’ve gone through religious conversions lately and I see good and bad in them. The bad often comes from people who are just looking for something to follow, to solve all their problems, and they often get very disillusioned when life isn’t perfect just because they’ve prayed about it.

    I like the idea that people feel free to try on different religious identities and find the one that fits them, and I would hope that a culture like that breeds tolerance and understanding. Even if you’ve discounted the religion of your upbringing, if you remember good people who subscribed to that religion, you’re less likely to write all followers off as idiots/sexists/terrorists/polygamists.

  4. gruntled atheist
    gruntled atheist February 26, 2008 at 11:29 am |

    I am an Atheist. The farther we can get away from religion the better.

  5. Sailorman
    Sailorman February 26, 2008 at 11:29 am |

    +1 to Courtney. Great news!

  6. some other papist
    some other papist February 26, 2008 at 11:43 am |

    @Ailei

    the official, patriarchal, cruel bullshit that denied the very humanness of women

    Like Pope Jon Paul II’s “official, patriarchal, cruel bullshit”?

    I wish to consider the essential issue of the dignity and rights of women, as seen in the light of the word of God. … the Church “desires to give thanks to the Most Holy Trinity for the ‘mystery of woman’ and for every woman-for all that constitutes the eternal measure of her feminine dignity, for the ‘great works of God’, which throughout human history have been accomplished in and through her” … Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic. I know of course that simply saying thank you is not enough. Unfortunately, we are heirs to a history which has conditioned us to a remarkable extent. In every time and place, this conditioning has been an obstacle to the progress of women. … As far as personal rights are concerned, there is an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area: equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, equality of spouses with regard to family rights and the recognition of everything that is part of the rights and duties of citizens in a democratic State. … The time has come to condemn vigorously the types of sexual violence which frequently have women for their object and to pass laws which effectively defend them from such violence. (June 29, 1995)

    Yeah, I guess that’s the sort of statement that could really make a truly moral (not to mention intelligent!) person lash out against the official, patriarchal, cruel bullshit that denied the very humanness of women.

  7. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne February 26, 2008 at 12:02 pm |

    My early Catholic education as well as later high-level theology classes made it quite clear that cafeteria Catholics are not, in fact, Catholic.

    I’m always amazed at the right-wingers who support the death penalty and/or the Iraq war running around accusing the rest of us of being “cafeteria Catholics.” Guys, you’re ignoring what the Pope said, too. You’re no less a cafeteria Catholic than I am — you’re just smug about it.

    The final breaking point for me was when all of the anti-gay vitriol started being flung right when I was planning our wedding. I really didn’t want my soon-to-be brother-in-law to have to sit in a pew and listen to a harangue about how he was the worst sinner EVAH while I was marrying his brother. So instead we had a nice, short 15-minute ceremony in a lovely Unitarian Universalist church with a lesbian minister and a huge banner out front that said “We Support the Freedom to Marry.”

    You know when you get those idiots who say, “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, they left me”? That’s how I feel about the Catholic church now, which has left behind everything I learned as a child and expects me to reject it all, too.

  8. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte February 26, 2008 at 12:09 pm |

    I’m not surprised that there are so many ex-Catholics. I probably know as many open ex-Catholics as any other grouping on this list. And that’s openly ex-Catholic types. Think about all the people who aren’t really believers but stay nominal Catholics to take advantage of church services like weddings and baptisms. Catholicism is close to an ethnic identity for a lot of people—I fully believe there are a lot of Catholic atheists out there.

  9. jamesPi
    jamesPi February 26, 2008 at 12:19 pm |

    Irish Catholic atheist here. Still go to weddings and baptisms and all that but have no belief in it, just a part of my family life. I think these stats bode well for the country though I wonder what sort of belief system would rise up if religion ever was replaced, a lot of my religious friends seem to have a deep need to believe in some kind of animator and also have a deep need for some sort of “divine” directives to live their lives by.

