by John Ortberg
Snapshot: The recently released American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) indicates that faith is going down across the board. The number of people who identify themselves as Christian has decreased by 11 percent in a generation. The single fastest-growing category when it comes to religious affiliation is "None," which grew from 8 percent to 15 percent since 1990.
The "Nones" are the single biggest group in the state of Vermont, at 34 percent of the state's population. And "None" was the only religious category to grow in all 50 states.
One of the other fastest growing categories is "Don't Know/confused." (You can supply your own mainline humor here. In fact, the "two-party system" of evangelical versus mainline Christianity that I grew up with is collapsing. In an ironic return to Reformation language, in the United States "evangelical" will soon be synonymous with "Protestant.")
Barry Kosmin, who co-authored the survey, commented that more than ever before "people are just making up their own stories of who they are. They say, ?I'm everything. I'm nothing. I believe in myself.'" He said that faith is increasingly treated as a fashion statement that serves as a vehicle for self-expression rather than a transcendent commitment which demands costly devotion.
One respondent to a version of the story in USA Today said: "None of my friends believe in God. When the subject of religion comes up around the table, we all just mock it. It's a source of ridicule." 27 percent of Americans do not even expect a religious funeral at their death. The survey doesn't indicate how many are hoping to skip death altogether.
Snapshot: In the entertainment section of The San Francisco Chronicle recently, someone asked Mick LaSalle, the movie critic, what kind of movie will never be re-made. He answered by pointing to films like Going My Way, and forties films that starred Bing Crosby as a young parish priest. Religion is simply no longer accepted as part of the national fabric, he said. The one kind of movie that is most unlikely to be re-made today is one that assumes faith as a kind of national backdrop.
Snapshot: I was talking to some young church leaders recently about how, twenty years ago, if someone wanted to look for a model of what an effective church might look like in the future, they would generally go to a place like Willow Creek or Saddleback. But these younger leaders said it was no longer apparent where they should go to see what church might look like in another twenty years.
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