The percentage. of people who call themselves in some way Christian has dropped more than 11% in a generation. The faithful have scattered out of their traditional bases: The Bible Belt is less Baptist. The Rust Belt is less Catholic. And everywhere, more people are exploring spiritual frontiers —- or falling off the faith map completely.
These dramatic shifts in just 18 years are detailed in the new American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), to be released today. It finds that, despite growth and immigration that has added nearly 50 million adults to the U.S. population, almost all religious denominations have lost ground since the first ARIS survey in 1990.
I am very surprised at the number of people who are telling me that they are finding these results surprising.
Look, people, we know all this already. The Moral Majority was never a majority. Multiculturalists won the culture wars. The so-called "clash of civilizations" was a scam-framing through which one marginal fundamentalist sect sought to prevail over another marginal fundamentalist sect. People's declarations of faith don't necessarily impact their deeper secularist practices and intuitions about decent treatment of the diversity of their peers. Ignorance of evolution is like ignorance about the nutritional impact of a popsickle and does not necessarily indicate the desire of a majority of Americans to live in a Christianist theocratic dictatorship even if the people who like to act as spokesmodels for these ignoramuses on broadcast media outlets want to live in a Christianist theocratic dictatorship (so long as I get to be the dictator, heh heh). And so on.
I get it. Maybe you are from a small town full of dumb hayseeds. Maybe your family's bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, and anti-intellectualism caused you great pain growing up. And then maybe you went to college or moved to the big city, and overcame all that, possibly in one ecstatic joyful illumination or possibly through a painful series of discoveries and personal reckoning. I don't know, whatever happened that consolidated your sense of yourself as a secular democratic progressive devoted to an environmentally sustainable tolerant planetary multiculture and so on, most of us have versions of these stories we can tell.
But you need to understand that your dumb parents or your dumb childhood suburb or hick-town are not America. America left that small town with you, America overcame that insular bigoted idiocy when you did. You are America. You didn't leave America, America became you.
Mainstream media hasn't quite grasped this, and if you were surprised by the new American Religious Identification Survey results then maybe you haven't quite grasped it yet either. Thank heavens Obama grasped it, and acted accordingly. It made him President and possibly saved our skins.
America is becoming day by day by day an ever more diverse, secular, urban, pragmatic, convivial multiculture.
Please make a note of it, get used to it, and act accordingly.