  10. leah
    leah February 26, 2008 at 12:26 pm |

    “* Regulating male sexuality? Only when they’re gay. Or when they’re priests who get caught, but that’s blamed on either Teh Gay or on the wanton temptingness of 12-year-old boys.”

    I’d like to point out that just as many, if not more, GIRLS were abused by priests as boys. Thanks to the MSM and the vocalness of anti-gay anti-Catholics, girls as victims of child molestation has been completely ignored. Which is a popular attitude in America anyway…that child molesters only molest boys. Simply not true. Girls still make up the majority of victims of childhood sexual assault (although for victims under 12 the amounts of each sex are closer than for those above 12).

    I’m sure you didn’t mean anything by it, but at the same time as a victim of childhood sexual assault myself I’m sick of the cultural message that I was not a victim because I was a girl and only boys can be victims of sexual abuse.

  11. some other papist
    some other papist February 26, 2008 at 12:38 pm |

    @zuzu

    the value of women to him was as vessels for creating more Catholics.

    Can I get a reference? Chapter and verse, please. Otherwise, this is merely delusional libel.

  12. Carl Rennie
    Carl Rennie February 26, 2008 at 12:41 pm |

    I listen to Catholic radio for fun occasion, and I heard a really interesting line the other day regarding pedophile priests. The guest (who had written a book on the Boston scandals) made the argument that it was the permissive nature of the Catholic church on such issues as birth control and abortion that had allowed the priests to molest young children. The “anything-goes” attitude of American Catholics had so damaged the priests’ ability to distinguish right from wrong that even when they knew about this wrongdoing, they just kind of shrugged and said “who are we to judge?” The proposed solution? Take a more hardline stance on contraception and abortion.

    Not mentioned as responsible: lack of transparency, positions of absolute leadership and spiritual authority entrusted to fallible men, a “protect the church at all costs’ attitude, the tendency to look outward instead of inward for “sin”.

    I have no idea if this is going to be the new party line, but given how closely Catholicism is becoming identified with the “right to fetal sanctity” movement, I wouldn’t be surprised.

  13. some other papist
    some other papist February 26, 2008 at 12:58 pm |

    @zuzu

    I’m still waiting for you to cough up a verse on abortion or homosexuality in the New Testament.

    Please check the comments here, which is where you requested chapter and verse. I have supplied as requested.

    do you deny that JPII was rather concerned about what women did with their uteri? That the duty of Catholic women is to shut their legs until they’re married, and then open the marriage to children? That even barrier methods of contraception are verboten? That women can’t be priests?

    I affirm that JPII taught the Christian faith, which has always taught that fornication is evil (i.e., hurts those who do it and the society they live in), that marriage should welcome children, that contraception is evil, and that priests are male. None of that is new or surprising, nor is it an attack on women.

    What I’m looking for from you is the quote where JPII says “the value of women is as vessels for creating more Catholics” or something similar.

  14. Daomadan
    Daomadan February 26, 2008 at 1:05 pm |

    What’s interesting about this is that most Americans who call themselves religious probably couldn’t tell you much about the actual beliefs their church or denomination subscribes to, which probably makes it easier to jump from church to church.

    I hear this a lot and am curious to know if there are any studies or findings that support this?

  15. Ailei
    Ailei February 26, 2008 at 1:21 pm |

    Yeah, Some Other Papist, JPII talked nicely about us from time to time, but the overwhelming message I, personally, anecdotally received over and over was ‘you can do anything you want…as long as you don’t ever take control of your own sexuality and reproductive freedom, or as long as you aren’t gay’. Which, considering the implications of those prohibitions, tend to negate all the good stuff and positive messages we received about our potential as full human beings. Sure, I could be a rocket scientist. But if I got pregnant by accident 6 months from finishing that phD dissertation, I’d better give it all up and be a wife and mother. Uh, no. Sorry. It’s just talking out both sides of the mouth.

