For the first time since researchers began tracking the religious identity of Americans, fewer than half said they were Protestants, a steep decline from 40 years ago when Protestant churches claimed the loyalty of more than two-thirds of the population.”   -NY Times

It is a tendency in our nation in times of controversy to divide into two camps. So there may be a tendency among those who read this article to see it as purely good news, or purely bad. My hope is that we will ask a more complicated question than which side we are on. My hope is we will look more specifically at what we are gaining and what we are losing.

The new study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public life made the following discoveries:

-It is not just mainline Protestant groups like Methodists or Presbyterians who are in decline, but also conservative ones.

-While the over all numbers have fallen, the losses are primarily among white Protestant churches.

-Nearly one in five Americans now describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.

-Catholics have remained stable, “mostly because an influx of immigrants has replaced the many Catholics who were raised in the church and left in the last five years,” one of the researchers said.      


As I say, instead of dividing into camps of believers or nonbelievers on this issue, or Protestant or not, I hope we can ask instead what we are gaining and what we are losing in this trend.  It is a good thing to lose superstition, but a bad thing to lose our reverence toward life. It is a good thing to lose rigid sectarian identity, but a bad thing to lose community. This poll reports that two thirds of those saying they have no religion still believe in God and one fifth say they pray every day. In other words, it is possible that we aren’t losing superstition so much as we are losing community.

Thanks to Karalei Nunn and others for passing on link: