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More Americans Are Losing Their Religion

May 01, 2009 07:00 AM
by Shannon Firth
Young adults generally make the decision to change churches or stop attending services before the age of 24, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.

Pew Surveys the Shifting Religious Landscape

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The Pew survey revealed that half of the adult population in the United States has changed religious affiliation, the Orlando Sentinel reported. The center also notes that previous studies have underreported this trend.

While Catholic churches have the strongest “retention rate” of any religion, researcher Greg Smith noted, “[T]he number of people leaving outnumbers the people joining the Catholic Church by a 4-to-1 margin.”

Researcher Greg Smith explained that, among former Protestants and former Catholics, “roughly four-in-ten say they became unaffiliated because they do not believe in God or the teachings of most religions.”

Many others in the unaffiliated category said they found religious people “hypocritical,” or felt that religious organizations were too rule-bound or too heavily motivated by wealth and power. According to the report, fewer than three in 10 ex-Catholics were influenced by the clergy’s shameful sexual abuse record.
In light of Pew’s research, one wonders about the recession’s impact on religion.

Ken Blanchard, a job training specialist, told the Hoffman Institute, “This is the first time in the history of business where you can be great at what you’re doing today, and you’re out of business tomorrow. My sense is that people become interested in spirituality when things are happening beyond their control. People are looking for some higher power to help them.”
One example of this transition is Hristo Mishkov, 32, also known as Brother Nikanor, a former Nasdaq trader for a top Bulgarian firm; he shed his “golden handcuffs” five years ago to follow a calling to the monastic life.

In addition to support from a higher power, others have considered the effect of religion on one’s emotional health. Two studies released in March also demonstrated that religious people are less anxious than nonbelievers.

In contrast to media buzz about soul searching in the financial crisis, Pew reported that since the Dow Jones began its sharp decline in October 2007 attendance at weekly worship has not increased.

Related Topics: The billboard war

In January, controversial advertisements promoting atheism showed up on buses in Spain, following similar movements in the U.K. and the United States. The signs read: “Probablemente Dios no existe. Deja de preocuparte y goza de la vida,” which translates, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy life.”

StandForGod.org, a Canadian Web site, launched a similar bus campaign in early April, with advertisements reading, “Trust in the living God.”
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