  16. talknormal
    talknormal February 26, 2008 at 1:21 pm |

    I’m curious– mainly since my stepdad’s an Episcopalian priest and the rest of the family Episcopalian church goers–if this study considered (or if it would have made a difference) folks who have switched denominations because their entire parish seceded. Teh gay remains a pretty hot topic for the Episcopalians (what with all those pesky homos in the clergy)… but I don’t have any sense of how many congregations in the U.S. have actually left over the ordeal.

    Incidentally, I think our presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori (who as far as I know is pretty neat) is herself a former Catholic.

  17. Holly
    Holly February 26, 2008 at 1:30 pm |

    Please check the comments here, which is where you requested chapter and verse. I have supplied as requested.

    I was excited for a second until I looked and realized that you’re simply claiming that condemnation of adultery is equivalent to condemnation of homosexuality, and a condemnation of killing is equivalent to a condemnation of abortion. You kind of have to tie yourself up in some hermeneutical knots to prove that, especially considering Zuzu pointed out that causing a miscarriage was not considered murder at the time. Surely you have a better argument than “well in the old days, of course it was common sense that homosexuality was a sin and abortion was a sin, so they didn’t even bother to write it down!” Yeah, that’s iron-clad, that is.

    As for JPII, I think the point was that he shifted the church to the right when it comes to issues regarding the increasingly accepted sexual freedom of women. Is anyone really disputing that? Sounds like official patriarchal bullshit to me: regulating what women get to do with our bodies and our sex lives, far more than men.

  18. Sarah in Chicago
    Sarah in Chicago February 26, 2008 at 2:49 pm |

    Surely you have a better argument than “well in the old days, of course it was common sense that homosexuality was a sin and abortion was a sin, so they didn’t even bother to write it down!”

    Not to mention, even if it IS explicitly located in some religious text, it doesn’t stop it from being bigotry. I don’t care how literally something is stated in some work of fiction that has garnered credence merely through being old, I don’t care how theocratically coherent and consistent something or someone is, bigotry is bigotry, misogyny is misogyny, and no amount of mythical fairies at the bottom of the garden or old bearded white-guy on a cloud is going to change that.

    Why do religious people think that being religious gives them an out on being called on their misogyny, racism and homophobia?

  19. leah
    leah February 26, 2008 at 2:56 pm |

    Frankly, Exodus 21:22 gives us pretty good evidence that a fetus is NOT considered a human being in the bible. But of course anti-choicers like to ignore one of the extremely few passages that ACTUALLY TALKS about fetal death and instead focus on passages that say nothing about fetuses.

  20. anna
    anna February 26, 2008 at 3:16 pm |

    Considering that the Catholic Church is the only Christian organization with a membership larger than a few hundreds that teaches contraception is evil without exception, I think it’s a little unfair to call that “the Christian faith.” And however kindly the Pope truly thinks of women, I do think it’s hurting women to tell them they should deny themselves birth control, but not deny their husbands sex, thus forcing them to bear potentially over a dozen unwanted children, possibly ruining their health and chance to follow their dreams in life (which may be something other than spending endless time and money raising kids. If that’s what a woman wants, great, but I don’t think a woman forced to be a mother will be a good or happy one. And I don’t think the option of becoming a nun and forever denying yourself any sexual pleasure, even alone, is acceptable as the only possible other option.)

  21. jeff
    jeff February 26, 2008 at 3:26 pm |

    I walked out of mass on my 18th birthday and never went back. I turned 60 last week. I’ve never missed it. I never really believed any of it.

    The saddest thing is the Catholic Church has turned into another Protestant denomination.

    Protestants use to be heretics. Now the Catholic Church has joined them in their thought process.

    That’s where the money is to be made. The Catholic Church has always been good at following the money. I’ll give them that.

  22. El Mocho
    El Mocho February 26, 2008 at 3:34 pm |

    Otherwise, this is merely delusional libel.

    Last time I checked, you can’t libel the dead.

