Just as the American religious landscape has been changing noticeably since President Lyndon Johnson signed immigration reform into law in 1965, so has the strength that religion appears to have in our culture.
The most recent measure of this rather subjective matter came from the Gallup polling organization recently. Gallup found that 77 percent of Americans think religion is losing its influence on American life. It turns out that most of the people who say that think such a reduction in influence is not a good thing, Gallup says.
It's been clear since the late 1950s that Mainline Christian churches (think Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, etc.) have been in decline, at least in terms of membership. And fickle Americans seem to run hot and cold on religion and their involvement in it. Right after 9/11, for instance, there was a spike in religious participation and a spike in the number of people who said religion was gaining in importance. Gallup refers to that at the site to which I've linked you above.
But even as it's clear that Americans are much more connected to religion than residents of many other countries, it's also clear that what some people call the Europeanization of religion has been happening in the U.S. in recent decades, meaning there are more sparsely attended churches and more people (now almost 20 percent of the population) saying they are religiously unaffiliated.
But given the shifting and uncertain definitions even of what constitutes a religion and how to measure whether it's gaining or losing influence, these kinds of polls don't tell us much. Well, except that certain pollsters continue to make a living conducting them.
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WHY SUPPORT FOR GAY MARRIAGE IS RISING?
Support for gay marriage among people of faith continues to grow, a new survey finds. Maybe folks have been reading and agreeing with my talk about what the Bible says about homosexuality. You can dig into that talk here.