New survey of American religion

Baylor university has a new survey (PDF) of American religion out, and it is an excellent supplement to The American Religious Identification Survey.
Here are some findings I found interesting:

  • Instead of 14% of Americans with “No religion” (nearly doubling in a generation) the new survey suggests that a more accurate number is 10.8% (still an increase). The issue here is that the set of individuals who a) attend religious services b) disavows any affiliation has increased greatly over the past generation. The number of young people (18-30) with “No religion” is greater than the median.
  • About 5% of Americans seem to be atheists, around 40% of those who are not religiously affiliated. 8% of Jews are atheists. None of the black respondents in their survey were atheists.
  • Secularism and theological liberalism are positively correlated with income and education.
  • 40% of Americans believe in Atlantis.
  • Women and blacks seem more inclined to believe they are sinners in the hands of an angry God than whites or males.

Two points. These data relate to two of my recent posts, first, religious belief is natural. Today we tend to associate supernatural beliefs with structured institutional organizations with creeds and rituals. But as these institutions weaken due to cultural freelancing we will see a rise in the number of those who disavow organized religion and yet are still passionately committed to God(s). The survey in fact shows that belief in “paranormal” phenomena drops with Biblical literalism, which suggests that as creedal constraints are released other supernatural beliefs tend to fill their vacuum. Second, the I also hold that institutions as a whole are becoming less powerful in shaping our cultural sensibilities, so this is likely not a decline in religion, as much as the decline of institutions which scaffold and systematize religious passions.
On a related note, spirituality and religiosity seem to be separable psychological predispositions.

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