According to a new Pew Forum survey, more than 4 in 10 Americans have switched their religious affiliation since childhood or dropped out of any formal religious group. Is this a mark of the health or sickness of American religion?
Sally Quinn and Jon Meacham on February 27, 2008 5:01 AM
I think this is healthy. It suggests that many people have moved beyond their socialization within a particular form of Christianity to a thoughtful (and sometimes agonizing) re-assessment of what it means to be Christian.
Catholic youth, especially, are alienated from a faith tradition and hierarchy that they see as "out of touch" and frankly, rather disinterested in what they deal with in reality on an everyday basis--especially when it comes to sex, romance, and dating.
Catholic clergy had been spoiled with monopolistic influence over a captive audience. Today, it is a whole new ball game. People no longer come to church or stick with their religion out of a fear of damnation.
Posted by Thomas J. Reese, S.J., on March 3, 2008 9:02 AM
The only really true faith is the faith one voluntarily chooses for one’s own, not an inherited or imposed faith. If a person feels that he or she is trapped in “tradition,” he or she needs to seek a faith that fulfills their spiritual needs.
Switching from faith to faith or describing oneself as “unchurched” is not the same as dropping out of religion or spirituality altogether. These “nones” are not non-believers. They may be profoundly moral. They just don’t identify with a particular church.
Posted by Michael Otterson, on February 28, 2008 9:22 AM
An ironic side-benefit of this increased religious mobility in America is its effect on an old argument that no religion can be the true one or even the most true one: since almost everybody dies in their birth-religion, the true or truest religion can be available only to a few.
Posted by Willis E. Elliott, on February 28, 2008 7:18 AM
What the Pew survey shows is that new immigrants coming to the United States bring with them a strong sense of belonging to family and to faith, whether Catholic, Muslim or Hindu. But in a generation or two, that passes.
Posted by Christopher Dickey, on February 28, 2008 6:08 AM
This is more dynamic and faithful than just sitting in the pew in the Methodist (Presbyterian, Baptist, Catholic—you fill in the blank) church that your parents sat in and their parents sat in etc. without ever asking yourself “why?”
Posted by Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, on February 27, 2008 7:15 AM
Which God you worship and how you do it matters less from the perspective of where you grew up and depends at this stage more on how you feel and what you think on a continuum of expression and experience over the course of your lifetime.
Posted by Andy Bachman, on February 27, 2008 6:59 AM