Whose Religion and Whose Values


February 1, 2019

A brief reflection while thinking about family and friends under the polar vortex that grips the Midwest in a deep and dangerous freeze……

A few days ago one of my friends, during an adult discussion group, suggested that Muslims, as a growing religious group, are subverting and taking over the United States. I was dumbfounded by his remark and surprised that a few people in the group shook their heads in agreement. So to get some healthy data for my discussion group, I decided to check, via the Pew Research Center on Religion & Public Life, what is really happening religiously in the United States. There is much phony information floating around these days…..and too many people ready to believe it.

First some basic statistics and then some research observations about contemporary American (USA) values.

Statistics about USA Christians: 70.6% of the US adult population claims to be Christian. Members of the largest Christian group are Evangelical Protestants (25.4%). The second largest group are Catholics (20.8%) followed by Mainline Protestants (14.7%).

When it comes to USA non-Christians, 1.9% are Jewish, 0.9% Muslim, 0.7% Buddhist and 0.7% Hindu.

The largest, and fastest growing, non-Christian group are the Unaffiliated (the “nones”) with 22.8%.

When it comes to political ideology, 36% of adult Americans are conservative, 33% moderate, and 24% liberal. Looking at major religious groups again, 55% of Evangelical Protestants are conservative, 37% of Catholics and 37% of Mainline Protestants. Only 18% of the Unaffiliated are conservative.

When it comes to big values questions, 53% of adult Americans favor the legalization of abortion, 62% think homosexuality should be accepted, 53% favor same-sex marriage; and 57% believe the country needs stricter environmental laws and regulations.

When it comes to a belief in absolute standards for right and wrong, 64% of the adult population hold that there are no clear standards and that right or wrong depends upon the situation, with 45% saying one should just use “common sense.”

As a country the USA is a fascinating mix of religious and moral values. Perhaps it always has been. In any event, what does this mean for the 2020 presidential election? We have to ask, as well, how the US religious and moral perspective will change once the millennials and post-millennials makeup most of the American adult population? Perhaps a galactic change? (See my earlier posts about millennials and post-millennials.) Nearly half of the post-millennial group belongs to a racial or ethnic minority. The clock is ticking for white Christian American.

Regardless, Muslims are not about to take over the United States……and Americans have more important things to worry about. At the very top of that list is an unprecedented socio-cultural polarization, which fears change, glorifies ignorance, promotes fear and hatred, and galvanizes hostility: and the unthinkable becomes acceptable. Somehow we seem to have lost touch what I would call the genius of the American civic and political experience: how people with great differences and coming from a variety of backgrounds could effectively collaborate in the shared pursuit of life, liberty, and human happiness.

Yes America is going through a harsh winter; but there will be a new spring again…..

– Jack

4 thoughts on “Whose Religion and Whose Values

  1. Thank you, Jack, for setting the record straight and speaking the truth – a commodity in short supply during our nation’s “winter.” Yes, spring will come…..

      • Thank you for your insight, and the reminder about “the shared pursuit of life, liberty, and human happiness.” The emphasis is “the shared pursuit,” I think, not the attainment. The pursuit is a struggle, a striving, a forging ahead, blazing a new path, a way of being.
        In her recent essay “A New Americanism: Why a nation needs a national story,” Jill Lepore asks what would a “new American history look like?” She offers what Frederick Douglass wrote seventh-score years ago, in part: “A government founded upon justice…and the regularly ascertained will of the people…” Does this not encircle what you are saying, as much about the USA, that fractious so-called nation, as about the churches?
        Gianni Vattimo also circles around the people’s voice in terms of secularizing the gospel message of charity, wherein caritas, tenderness, is the mark of those who follow Jesus, and the trait from which justice is born. The Wide Old World, which bears the mark of the Incarnation, has yet much to teach us and “some narrow and bigoted people among ourselves,” to quote Douglass again.
        Aggiornamento, that old-fashioned term, allows for a freshening (possibly a vortex?), as much by what comes into the churches from the World, as in what goes out to the World from the churches.

  2. Thank you so much for doing the research on this issue of misinformation. I think what we also need to keep in mind is the number of generations t takes to adapt to a new culture. Especially the separation of church and state and a new economic system. This takes time and personal conversation with people. Our public schools ought to bring the parents together in the evening to share their stories. Our public schools could become welcome centers. We need to be able to speak about our faith systems in public and safely. But the religious rights’ viewpoint of others is keeping us from it. Cynthia
    Oxnard CA

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