  23. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne February 26, 2008 at 5:07 pm |

    Please check the comments here, which is where you requested chapter and verse. I have supplied as requested.

    I just looked. No, you didn’t. Isn’t lying a sin?

    And I’m still trying to figure out how ex-Catholics questioning the Church is “bigotry.” Unless you’re excommunicated, you’re a Catholic until the day you die, no matter what you may profess up to that day.

    So, really, what you’re doing here is arguing the fine points of Catholic dogma with other Catholics.

    Oh, and a Pope who canonizes a woman who chose death in childbirth over life as a mother to her surviving children isn’t really viewing women as full human beings. They’re wombs with legs, easily replaceable. Because as everyone knows, children are never scarred by the deaths of their parents.

  24. Hawise
    Hawise February 26, 2008 at 5:42 pm |

    You never leave a religion, the religion leaves you.

  25. I Heart Jesus
    I Heart Jesus February 26, 2008 at 5:47 pm |

    “I like the idea that people feel free to try on different religious identities and find the one that fits them, and I would hope that a culture like that breeds tolerance and understanding. Even if you’ve discounted the religion of your upbringing, if you remember good people who subscribed to that religion, you’re less likely to write all followers off as idiots/sexists/terrorists/polygamists.”

    Thank you, Sarah J! As a black Christian feminist, I’m pro-choice and pro-gay marriage, but I constantly have to prove that I’m a critical thinker, that I’m kind, tolerant and nonjudgmental – often in the face of folks who act quite the opposite.

  26. HomesickFlicka
    HomesickFlicka February 26, 2008 at 5:57 pm |

    I thought this article was fascinating; I grew up Lutheran in the midwest (Mom is Swedish and the cultural connection was strong), got rebellious in college and flirted with Evangelicalism before becoming a super “Orthodox” Catholic (I think liberal Swedish mom was more pissed about the “Orthodox” part than the Catholic!) and moved out East, and now, as an adult considering marraige and raising kids, have gone back to Lutheran (you can take the girl out of the Midwest but you can’t take the Midwest out of the girl!) As someone who has taken advantage of the fluidity of American religion, I say WORD! to religious freedom. I love that I can come and go as I please. I love that my religion is my choice. The more religious fluidity, the better; the more people feel free to come and go, the more accountable leaders, especially institutional hierarchies like Catholic, will be held to their people.

    I hope. I could be being hopelessly naive.

    some other papist;

    I spent a little time as an “Orthodox” Catholic. I receieved a degree in theology from one of the “orthodox” Catholic Colleges and worked for the Church for a few years. And I will grant, that John Paul made an effort to reach out to women. I will also grant that the Church at times, expecially in the early Church, was better for women than the other prevailing cultures of their days. The celibate religious life gave medieval women an education and another option besides having lots of babies and a crappy marriage. But the history of the Church is very partriarchal, often oppressed women in its name, for example, the Magdalines in Ireland, women in Latin America who can’t get proper health care, and it perpetuates beliefs that encourage negative stereotypes of both men and women.

    A lot of modern stuff looks good on the surface; Mulierus Dignantem, the Theology of the Body, but in practice “Orthodox” Catholicism is rarely good for women. I had a friend who used to work for an NFP Only Physician, and she said women (many who were mothers in the local homeschool community) were routinely coming in on their fifth and sixth C-Sections, many were in emotionally and physically abusive relationships, they had a diminished view of self, saw their bodies as something just to be “Sacrificed” for their husband and childbearing. I knew a girl who married a thirty year old man when she was seventeen. The people I knew who shared in this community had very stifled views of sexuality, stiff and sometimes passionless relationships, and many women delt with severe guilt and anxiety about their own sexual desires. I knew at least 5 girls who got pregnant out of wedlock. The women often seemed artificially demure and robotic. The one man who I dated who was an “orthodox” Catholic (and with whom I had a “chaste” relationship) was an emotionally abusive narcissist who used “Chastity” as a cover for repressed homosexuality and a disgust of women which he didn’t always hide so well.

