People of faith do wonderful things. They feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and demonstrate a compassion often lacking in the secular world.
Unfortunately, so-called people of faith are also hypocritical, judgmental and determined to impose their beliefs on those who see things differently.
Most people don’t identify with the latter group, which has come to represent religion, namely Christianity, in America for three decades now. The result:
In “American Religion: Contemporary Trends,” author Mark Chaves argues that over the last generation or so, religious belief in the U.S. has experienced a “softening” that effects everything from whether people go to worship services regularly to whom they marry. Far more people are willing to say they don’t belong to any religious tradition today than in the past, and signs of religious vitality may be camouflaging stagnation or decline.
“Reasonable people can disagree over whether the big picture story is one of essential stability or whether it’s one of slow decline,” said Chaves. “Unambiguously, though, there’s no increase.”
Science + Religion Today notes that this has been a trend since the 1950s but the number of Americans claiming no religious affiliation has accelerated greatly since 1990.
Michael Hout and Claude Fischer, sociologists at the University of California, Berkeley, claim—and I think they are basically right— that it is part of the reaction to the religious right’s rising visibility in the 1980s. That is, before 1990, people who were raised, say, Catholic or Baptist, but were socially and politically liberal and already religiously inactive, would still be comfortable enough with their religious background to tell a pollster they were Catholic or Baptist. And then they saw all this conservative politics happening in the name of religion, in the name of their own religion maybe, and said, “You know what, I’m not that.”
- Duke prof.: American’s religious faith waning (sfgate.com)