The Future of American Religion

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The Future of American Religion

Based on multiple studies over many years, it’s safe to say that the United States is the world’s most religious affluent nation.  When compared to an average of the next 12 most affluent Western Nations, the United States exhibits a far higher incidence of behaviors termed “very religious.”  Consider just three examples:

  • Praying multiple times a day: United States at 29% vs the average of other affluent nations at 8%;
  • Attend religious services more than once a week: United States at 7% vs the average of other affluent nations at 2%; and
  • Believe the Bible is the literal word of God: United States at 33% vs the average of other affluent nations at 9%

And despite our “humanist” popular culture, religious beliefs and practices still define our lives.  Consider a few examples:

  • Well over 90 percent of Americans say they believe in God.
  • 80 percent say they believe in heaven.
  • Half pray at least daily.
  • 29 percent pray more than once a day. And,
  • Only 13 percent do not pray at all.

It’s also a nation in which the vast majority identify with a specific religious affiliation.  As of 2014:

  • 247 million Americans consider themselves “Christian.” This includes 152 million Protestants and 86 million Catholics.
  • 6 million Americans say they are Jewish.
  • 13 million are affiliated with other religions including Islam and Hinduism.
  • 38 million are “unaffiliated,” but mostly accept some form of “Christianity” without a denominational preference for any  And,
  • That leaves just 13 million who say their religion is “none,” meaning that they would classify themselves as some form of agnostic or atheist.

Nevertheless, the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has received international acclaim for his thesis that secularization is far advanced not only in Europe, but also in the United States and Canada, even if most people still profess a faith in God. 

Why? According to Taylor and others, “Westerners no longer live in a “world of spirits, demons, and moral forces.” Hence, according to Taylor, today’s Europeans, Canadians, and Americans are immune to deep, mystical, religious experiences, being in tune only with “naturalistic materialism,” which is a scientific understanding of reality that has no room for the supernatural...

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