    John Paul raised up as saints a) a girl who allowed herself to be murdered rather than raped as a model of Chastity (think about what that says about a woman’s value and about rape. THINK REAL HARD) and b) a woman who died from her pregnancy rather than abort (although that is a very noble sacrifice, and one I might even be willing to make for a viable fetus, I’m sure glad its a choice!)

    The ban and premarital sex encourages early marraige, which is bad for women. The ban on divorce keeps women in abusive, negligent, and dysfunctional relationships and keeps them from forming healthy ones, especially when considering that women intiate the vast majority of divorces. In Ireland in the 60s, which was a bastion of Catholic Utopian ideals in practice, it was estimated that almost a third of all married women were abandoned, with no legal recourse, because divorce was illegal. They could not remarry. They could not make a good living. They couldn’t even sue for support. Others were stuck with drunks and abusers with no “out”. The Catholic Bishops blocked an effort at a national welfare or healthcare system to help them because it would be interference in “family affairs”. All in the name of preserving “the Family”. Explicity Catholic policies, when tried, were disasterous for women.

    The ban on premarital sex and contraception and masturbation often uses worn and harmful stereotypes to promote it. It promotes the idea that women aren’t particularly interested in sexual pleasure, just “love”. This is damaging to women. We need to masturbate to learn how to orgasm. We need to have sex, just like men, in a relationship for pleasure as well as bonding. We feel that pleasure the most during the very times of the month the Church asks us to abstain for NFP. To experience physical pleasure as well as emotion enriches love. It makes relationships better for women. To be able to have a relationship with a man for years before making a legal commitment is good for women. To be able to control fertility and sexuality enables women to be full members of society; to be professionals, lovers, and mothers, if they choose. To be able to get out of a marraige if a man turns into a jerk is good for women; frankly, the mere presence of legal divorce gives women barganing power and leverage to keep a man treating her well.

    The Catholic way has been tried. For most women, it does not work well. It does not advance our individuality. It does not, in actuality, promote us professionally. It does not built marraiges and relationships with men that are emotionally and sexually healthy, egalitarian, and fullfilling. It does not promote the overall health of women, except in relation to their ability to bear children, and even there, is limited. I applaud JPII’s attempts at feminism and sexual personalism in the abstract, but at many points, the Catholic Church has worked against the very things that give women freedom and equality and make free, giving relationships possible in the reality, like the availability of divorce and contraception. You cannot have companiate marraige if there is no way out. You cannot have it if you cannot get to know each other over a long period of time before tying the knot, in all facets, including sexually, which is only enabled by premarital sex and contraception. You cannot have women en masse in the workforce and making their mark professionally unless they can delay childbirth, which is only really feasible with contraception.

    I won’t even go into the Church’s issues with GLBT; as a straight woman, I don’t feel qualified.

    Catholicism has a lot that is good and beautiful. And it works for some people. But I spent five years among “orthodox” Catholics, and all I can say is it turned me into a feminist. Not an “angry” feminist”. Just a feminist. Because I always know that feminists are on my side, and looking out for my interests. Not just in the abstract, but for REAL.

  27. Orodemniades
    Orodemniades February 26, 2008 at 6:09 pm |

    Thank goodness I’m a Pagan.

  28. Peter
    Peter February 26, 2008 at 6:23 pm |

    I read about the Pew study on the NYTimes site and have been surfing their blog links. Everyone but everyone is talking about their own relationships to their respective churches. No one is talking about this study, why it has been commissioned and how the data is going to be used. Please go to the Pew Forum On Religion and Public Life (pewforum.org) and watch Director Luis Lugo’s overview of the study. They are profiling religious groups as small as three-tenths of a percentage point. The suggestion is made that political leaders need to know this so they can target these populations? This is what the Pew Forum is all about, religion and public life. For what purpose? Whatever happened to the notion of separation of church and state? Should your religious beliefs even be a concern of your elected representatives? This is a massive study and I shudder to think what public policies may be derived from its conclusions.

