Americans are growing less religious, but more tolerant, recent research published on Tuesday, November 3, has shown.
The 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study was conducted by the Pew Research Center, by interviewing 35,071 Americans between June 4 and September 30, in 2014.
The first half of the report was actually released in May, and revealed that the Christian population in the United States has decreased significantly in a period of 7 years, as the Protestant majority has dwindled.
In contrast, there has been a rise of 6.7% in the percentage of those who declare themselves agnostic or atheist. The proportion of these “nones”, who have no affiliation with any particular religion, has reached almost 22.8%, being surpassed only by those who are evangelicals (25.4%).
Now, this second half of the research provides greater insight into religious beliefs and practices encountered i the United States. It has been discovered that the number of people who are “absolutely certain” of God’s existence has decreased by 8%, from 71% in 2007 to 63% in 2014.
Moreover, just 77% of the subjects included in the study declared themselves to be “religiously affiliated”, a drop of 6% since the previous survey carried out 8 years ago.
This downward trend may be linked with the fact that population has been aging, and older believers have passed away, while Millennials, who are more likely to be in the “none” category, have become more numerous.
On the other hand, those who consider themselves as closely associated with a certain religious group have remained as loyal and committed as they were before.
Approximately two thirds of the participants who were religiously affiliated declared that they place great emphasis on faith. Also, 88% of these adults mentioned that they pray regularly, on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
This percentage has remained steady since 2007, and similarly unchanged is also the rate of those who attend religious service once or twice a month (around 60%).
“People who say they have a religion – which is still the vast majority of the population – show no discernible dip in levels of observance”, declared Alan Cooperman, Pew’s director of religious research.
Other types of religious engagement have actually become stronger recently, which suggests that secularization isn’t actually as potent as previously thought.
For example, 46% of the surveyed individuals have said that faith should be employed to “preserve traditional believes and practices” in the ever-changing contemporary world.
The number of people who hold this opinion has grown in the last few years, and there is also a more significant proportion of people who share their religion with others, who read the Scriptures on a regular basis, and who periodically take part in small group prayers or Bible study.
Moreover, among Jews, liberal Protestants and Roman Catholics, the level of religious commitment has remained the same, or has increased marginally.
Another important aspect analyzed by the study was tolerance towards the LGBT community. It was revealed that across all religions there is a much more positive attitude towards same-sex couples than it had been reported in the prior study.
Religiously unaffiliated people have the highest degree of acceptance towards homosexuals (83%), Catholics have increased their support significantly (from 58% to 70%), and evangelical Protestants have also become more favorable to this community (from 26% to 26%).
Even religious groups who were more frequently associated with homophobic tendencies appear to have become less vocal, and a possible explanation is the growing influence of the younger generation.
Researchers also analyzed the impact of spirituality on people’s lives, and discovered that as individuals become less likely to adhere to a certain religion, they get more attached to the metaphysical world.
Around 6 in 10 respondents declared they frequently experience a “deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being”, and a growing number of participants say they have felt “deep sense of wonder” when thinking about the vastness of the universe.
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