Organized Religion In America Continues Its Decline - 20 Percent Have No Preference
    By News Staff | March 13th 2013 09:44 AM | 2 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments

    As Roman Catholics cardinals conclave to pick a new Pope, they should be thinking about a problem that is becoming more apparent - in the developed world, all organized religion continues to decline.

    Religious affiliation in the US only began to be tracked in the 1930s but newly released survey data shows the curve continuing to go down. Last year, 20 percent of Americans claimed they had no religious preference, more than double the number reported in 1990. It doesn't mean they are atheists, that is 3% of the public, but that they do not subscribe to an organized religion. 'Spiritual' is the catch-all phrase they tend to use.

    Results of General Social Survey, a highly cited biannual poll conducted by the NORC of the University of Chicago, are being released now and over the coming weeks. On American attitudes toward religion, survey results showed that 20 percent of a nationally representative group reported no religious preference. That's a jump from 1990 when 8 percent of Americans polled identified with an organized faith.

    Responses in the survey were to the question, "What is your religious preference? Is it Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, some other religion, or no religion?"

    An analysis of the results by sociologists from UC Berkeley and Duke University suggests the following:

    • Liberals are far more likely to claim "no religion" (40 percent) than conservatives (9 percent)
    • Men are more likely than women to claim "no religion" (24 percent of men versus 16 percent of women).
    • More whites claimed "no religion" (21 percent) compared to African Americans (17 percent) and Mexican Americans (14 percent).
    • More than one-third of 18-to-24-year-olds claimed "no religion" compared to just 7 percent of those 75 and older.
    • Residents of the Midwestern and Southern states were least likely to claim "no religion" compared to respondents in the Western, Mountain and Northeastern states. But Midwesterners and Southerners are catching up, Hout said.
    • Educational differences among those claiming "no religion" are small compared to other demographic differences.
    • About one-third of Americans identify with a conservative Protestant denomination, one-quarter are Catholics (although 35 percent were raised Catholic) and 1.5 percent are Jewish.


    With regard to religion especially, what people answer on a survey and what they actually believe and do can vary significantly. This is especially true of Quebec society. Since the Quiet Revolution, the majority has shunned organized religion. Here, 31.5% of census families include common-law couples, higher than the average of the other Canadian provinces (12.1%). Churches continuously close down etc. Yet check out Statiistics Canada and 6 of 7 million still write down "Catholic" on paper.
    It's funny that the Vatican considered a Quebec cardinal as a candidate for pope. There is such a shortage of nuns and priests in the province that they've been getting them from Mexico and other Latin American countries for decades. 
    I don't think anyone in North America was really under consideration. I suppose they said it about 60 of the older Cardinals, though. if you got it from news media, forget it. America and Canada are not Catholic enough - and the ones that are Catholic are the a la carte kind, picking and choosing like it is a menu (Senators Joe Biden and John Kerry, famously). Betting was on a South American because they are still Catholic but losing ground politically. Outside pundits had it all wrong, though former insiders tried to correct them, asking a few times to news people why they weren't considering Bergoglio (too old, clueless broadcast news people claimed).

    I think you are right on surveys - people may check off a box for something they did as a kid, not something they do now. Plus, statistics show couples go to church more if they are married and have kids. Not being married - and having kids - would be kind of a persistent reminder in most churches.