  29. some other papist
    some other papist February 26, 2008 at 6:28 pm |

    @ Zuzu, Mnemosyne, El Mocho, Ailei

    Please check the comments here, which is where you requested chapter and verse. I have supplied as requested.

    Nope, sorry. I asked for specifics, and you gave me generalities which are easily refuted by reference to the Old Testament. Try again.

    What I’m looking for from you is the quote where JPII says “the value of women is as vessels for creating more Catholics” or something similar.

    It’s my summary of his meaning, punkin.

    Lemme see if I have this straight: Zuzu can summarize (tendentiously) and I’m supposed to accept that, but I can explain how Catholics see abortion and homosexual acts referred to in some of Jesus’ words, and that’s not good enough? Hmmm… Mnemosyne paints with a pretty broad brush in suggesting that I am a liar, and the same brush also paints Zuzu as a liar for not being able to quote JPII adequately.

    Thanks to El Mocho for correcting me on libel. I’ll revise my assessment: zuzu’s statement has no basis, textual or otherwise.

    Ailei, thanks for actually engaging what I said. I have friends who are (single) mothers and graduate students — it is possible. So I would say you have more options than just abortion in the case of being 6 mos from that PhD. Women (born and unborn) deserve better than abortion.

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  31. Daisy
    Daisy February 26, 2008 at 7:10 pm |

    It would be interesting to find out how many of them left after the Church began its rightward lurch under JPII after many years of liberalization, cracking down on liberation theologists, stopping cold the expansion of the role of women in the Church, and reinvigorating the office of the Inquisition (which was Papa Ratzi’s last job). I’ve often thought that JPII shrunk the Church to the point where little other than abortion and regulating female sexuality* is its focus.

    True enough, but several of JPII’s encyclicals criticized capitalism and consumerism, as well as colonialist expansion and war, etc–and the right wing inside the Church (I’ma lookin at you, Richard John Neuhaus) just flat-out ignored those statements. It wasn’t his only focus, but the reactionaries within the Church certainly reinforced that and made it seem that way, foremost among them Cardinal Ratzinger, as well as American flunkies like William F Buckley and Opus Dei groupies like Robert Novak.

    My fervent hope was that Cardinal Francis Arinze of Nigeria would be Pope, someone committed to globalism, tolerance and ecumenism. Consequently, I was pretty depressed when I saw Josef walk out onto the balcony. (Of course, many insiders felt that he had already been Pope for awhile, the way Cheney is really the president.)

  32. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne February 26, 2008 at 8:11 pm |

    Hmmm… Mnemosyne paints with a pretty broad brush in suggesting that I am a liar

    You said, and I quote:

    Please check the comments here, which is where you requested chapter and verse. I have supplied as requested.

    You did not, in fact, supply chapter or verse. Which, if Jesus was so opposed to abortion and homosexuality, you’d think he would have addressed.

    He was, however, pretty specific about making false vows. Turns out the Jehovah’s Witnesses are right and we’re all going to Hell if we’ve ever sworn to anything anywhere. So much for our court system.

  33. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne February 26, 2008 at 8:16 pm |

    Ailei, thanks for actually engaging what I said. I have friends who are (single) mothers and graduate students — it is possible.

    It’s also possible for a one-year-old child to be flung 300 feet by a tornado and survive even though his mother dies. It’s not common, but it’s possible. Should we stop teaching our kids to take cover in a tornado because they might be the one-in-a-million survivor?

