Feb. 28, 2008
March 1-2, 2008

Feb. 29, 2008

THANKING GOD FOR VIOLENT DEATH

A Hamas leader is quoted in this story as thanking God for the death of his son in the struggle against Israel. To reduce terrorism, this kind of thinking will simply have to change. But how? What will it take to convince radical Islamists that suicide bombers and similar violence not only is morally wrong but also hurts their cause? Whoever is the next American president will need the world's best thinking about this.

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RELIGIOUSLY, WHAT DOES AMERICA LOOK LIKE?

I will give you a more comprehensive analysis in my column tomorrow, but on this Leap Day, I want to jump into some new religious statistics, ones I mentioned on the blog this past Tuesday.

PewEarlier this week, the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released its U.S. Religious Landscape Survey. It's a quite comprehensive look at the religious makeup of the nation. In fact, it contains so much information that the Pew folks have divided it into three reports. The first one, just released, focuses on religious affiliation. Two later reports -- the first one due out in late April -- will drill down into all of that.

Indeed, the first part of the whole work contains so much information that analysts will be looking at it for a long time. The religious dynamics of our nation are changing and I think it's vital that we understand what's happening so we can learn how to deal with it in constructive ways and not degenerate into the kind of sectarian strife and even violence that plagues other countries.

But one of the more memorable statistics to come out of this first report shows how dynamic religion in America is (minus Alaska and Hawaii, where no polling was done). For instance, the study found that 44 percent of all America adults (there are about 225 million such folks) have left the religion of their childhood either for a different branch of the same religion, a different religion altogether or no religion at all.

As for the latter "unaffiliated" category, the study found that though this category made up 16.1 percent of adult Americans, only about one-quarter of that group identified themselves as atheist or agnostic (a total that has stayed pretty steady over the years, despite all the recent publicity atheists are getting by writing best-selling books). The rest of the unaffiliated were religious or spiritual to varying degrees but simply unaffiliated now.

Similarly, as study leaders pointed out, they were studying belonging, not believing, so they were unable to tell how many people are affiliated with a religion but are not believers. I know some of those folks, as I'm sure you do, too.

The non-affiliated group is growing because the number of people joining it outnumber the quite significant number of people who leave it to join a religion.

Another finding is one I've written about previously, which is that Protestants, who as recently as the 1980s made up about two-thirds of the adult U.S. population, have dwindled to the point that they are barely a majority, 51 percent, of the American adult population. By previous estimates I thought that by now Protestants were, in fact, a minority (though a plurality) of adult Americans, but that's not quite what these figures show.

Well, dig around a little on the Pew site and see what you find interesting. As I say, there's much here to digest, and lots of us will be trying to do that in various ways over the next weeks and months.

Oh, and one of the top Southern Baptists in the country says the new Pew study should motivate evangelical Christians to get out and evangelize. Also: Some Jewish leaders say the Pew sample size wasn't big enough to tell much about Jews in America.

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P.S.: Speaking of religious research, a Canadian researcher at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary in Ontario is looking for people to participate in a survey about what it means to be Christian today. If you are Christian and you'd like to think about being part of that work, click here.

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ANOTHER P.S.: I'm sorry some of you have had trouble signing up to leave comments here. For help, go to "How to comment" under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page.

To read my latest Kansas City Star work, click here. (As I mentioned above, my column tomorrow will try to draw some important lessons out of all these religious statistics.)

Comments

Joe Barone

"Oh, and one of the top Southern Baptists in the country says the new Pew study should motivate evangelical Christians to get out and evangelize."

Maybe it should motivate the Southern Baptists to consider whether they've moved too far right, run out too many of their own moderates.

Mary Behr

Pew Report. These findings are most interesting. We shall have to do a lot of thinking and as Bill suggests, we need to do so in order not to deteriorate into religious strife as in other countries. Maybe (hey yes) we should start by asking God what he wants us to learn from all this and pray for the gift of discernment to procede with respect and love rather than mutual attacks. What do you think Keith?

Dolores Lear

Religion in America, has many beliefs in a One God, a Higher Power, a Spirit 'Being', a Supernatural Being, Man Gods and Angels, who walked and talked on Earth, and made Humans in their Physical Image.

