Non-believing on the Rise in America
The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey was released last week and the big news story is the increase in the percentage of Americans who claim no religion. These "nones" made up 8.2 percent of the population in 1990, 14.2 percent in 2001, and 15 percent in 2008.You can see a state-by-state breakdown of how the "nones" grew over the last 18 years with this simple interactive graphic from the Los Angeles Times. Places like Mississippi remain very religious (only 5 percent claimed "no religion" last year) but New England states saw big jumps in the percentage of "nones." In Vermont they grew from 13 percent to 34 percent. (And here's a sure sign of End Days for those who believe in them: the study reports that "adherents of New Religious movements, including Wiccans and self-described pagans, have grown faster this decade than in the 1990s.")This waning influence of traditional institutional religion may be a new phenomenon in America, but America is already an outlier among developed nations in terms of religiosity. Check out the chart below. Maybe we're just catching up to Western Europe, so to speak.So is this the dawning of a new age of rationalism and tolerance in America? A harbinger of the Apocaypse?Will it correspond to changing attitudes towards issues like abortion and stem cell research?Are people coming up with non-religious moral frameworks on their own (difficulty: high) and, if not, is humanity better off just accepting the pre-packaged commandments of scripture?Thanks Neighborhoodist. Image from Flickr user Napalm filled tires.