Monday, March 16, 2009

The Growing Religious Divide

Colleen Carroll Campbell is a fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the host of the quietly intriguing show, Faith and Culture. She writes about the recent major religious survey done among Americans and though much has been written about its implications, and I like what she has to say:

The recently released results of the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey…found that while most Americans today identify as Christians, the proportion of Christians has dropped by 10 percentage points since 1990. The only religious group that has seen population increases in every state is the "nones": a category of atheists, agnostics and spiritual freelancers like Sheila that now includes 15 percent of Americans, up from 8 percent in 1990.

The after noting that the percentage of evangelicals has risen, she notes:

So what does all of this mean for American public life? For starters, the numbers suggest that Americans increasingly are gravitating to one of two religious poles: Either they are becoming more committed to churches that make strong moral and religious demands or they are rejecting religion altogether.

I find that a fascinating conclusion. If you have been following the furor caused by the new atheists and the Christians who have responded, I thing Campbell’s observation rings true. In many ways, I believe there is a growing hostility between the Christian faith and the (more faithful) atheists in our culture.

Her final observation is right on the money:

The implications of this trend extend beyond religion. Just as more Americans are moving toward stronger religious observance or none at all, a related divide is widening between Americans who fear the growth of government as a threat to religious liberty and those who welcome it as a means of secular salvation. It's no coincidence that we are witnessing an unprecedented expansion of government at the same time that more Americans are disengaging from the faith traditions and communities that provided social, spiritual and economic support for the generations before them. Nor is it surprising that the president driving this expansion inspires religious fervor bordering on idolatry among many of his followers, particularly those with no religious affiliation. The human yearning for adoration of some higher power -- be it God, government or Barack Obama -- dies hard.

I would only add that because we are creatures created to worship, that yearning will never die. It is a void in the human soul that will always seek to be filled.

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