While the Catholic Church is losing members slower than Protestant churches, that’s only because so many immigrants are themselves Catholic already. That’s one of the conclusions of the “U.S. Religious Landscape Survey,” from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, as reported in the New York Times.
What’s sad is that self-identified former Catholics make up one of the largest religious groups in the US.
According to their research, over the past generation, 44 percent of Americans have switched religious affiliations, either to another religion or denomination or to nothing at all. Of Catholics it says:
To no one’s surprise, “unaffiliated” was the biggest gainer. That the United States is becoming ever more secular and/or hostile to religious faith is fairly evident to anyone living in or near a big city or on the coasts. But it’s a spreading phenomenon.
Of course, the surveyors see it in the context of politics and similar matters. Plus, I’m not sure whether they even understand the categories they’re studying.
The rise of the unaffiliated does not mean that Americans are becoming less religious, however. Contrary to assumptions that most of the unaffiliated are atheists or agnostics, most described their religion “as nothing in particular.”
Which is, you know, what agnostic means. According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, whose definition is as good as any, it means: “A person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.” That’s pretty much someone who believes in “nothing in particular.”
They also claim that people are abandoning large, impersonal churches for more personal, intimate venues. Supposedly, mega-churches succeed not because they are large but because “they have smaller ministries inside.” Or because they offer an experience that is not hostile to the experience that many people seek, which is a religion that doesn’t require too much counter-cultural changing of their lives.
Catholics coming in the front door and out the back