Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Who are the "Religiously Unafilliated"? A Baylor Study Investigates

Here's some current info related to the emergence of post-modernism and declining numbers of the affiliated:

Secular or 'unaffiliated'? Findings escalate debate
Posted 9/12/2006 1:20 AM ET


The Baylor survey delves into the beliefs of the 10.8% of respondents who claim no religious preference or identification:

Belief in God

Believe in higher power or cosmic force: 44.5%

Don’t believe in anything beyond the physical world: 37.1%

Believe in God with no doubts: 11.6%

Believe in God with some doubts: 4.8%

Sometimes believe in God: 2.1%

Source: Baylor survey

The USA is not losing its religion, as other recent surveys have suggested, Baylor University sociologists say.

The Baylor Religion Survey finds that 10.8% of Americans have no religious ties; other surveys place the figure at 14% and say secularization is increasing.

The numbers are close enough that margins of error need to be considered (Baylor's was plus or minus 4 percentage points), but Baylor researchers say other studies didn't ask the right questions.

Baylor asked, "With what religious family (40 choices and a write-in option) do you most closely identify?" It also asked people to name their specific denominations (such as Southern Baptist) and to write in the name and address of their "current place of worship." All but 10.8% of survey respondents answered at least one of these three questions.

By contrast, the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) asked 50,000 people, "What is your religious identity, if any?" and found the percentage of those who listed "none" increased from 8% in 1990 to 14% in 2001.

The General Social Survey, by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, found that the percentage of "nones" climbed during the '90s to 13.8% of Americans in 2004, survey director Tom Smith says.

Baylor sociologist Kevin Dougherty says that "when we asked the same questions other surveys asked about identification or preference, we got the same roughly 13% to 14% they get."

But, he says, "many of these so-called 'nones' named a place and even gave the address. They're not really 'nones,' they're just unaffiliated."

Baylor also says more than one-third (33.7%) of these unaffiliated read some kind of holy scripture weekly or more; 35.6% pray daily.

But Barry Kosmin, co-author of the 1990 and 2001 ARIS studies, calls Baylor's new unaffiliated category "nonsense." People who can name a church may be accompanying a spouse or hunting for social or business connections, he says.

They may have no sense of ownership, no commitment to teaching the faith to the next generation, adds Kosmin, who now directs the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn.

"That's secularization or cafeteria spirituality — form without the content."

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