More Americans Finding God on Their Own Terms

It’s not exactly Bill Maher’s wet dream of atheism becoming all the rage, but one thing is for certain: the religious makeup of America is shifting.

In other words, that Protestant reign has finally let up. The downward trend has been going on for some time now, but with the U.S. Supreme Court having no Protestant judges and the Republican Party producing their first presidential ticket without a Protestant candidate made it all the more noticeable. Now a new study from Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life has confirmed it: The United States no longer has a Protestant majority.

The new revelation is a direct result of an increasing number of Americans not identifying with any particular religion. In their findings, Pew says that one-fifth of the U.S. population – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated. It is the highest percentage for each in Pew Research Center polling history.

God hasn’t necessarily lost luster overall, though. True enough, 6% of all U.S. adults may be self-described atheists and agnostics, but it’s mostly a rejection of organized religion versus an overall concept of a deity. In years past, those who infrequently attended religious services still identified with a religious label.

Now, that tide has shifted and of the 46 million of unaffiliated: “Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%). More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every day. In addition, most religiously unaffiliated Americans think that churches and other religious institutions benefit society by strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor.”

Moreover, the study reveals with “few exceptions” those who are now unaffiliated “say they are not looking for a religion that would be right for them.” Much of that can be attributed to an “overwhelming” belief that “religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.”

While I’m sure “prosperity preaching,” which is nothing more than Christianity for the capitalist, may turn off a few people, the latter issue may be what’s help pushed the break from religious conventionalism more.

Take for instance, the newly formed nonprofit group, God Said, consisting of various Black religious leaders looking to strip President Obama of 25 percent of the Black vote he earned in 2008 (95 percent) due to his personal support of gay marriage. The group plans to mainly target voters in the swing states of Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Florida with television and radio advertising.

The religious makeup of America is shifting.

In a statement, Dr. Martin Luther King’s niece, Dr. Alveda King wrote: “We fully intend to shift 25 percent of the black vote from the 2008 election by charging every voter to examine each candidate and vote for the one that supports their core belief in natural marriage.”

In other words, they’d rather stick to questionable interpretations of about six references to homosexuality (as part of pagan rituals, and so on, but what does context matter to the fanatic?) in a religious book and use that as fuel to essentially help elect a man whose virtues and policies will gnaw away at the most significant principles extolled by Jesus throughout an entire half of the Bible.

Yes, teach President Obama about God’s values by helping elect the guy who condemns the poor, wants to strip people of health care, and wants to overtax the working class in order to give other wealthy people like him an additional tax break that they don’t need. Mind you, this is all over marriage -- a right determined by the state as opposed to Pastor Whoever anyway.

Combine the efforts of the God Said group with those of those patriarchal, child abuser-hiding leaders sitting in the Vatican and you can see why many people are looking to find God on their own terms. 

Once these hypocritical religious folk go off into the sunset – and if memory serves, possibly suffer perpetual heat strokes in the afterlife – perhaps Americans may find their way back to labels as it relates to how they identify their beliefs. If not, so long as people have whatever since of spirituality that works for them, God bless ‘em, right?

Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard-educated writer and blogger. You can read more of his work on his site, The Cynical Ones. Follow him on Twitter: @youngsinick