The recently released results of the Pew Religion Survey indicate that the group with the greatest increase in numbers is the religiously unaffiliated. It seems that, indeed, traditional religion fulfills an important need for fewer people now. There was also a small but noticeable increase in “non-Christian faiths”, which, it may be hoped, includes Wiccans and other pagans. It seems that the percentage of the population that espouses pagan and other new faiths is quite small, so none of those individual faith groups were separated out for analysis, but were put together in a non-Christian grouping. Pew did discuss New Age religions, but did not describe the groups they included under this heading; it may be presumed that pagans are included there. It was disappointing to see that pagans were not specifically discussed in the study, but it does seem that the distribution of faith in the U.S. is still mainly among Christian religions, so that is what they turned their attention to in their discussion.
To a great extent, it seems that the results are heartening, inasmuch as people are leaving behind the traditional religions that have led us to our current state of affairs. I would like to think that people have abandoned the available faith groups because these groups have so little to offer, and that eventually, the followers of a contemplative type of spirituality will become more numerous because that type of spirituality is what offers the most to them. The study did separate religious affiliation from spirituality, and there were those who had no affiliation but considered spirituality important. The disheartening news here, however, is that this group declined since the previous study in 2007.
Another point to note from the Pew Survey is that the age group with the least religious affiliation is younger people. This may be partly a developmental result, as older people have had enough experience to wonder at the meaning of life, as well as to face their own mortality. Often this brings people to consider religious ideas and practices. Younger people do not see the need for this yet, and so move on with youthful optimism and less consideration of ultimate matters. It is likely also the case that younger people have seen that what traditional religions teach simply do not match reality, and that science is a better predictor of daily life than any religion they know of.
Although the results are disheartening for Christians, I believe they show that change is happening, and it is a change I believe will be for the better, in the long run. If humanity can eventually embrace even a secular faith that includes science and a knowledgeable reverence for all life, then the world will be a better place.
Copyright © 2015 Teresa Chupp. All rights reserved.