Monday, October 18, 2010

Walking Away From Church

"Walking away from church" is the title of an article in yesterday's L.A. Times by Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell. Here are some quotes from the article:

The most rapidly growing religious category today is composed of those Americans who say they have no religious affiliation. While middle-aged and older Americans continue to embrace organized religion, rapidly increasing numbers of young people are rejecting it.

Between 25% and 30% of twentysomethings today say they have no religious affiliation - roughly four times higher than in any previous generation.

So why this sudden jump in youthful disaffection from organized religion? The surprising answer, according to a mounting body of evidence, is politics. Very few of these "nones" actually call themselves atheists, and many have rather conventional beliefs about God and theology. But they have been alienated from organized religion by its increasingly conservative politics.

Just as this generation moved left on most social issues - above all homosexuality - many prominent religious leaders moved to the right, using the issue of same-sex marriage to mobilize electoral support for conservative Republicans. In the short run this tactic worked to increase GOP turnout, but the subsequent backlash undermined sympathy for religion among many young moderates and progressives. Increasingly young people saw religion as intolerant, hypocritical, judgmental and homophobic. If being religious entailed political conservatism, they concluded, religion was not for them.

I have seen this first hand. Something to think about.
To read the whole article click here:,0,6283320.story


Rob-bear said...

I find this quite surprising, largely because it is quite different from the Canadian experience.

But I am familiar with Putnam and his work, so I trust what he as written. The idea that people have "adjusted their religion to fit their politics" seems an appropriate analysis of American religious development. And I can certainly understand why twentysomethings are acting the way they do, given the overall human attitude of sensibility. I am more familiar with people who are "adjusting their political views to their religious faith."

Susan said...

I can understand this completely. I look at organized religion and the people who worship religion and a book instead of God and I see cold hear ted ruthless people. People who have no compassion for people who have beliefs that are slightly different. There is no middle ground. It's why to a degree I don't churches either. I don't think I will ever be a member to one again. I go to meet fellow people who are walking the same path as I am and to get my spiritual fire pumped up. The way the religious treat gay people for example is awful. I relatively normal and I've met some harsh criticism because I hate traditional services. So yeah I view churches as a somewhat hateful and political place that unfortunately is the only place I can find people on a faith walk.