  34. Pandagon :: Americans coming around to the diabolical plan :: February :: 2008

    […] Via Zuzu, this poll from the Pew Forum about the finicky attitude Americans have towards religion was absolutely fascinating. 44% of Americans have changed religious affiliations since childhood. Now, a lot of that is Protestants hopping from this Church of Christ to that United Church of Jesus Christ So Not The Same As That Other Church, sure. Considering how much religious involvement is less about dogma, theology and faith and more about community,* it’s unsurprising that people church shop. Also, Americans move a lot and we meet spouses through work, school, and socializing more than church, so you have a lot of people switching churches because the Lutherans were closer than the Methodists to their house or they flipped a coin to figure which spouse’s church to join. The rapid escalation of these megachurches has to come from somewhere—looks like they might be draining other churches of their congregations. I’m not alone in suspecting this: To Prof. Stephen Prothero, large numbers of Americans leaving organized religion and large numbers still embracing the fervor of evangelical Christianity point to the same desires. […]

  35. Bruce
    Bruce February 26, 2008 at 9:18 pm |

    A few points.

    1) The Catholic Church under canon law counts as a “Catholic” any person baptized or confirmed in the Catholic Church who has not made a formal renunciation of her or his religion. While the Pew poll reports self-described “ex-Catholics,” the Church for statistical or other purposes counts as “Catholic” those who have not publicly either joined another religion or professed atheism publicly. Most ex-Catholics don’t do what an ex-Mormon friend did, i.e. send a formal letter to his bishop requesting disenrollment.

    2) No doubt there are a lot of atheists in the Catholic pews. I imagine a lot of atheists go because they like the services, like the incense, like talking to Patricia or Anthony who may be there for devout purposes, like spending time with their families. The Church is actually an excellent place for an atheist; it provides the socialization and entertainment that atheist organizations are miserable at providing. I suspect a large percentage of elected Catholics are atheists who simply made their peace with their culture/heritage in a specific way.

    I recall my closest friend from high school who dated the daughter of an Opus Dei member (he may have joined later or then, unclear.) She was the eldest of five kids, attended one of the more conservative Catholic girls schools in Baltimore, devoutly religious, loudly pro-life, portraits of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin AND of Ronald Reagan (!) in her bedroom/nightstand (mid 1980s). The two of them screwed like rabbits for close to three years, whereas I, the liberal, lived a celibate life, committing no major sexual “sin” other than of course that of Onan. Moral: everyone draws lines.

  36. some other papist
    some other papist February 26, 2008 at 10:04 pm |

    @Mnemosyne

    You did not, in fact, supply chapter or verse. Which, if Jesus was so opposed to abortion and homosexuality, you’d think he would have addressed.

    I feel like I am doing your homework for you. I quoted Mt 19:16-18. Perhaps you are not familiar with this notation? It means “Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 19, verses 16 through 18.” I also provide the explanation, since I freely admit that the words “abortion” and “homosexual acts” do not occur in these verses. Note that in this passage Jesus does not specifically teach that you should not kill construction workers, women, the transgendered, or the Chinese. Nonetheless, I believe that the chapter and verses that I cite exclude killing the innocent in these groups as well. Similarly, acts of bestiality and necrophilia are not prohibited by name in the passage I cite, but both are excluded by Jesus here under the more general term, “adultery.”

    He was, however, pretty specific about making false vows. Turns out the Jehovah’s Witnesses are right and we’re all going to Hell if we’ve ever sworn to anything anywhere. So much for our court system.

    I’m curious to know which chapter and verse you are thinking of here. Are you worried about going to hell?

  37. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne February 27, 2008 at 12:26 am |

    I’m curious to know which chapter and verse you are thinking of here.

    Matthew 4:33-37. It’s in a little-known section called the Beatitudes. And you’re leaving out the details of what Jesus considers “murder” and “adultery” in that very same section.

    Are you worried about going to hell?

    Not particularly. If people like me are destined for Hell, I’ll be there with most of my friends and family. If going to Heaven means spending my time with people like Jerry Falwell, I’ll be begging for them to send me to Hell instead.

    Which, interestingly enough, means that they’d be the same place. I’m assuming you’ve heard that homily since you go every Sunday.

