Blog Template Theology of the Body: Americans Changing Faith- for the Growth of the Church, or not?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Americans Changing Faith- for the Growth of the Church, or not?

Commentors at NPR and other places have been going mad over this recent article at the New York Times: Americans Change Faiths at Rising Rate, Report Finds:

"WASHINGTON — 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 shows, for example, that every religion is losing and gaining members, but that the Roman Catholic Church “has experienced the greatest net losses as a result of affiliation changes.” The survey also indicates that the group that had the greatest net gain was the unaffiliated. More than 16 percent of American adults say they are not part of any organized faith, which makes the unaffiliated the country’s fourth largest “religious group.”

Huh. The Pew Forum's stats on the decline of Catholicism do not quite match the more academic findings of Georgetown's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, solicited by yours truly. The Time's report of the Pew findings also contradict the NPR's report of the same, via Luis Lugo:

"One of the major findings, Lugo says, is that immigration trends are affecting religion demographics in America — tilting the Christian balance in the U.S. toward Catholicism and diversifying the range of choices that are nontraditional to the U.S....The survey confirms that the United States is "at the doorstep" of becoming a minority Protestant country, Lugo says. He says mainline Protestantism has seen the greatest losses. Although a good number of Catholics also have left the church, immigration has helped keep the Catholic percentage steady, Lugo says."

But oh well.

What has interested me most is the reflection by a secular commentator who explained that such shifts in religious affiliation are simply the logical outgrowth of Protestantism's inistence that authentic religious affiliation is a matter of individual, personal preference and choice, aka, adventurous explorations. Shades of the Enlightenment!

So there you have it.