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Secularism is on the rise, but Americans are still finding community and purpose in spirituality

Jun 14, 2019

By Karen Turner

American secularism is on the rise.

Twenty-four percent of Americans don’t affiliate with any religion, according to a 2016 Public Religion Research Institute survey, which is up 8 percentage points in the past five years. Nowhere is the trend away from religion greater than in younger generations, where more than a third of people ages 18 to 29 are unaffiliated compared to just over 10 percent of people ages 65 and up.

But without religion — traditionally a source of community, purpose, and moral teaching — how are unaffiliated Americans filling this void? Some have suggested that increasingly tribal political identities have taken the traditional space of religion, along with fitness and exercise classes, and “workism” or careerism. Others think we simply might not be replacing organized religion with anything in particular, making us lonelier and more disconnected.

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10 comments on “Secularism is on the rise, but Americans are still finding community and purpose in spirituality

  • I am more interested in whether theists understand the value of a secular government. Obviously, atheists understand its value, so studying their views on it wouldn’t add much to the question. But what about theists?

    If one just listened to political leaders, who are likely to pander to theists for votes, one would conclude that theists want more religious tenets implemented. And if one looked at just the evangelical voting bloc, roughly 26% of Christians and the biggest chunk of them, those religious-based laws would be welcomed.

    But is that how the average faith-based American feels? Given the restrictive abortion bills passed in Ohio and many southern states, maybe they do. Or maybe the anti-abortion advocates were/are better organized. The bills seem to contradict national surveys that say the majority of Americans support women’s rights in general and their right to abortion in particular.

    So do Christian voters see the value of a secular government, or don’t they? Now, that would be an interesting study.


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  • Vicki

    So do Christian voters see the value of a secular government, or don’t they? Now, that would be an interesting study.

     

    Much more interesting and useful too!


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  • Vicki #1.

    “Or maybe the anti-abortion advocates were/are better organized.”

    You hit the nail on the head with that statement. Democracy requires organization, and I suspect people are leaving political parties in the same numbers they are leaving organized religion. That leaves the minority who are organized both religiously and politically to win elections and then dictate policy — to the victor go to spoils!!

  • Michael #3

    That leaves the minority who are organized both religiously and politically to win elections and then dictate policy — to the victor go to spoils!!

    We both left out an important component in the policy process: funding.


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  • Vicki #4:  We both left out an important component in the policy process: funding.

     

    Very true!  It’s been said that money is the mother’s milk of politics. Both organization and the ability to contribute financially are equally important. The reality is that it takes a tremendous amount of money to reach a mass audience. Groups such as the NRA don’t buy politicians, they only support those who subscribe to their views. It’s Political Science 101.

  • Olgun #7

    A man who has to answer directly to believers and if he does a good job, maintaining a secular stance, could move socialism and atheism off the bottom two rungs.

    I’d love to see socialism and/or atheism move up the perception ladder, too, and be represented as well as Obama represented race. He’d have to get elected first, and this upcoming election will be determined by how the Independents vote.


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