Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Imagine No Religion

It appears that the in the midst of declining attendance and tough economic times, the Catholic Church is closing parishes across the eastern and midwestern US.

According to CNN, the reduction has to do with the declining number of Catholics out there. Take this tidbit for instance:

"There are reportedly 67.1 million Catholics in the U.S., according to The Official Catholic Directory 2008. Compared to the 2007 number of 67.5, that's about a 400,000 decrease in one year. And the Pew Forum found that approximately a third of its survey respondents who were raised in the Roman Catholic Church no longer attend the church."

That's still a lot of Catholics, but that's also a huge decline in a single year.

Those types of numbers aren't just limited to the Catholic Church though. According to a recent USA Today poll, the third largest "religious affiliation" in the United States is "no religion," which comes in at 15% of those polled. (Up from 8% in 1990) By comparison, the second largest group behind Catholics was Baptists at 15.8%. (Down from 19.3% in 1990)

Of course the "no religion" group can, and probably does, include a lot of believers who have simply rejected any form of organized religion. The "spiritual but not religious" types. Even though that doesn't go far enough in my opinion, the increasing rejection of organized religion is on the whole a move in the right direction.

In the case of the Catholic Church, it's not hard to see why the numbers are declining. It's an organization that opposes many mainstream American values like equal rights for women and gays, birth control, choice on abortion and embryonic stem cell research. It's an organization allegedly dedicated to ending poverty, yet it has amassed wealth comparable to a fortune 500 company. (Back when such companies had wealth.) It's an organization allegedly dedicated to the protection of the weak, that allowed pedophiles access to children.

Eventually even the most ardent believer is going to look at that kind of track record and question whether the morals of the church are in line with basic human values. And that's without looking at the fact that it's whole belief structure lacks evidence.

Maybe the worm has started to turn on religion in the US. Still - we have a long way to go.


  1. Yes.

    I'm sure that the well publicized excommunication of everyone involved in helping abort the twin fetuses of a 9 year old who'd been repeatedly raped by her father in order to save her life has helped people make the decision to abandon this vile organization.

  2. Less religion = good thing. But that loss of 400,000 constitutes a decrease of only 0.6%. It makes me curious about whether it represents an actual trend of decreasing affiliation, or if this fits within the regular level of historical variation. I have no idea where to find the historical data. Any ideas?

  3. The article indicates Pew Research numbers, they may have the historical data. Not sure.

    I'm inclined to think it's more than a historical variation inasmuch as it's contributing to the closure of long standing parishes.