  38. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne February 27, 2008 at 12:34 am |

    And since I’m in moderation anyway ….

    Papist, If your contention is that Jesus is urging people to adhere to the Old Testament laws in those verses, why are you insisting that Jesus was thinking something that’s not even in the Old Testament, namely that killing a fetus is wrong? The Old Testament clearly states that a fetus is not the same as a person and the penalties for causing a miscarriage are much, much lower than causing a death. So you’re attributing something to both Jesus and the Old Testament that not only is not there, but actually contradicts what is there.

    There’s a reason that Julia Sweeney only became an atheist after an intensive Bible study class.

  39. Feministe » Words mean things
    Feministe » Words mean things February 27, 2008 at 10:44 am |

    […] Sullivan, whose mission in life is to get Democrats to talk nice to the white evangelicals (even as more and more Americans run from organized religion): You’re pro-choice. Does that interfere with being an […]

  40. Ab_Normal
    Ab_Normal February 27, 2008 at 5:30 pm |

    HomesickFlicka: two thumbs up AND waving a lighter. Thank you.

  41. Lindsey
    Lindsey February 27, 2008 at 6:06 pm |

    I think the most interesting part of the results of this survey is about the changing makeup of the Catholic Church’s constituency. The decline in “native born Catholics” (which I’m guessing refers to mostly white Catholics) and the “influx of Catholic immigrants” from Latin America reflect a global phenomenon – the “browning” of the church. Worldwide, the “average” church member is more like than not a person of color. And yet the church leadership remains largely white and male. Coincidence? Not when you consider the church’s historical role in perpetuating racism in the Americas (and elsewhere). I’m not trying to be a hater – I consider identify as a Christian, although often reluctantly – but as a queer woman of color, I have to be honest about the church’s past. From 1492 until today, the church has colluded with the government to perpetuate the religious colonization of indigenous people throughout the Americas by focusing on policing people’s identity rather than advocating for or meeting their needs. And when it does try to get involved in social justice movements, it tends to be “we’ll throw some money your way as long as you’re not too strident in your demands” kind of attitude…

    I know that there are some churches out there doing good works with the people that they are trying to serve, and I want to be hopeful that the Catholic Church in America, especially, will think long and hard about who is sitting in the pews. I really do. And I want to believe in the potential for radical transformation within the church, that it could stop telling people who to be and instead ask them who they are. But then I remember that “radical movements” that come from the “ground level” in the church have a tendency to get systematically shut down… i.e. the Liberation Theology movement. I want to have hope for the church but at the same time I think it will take action from the outside, from people who aren’t recognized by the institution as belonging to the institution, but who still believe in a Creator who loves all her/his children.

  42. 10% of Americans are Former Catholics «
    10% of Americans are Former Catholics « February 28, 2008 at 4:46 pm |

    […] Published February 28, 2008 religion Tags: catholic school, catholicism, religion A lot of people have been discussing this study about the dwindling popularity of religion amongst Americans.  The […]

  43. Reha
    Reha March 5, 2008 at 5:32 pm |

    I grew up a mix of Baptist and interchangeable Protestant, mostly agnostic for my own part, flirted briefly with the evangelicals, and eventually found my way into a liberal Anglo-Catholic church. My sister’s Roman Catholic now. My boyfriend grew up Jewish (conservative, leaning towards orthodox) and is now an atheist.

    Of the people I go to church with, about half are ex-(Roman) Catholics who left either because they were tired of the anti-gay nonsense or because they were tired of the anti-women nonsense. Most of the rest grew up low-church Protestant or Jewish. I think only one is a cradle Episcopalian.

    I’m all for more fluidity in and out of religious groups. It makes it a lot easier to be honest in your religious life, or to be honest about your non-religious one. I think it makes for a better church, too. Those who show up actually want to be there and have good reasons for doing so, and those who don’t see the point are under no obligation to go through the motions.

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