Humans in many counries, have a High Tech Knowledge Society, where a Higher Power and Supreme Beings lose their meaning. Is this why Religion is losing members, sice Natural has been replace by Super'natural Science?

Do Humans have a hard time believing in 'Spirit' Beings as God, when Jesus is a Human Being called God?
When we also have High Tech Power to travel in Space and hope to Colonize Planets? Like God/Lord did on our Earth?

Humans Know the Atom and Nuclear Power in the Universe, but we mostly use it for Evil Bombs. Even dividing the Atom for peaceful power for Electricity, etc., the Atomic Waste on land and sea, for the past 100 years, is Killing our Eco System and All Life on Earth.

Another Way to use the Atom that does not pollute, is joining Atoms together, Fusion. Science today is working on this, and when Mastered, we should know the super'natural' power of the Man Gods and Angels, that come and go from Space/Heaven to our Planet.

For 6000 years we have Reproduced Humans, like Cain and Abel, and All Humans since. Why did the Original Perfect Pure-bred Humans, change the Way Humans were reproduced 'in the beginning? Will Humans Discover, why they resorted to Human Bondage Reproduction?

Body Birth 'was' the Fall of Humans from Perfect Pure-bred to Genetic and Physical Mis-breeding. Genesis has the High Tech Science information of Colonizing, and Cloning a Female from the Male rib, and the Fall of Humans to Mis-bred Body Birth.

PreacherDJ

"Maybe it should motivate the Southern Baptists to consider whether they've moved too far right, run out too many of their own moderates."

It's interesting that the longer Jesus' earthly ministry continued, the fewer followers He had. I wonder if He was ever tempted to say, "If I just ease up on the message a little, move it a little more to the center, maybe I could reach more people."

Jean

If you care enough for someone, then the topic of Jesus will come up. At the right time, at God's time, it will come up. Churches die when people in the Churches only care about their own. It doesn't mean much to just love those who are like yourself, and it's definitely not what Jesus did.

Jesus looked for real followers, and I don't think Jesus was driven by numbers and statistics. He knew for sure that the numbers of real followers, people who would love others, would be small.

Keith, A Jewish Blogger and "let's all get along"

Mary Behr, I'm fascinated with the Pew study and trying to find the time to delve deeper into it. Like those who get into arguments over "who is a real Christian," I find myself in disputes over "who is a real Jew." The "REAL" seems to often times become more important than the "Christian" or "Jew," in fact.

I think that clergy can play a big part in these numbers. I know folks who have changed congregations if not denomination due to clergy being an attraction or a distraction. It falls upon clergy (from the pulpit to hierarchy) to make us feel connected with our faith both when we are in the pews and when we're outside the edifice; to help us relate and integrate the tenets of our faith into the lives we live and the world we live in. What an awesome job and responsibility!

An "Old Guy" comment: Societies change, sometimes gradually, sometimes rapidly. Looking back over the last 50+ years, it's been extremely rapid. I think this challenges us in many ways, including our faith. And in a time of rapid societal change, it's not surprising to find people "shopping" for a faith or denomination or congregation that reflects and resonates with their life outside the pews, too. (I wonder how each move of a person, from one "belief" to another "belief" reflects both the individual person's outlook and the words from the pulpit.) 44% of us have undergone a major change of faith of one form or another from how we were raised. Amaaaaaaazing!

Keith, a Jewish blogger and "let's all get along" sap

Dolores Lear

The Social change for the last 50 years, was the result of the High Tech 'Super'natural Science Knowledge, that replaced the Natural Knowledge of the past.

Now we should use this Knowledge to reveal all the supernatural knowledge in religion and myth. It is hard to accept Earth has had this supernatural knowledge, at the start of Life on Earth, and during the Noah/Atlantis Society.

All this was wiped away, with the Noah/Atlantis Planetary Flood, All we have is writings, that were translated by Natural Humans, without High Tech Knowledge and called it supernatural.

All the Megalithic building can be explain with High Tech like we have today. Our Sports stadiums would look similar to some of the ruins we have today. I accept that many of the stone ruins, were poured concrete in that past Society, that is why it is stacked so closely.

So, how many more religions are going to start, or break into more divisions, before we at least consider High Tech Colonization and Human Male and Female Cloning, 'in the beginning' in Genesis?

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