Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmastime faith vs. godlessness roundup

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As the Season to be Jolly is moving on behind us, it’s time for a little reality check – in the form how a Gallup poll that determines the levels of religiosity in the U.S.. Four separate questions, four pleasing statistical results that prove what we’ve known for a long time: religion is slowly but surely on its way into ignominy, and godlessness and reason are on the rise – again, slowly, but just as surely.

First, Gallup asked people how which religion they identified with (standard starter question).

Religious preference
Religious demographics as of winter 2009: Protestantism/Non-Catholic: 56% (decreasing) / Catholicism: 22% (decreasing) / None: 13% (increasing) / Other: 9% (level)

Then, the polled were asked how important religion is in their lives:

Personal importance of religion
Personal importance of religion as of winter 2009: Very important: 56% (decreasing) / Fairly important: 25% (decreasing) / Not very important: 19% (increasing)

Next, pollster asked people whether they attended church or a place of worship:

Gallup poll: “Church membership”
Church membership as of winter 2009: Yes: 63% (decreasing) / No: 37% (increasing)

Finally (and most revealing of all), people were asked about their opinions on the usefulness and relevance of religion in our modern lives:

Gallup poll: “Is religious old-fashioned and outdated?”
Opinion of religion as of winter 2009: Useful: 57% (decreasing) / Outdated: 29% / Other/No opinion: 15% (level)

This poll doesn’t really reveal anything surprising; it’s more or less what we’ve known for a while: religion is in a steady decline throughout America. That doesn’t stop polls like this from being useful in the sense that they spread the good word and let other atheists, agnostics and generally non-religious people know that they’re certainly not alone – plus, it’s always nice to hear about how the chief promulgator of willful ignorance, superstition and general nonsense is gradually being shoved out the door. Think of it as being a slow, laborious, but greatly pleasing and much-needed cleaning. (Which is essentially what this is, of course.)

Of course, the fact that there appears to be a tide of reason and abolition of superstition moving in doesn’t mean that the “culture war” has been won. It’s far too easy to fall complacent in the face of such news, but the fact is that without people standing up for reason and critical thinking and speaking out against religion, then we’d be getting nowhere at all. It’s thanks to those who make their voices heard in any way they can – on TV or the radio, via books, and even through blogs – who really make such a cultural shift possible. Don’t think that it’s time to rest on our laurels; religion may be in decline, but the sharp observer may notice it’s still by far the predominant belief at 87% (according to this poll). Getting lazy and assuming the turn is inevitable without working for it is just the way to kill the shift and let the poison of religion seep into everything and contaminate us all once more. You must continue to make your voices heard.

(via Friendly Atheist)