The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has just published a massive new report detailing the shape (or lack thereof) of the religious landscape in America. You can check out the results for yourself, here, but the primary feature that emerges from the analysis is turmoil, which confirms the views I expressed earlier, here. Unsurprisingly, Americans are overwhelmingly unsatisfied with the religions of their youth: “roughly 44% of adults have either switched religious affiliation, moved from being unaffiliated with any religion to being affiliated with a particular faith, or dropped any connection to a specific religious tradition altogether.” Also unsurprisingly, Americans are increasingly dissatisfied with religion in general: “those Americans who are unaffiliated with any particular religion have seen the greatest growth in numbers as a result of changes in affiliation.”
Why should these results not come as a surprise? Well, if you believe as I do that humans are uncomfortable with beliefs that are not supported by their daily experience, and that most actions are motivated by the desire to relieve discomfort, then the inexorable drift in the marketplace of ideas will be towards the truth, which is, in this case, that we inhabit a godless universe.
To be sure this movement towards acceptance of reality is an unsteady march, but then again, there are still people out there hunting sasquach and buying HD-DVD players. The only difference is that we can already openly laugh at the bigfoot brigade, while we might have a few years yet to go before politicians claiming an intimate relationship with a magical sky fairy are booed off stage. However, given the exponential growth in knowledge and access to that knowledge, that day might be even closer than we imagine.