Is America ditching religion – or just remixing it?
A new Gallup poll shows that belief in God is at an all-time low in America. Here’s everything you need to know:
What does the new survey reveal?
A record 81% of Americans answered “yes” to the question “Do you believe in God?” in a new Gallup poll released last Friday, up from 87% in 2017.
Belief in God peaked at 98% in surveys conducted in 1954, 1965 and 1967. In 2011, this number had fallen to 92% and fell to 86% in 2014 before rising again to 89% two years later.
Gallup notes that although this survey requires respondents to choose “yes” or “no”, similar surveys in recent years have found that “when given the choice, 5-10% said they were not sure” of the existence of God.
Comparing the average results of the four surveys conducted between 2013 and 2017 with the results of the 2022 survey reveals that belief in God has declined across all demographic groups. For married people and conservatives, it fell by only one point. Liberals, Democrats and Americans aged 18 to 29 all saw double-digit declines.
Women, people of color, older people, non-graduates, married people, and people with children were more likely to believe in God than their male, white, young, college-educated, single, and childless counterparts. . Southerners expressed their belief in God at slightly higher rates than Americans in other regions. The survey found no statistically significant differences between urban dwellers, commuters, and small-town or rural Americans.
The poll surveyed 1,007 American adults between May 2 and May 22 and has a 4% margin of error.
What is the link between belief in God and religious affiliation?
Ryan Burge, political science professor and Baptist pastor, underline this belief in God is “very robust” compared to other measures, such as church attendance. Americans are massively abandoning organized religion, but they seem less willing to abandon God. “[L]Look at the people who say they never go to church. Twenty-two percent say they believe in God without question,” Burge said. wrote on Twitter.
A 2018 Pew study of religion found that 72% of Americans with no religious affiliation — also known as “nones” — said they believe in God, a higher power, or spiritual force. Only 21% of Americans who identified as “nothing in particular” cited “I don’t believe in God” as a major reason for their lack of religious affiliation.
For a medieval European Christian, to believe in God was to believe that the Catholic Church held the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Believing in God was inseparable from listening to priests, accepting dogmas, receiving the sacraments, observing fasting and paying tithes.
21st century individualists feel much more comfortable pursuing their own spiritual journeys. When Americans disassociate themselves from organized religion, not all of them become militant antitheists in the mold of Christopher Hitchens. Many of them continue to believe in a higher power and don’t think much about it anymore. Others mix and match various spiritual practices, from sage smudging and tarot decks to Christmas carols and Buddhist mindfulness practices, organizing their religions the same way they organize their Instagram feeds.
In his book 2020 Strange Rites: New Religions for a Godless World, Tara Isabella Burton calls these people the “religiously remixed”. In 2012 bad religionconservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat said they were a “nation of heretics”.
What are people saying?
Atheist biologist and polemicist Richard Dawkins saw Gallup’s findings as a reminder of how far we still have to go before we get to the secular future he envisions. “Eighty-one percent may be ‘a new low,’ but it’s still incredibly high,” Dawkins wrote on Twitter.
Substacker Jamie Paul argues that Dawkins and his fellow New Atheists won their debates in the 2000s and early 2010s and are now enjoying the fruits of what turned out to be a Pyrrhic victory. “[J]As the new atheism faded in 2013, Paul writes, we saw the beginnings of what we now recognize as social justice or awakening. , moral certainty, confession, being part of something greater, ecstatic revivalism, the eternal struggle of good against evil – and above all, meaning and purpose.”
Prominent atheists like John McWhorter – whose latest book is called Racism Awakens: How a New Religion Betrayed Black America – and Sam Harris made similar observations. So does Eastern Orthodox writer and YouTuber Jonathan Pageau. “Religion is inevitable, and we’re seeing it come back in very strange ways…you’ll have people kneeling in front of the shrine of a man who was killed by the police and putting a halo on his head,” Pageau said. in a video, referencing the George Floyd protests.
In an opinion piece for Fox News, David Marcus argues that despite the decline in belief in God, Christianity could still make a comeback in the American public square. “Our nation’s past is marked by great revivals, or religious revivals, the first in the middle of the 18th century, the last lasting roughly from 1960 to 1980,” he wrote.
As reasons why religious Americans remain optimistic, Marcus pointed to the country’s relatively high rate of belief compared to other countries – “[i]In some European countries, “the percentage of believers” is in the 50% Kennedy v. Bremerton School District. The court is expected to rule in favor of former assistant soccer coach Joseph Kennedy, who was fired by the district for praying on the field after games.
Marcus also argues that science and secularism can never hope to completely replace religion. “[T]these, he writes, are questions that only God can answer – about our souls, about death, about our meaning. Americans are still asking these questions, and I suspect they will be for a long, long time.”