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Americans, even those raised in church, losing their religion

Americans, even those raised in church, losing their religion

New evidence that Americans are turning their backs on religion, and this is increasingly true of those who grew up in religious homes. From the Huffington Post:

The Catholic Church may have just elected a new pope, but if a recent study is any indication, fewer Americans than ever may care.

The study, entitled “More Americans Have No Religious Preference” and released by sociologists at U.C. Berkeley and Duke University, found that in 2012, one in five Americans reported no religious affiliation — an all-time high.

The study notes that the trend of people stating no religious preference has been growing since the General Social Survey began asking about it in the early 1970s, when only five percent of people said they had no religion. However, the irreligious category has expanded rapidly over the past two decades. In 1990, only eight percent of respondents said they were not religious, compared to 20 percent when the study was conducted last year.

While not claiming a religion is an expanding trend across all of the demographics measured in the study, there were some significant differences between groups. Men are less religious than women; whites are less religious than African or Mexican Americans; liberals are less religious than conservatives; people in the West and Northeast are less religious than Southerners or Midwesterners; young people are less religious than older ones.

An indicator of just how quickly religion is declining? While 20 percent of respondents claimed no religion, only eight percent said they were raised without one.

I’m especially troubled by the evidence showing that so many who grew up in church have lost their religion as adults.What can we do to embrace our children in the love of Christ, and give them a rock-solid foundation in the faith– a foundation that will carry them into adulthood? What can the Episcopal church do to draw the attention and interest of people who grew up in church but are not seeking God there now? What is your congregation doing to ensure that your children will continue to feel at home in the church once they’re on their own?


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Faith has to be lived out every day, and ideally should make us stand out from everyone else in a good way. NB the pre-Constantine church was well known for caring for orphans and the sick when everyone with an ounce of sense was running the other way. It’s ok to act crazy, therefore, as long as it’s a crazy that non-Christians look at with some sort of admiration.

Jonathan Galliher


Speaking with my Confirm not Conform hat on, a couple of things leap to mind.

1) Invest in adult spiritual formation. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but I strongly believe that one reason young people leave religion is that they don’t see it having any real impact on the lives of their parents.

2) Work to create a system with genuine participation. People who have never had a chance to be invested in the life of a faith community are not likely to stick around. And that’s true for children as well as adults. If their entire emotional memory of church is being shuffled off to the side or brought out for ceremonial occasions, then why should they want to participate?

3) Take the sacraments of baptism and confirmation seriously. Too often I think we treat confirmation as a way to give people information rather than help them discern where they are in their faith. I firmly believe an honest understanding of “No, I’m not ready to make this commitment” is much better for the church in the long run than going along with a confirmation that doesn’t mean anything. We sell ourselves short if we say whether or not you want to be confirmed really doesn’t matter. Our very eagerness to keep people in the fold may undermine us in the long run.

I could go on and on, but I’ll leave it at that.

Laura Toepfer

Claire Carter

The Episcopal Church (and any other church) can be a church of substance, embracing and preaching the gospel and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in its congregants.

I believe that we the people are craving and clamoring for something real and transcendent. We drop out because God’s word has become so watered-down and open to interpretation as to be almost meaningless.

I wonder about how to make church attractive and of significance to my children as they grow. It’s easy to attract people – we can do that with coffee and donuts – but hard to keep them.

I believe we need to focus more on spiritual formation and less on outreach projects, as counter-intuitive as this may seem.

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