Is America Becoming More Religious? Actually, No

There’s no question that, thanks to George W. Bush, the religous Right has taken over the U.S. government in Washington, DC. Because of this, as a casual consumer of news you might get the impression that America is the midst of a religious revival – that you and your friends are among a handful of people who do not spend every Saturday night in a revival tent at the edge of town, and every Sunday morning in a pew awaiting the Rapture.

But what about the statistics? Are we becoming a country dominated by religous fervor – and its bastard cousins, Intolerance and Hypocrisy? According to Pascal Riche at TPM Cafe, the answer is no.

First, America is not becoming more religious. The number of noisy evangelist Christians is indeed increasing, but the traditional churches are declining. According to an ARIS Study (see this PDF file), the segment of the population experiencing the greatest growth is the “no-religion” group. The number of declared Christians went from 86.2% in 1990 to 76.5 % in 2001; during the same period, the number of people placing themselves in the “no-religion” camp rose from 8% to 14.1%.

According to a 2002 USA-Today poll, 50% of Americans regard themselves as “religious” (against 54% in 1999), 33 % as “spiritual, but not religious” (30% in 1999) and 10% as “neither religious nor spiritual”.

And fewer and fewer Americans attend church on Sunday. Of course, this country remains deeply religious, because of his origins, but like others countries in the industrialized word, it is secularizing slowly…

It’s interesting that these declines are inversely proportionate to the public’s exposure to the leaders of the American talibani movement – interesting, and just the tiniest bit reassuring.


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