Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Day

In case you forgot, today is NOT March 1, but that rare date of February 29. For those of you who only get a birthday every four years, happy birthday! Feb 29 is a day that reminds us (as if we needed reminding) of the calendrical difficulties of basically almost all civilizations (except the Mayans) to create an annual calendar that matches the solar year (at least for those who tried).

So, for example, the Egyptians attempted a 365-day solar calendar. And, it is increasingly becoming evident that the pre-Hasmonean calendar in Second Temple Judaism was also probably solar, as was the calendar of the Dead Sea sectarians of only 364 days, replaced by (most likely) the Hasmoneans by the distinctive luni-solar calendar. The 364-day calendar must have had some sort of leap-recalibration to keep the seasonal festivals to match their respective seasons, although there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever of this.

It is also a reminder (again, as if we needed reminding) that this is an election year. Really, like we needed to give this year's candidates ANOTHER day to campaign. Haven't they campaigned enough?

So happy leap day!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

U.S. Religious Landscape, Part 2: Changing Affiliations

I continue to be fascinated by the Pew Forum's survey on the U.S. Religious Landscape. I am currently working through the chapter on changing religious affiliations. It primarily measures net gains and losses of different groups (which means that groups that have a net loss, are also gaining adherents but not enough to offset their losses, and vice versa).

In terms of major traditions, more than one of four Americans (28%) have changed their affiliation from that which they were born in. If you consider those who change within a tradition (so, from one Protestant group to another, or going from Orthodox to REform Judaism, etc.), you end up with a number like 44% of Americans changing their religious affiliation from that which they were born in.

Clearly Americans are on the move religiously. But who is winning and losing out? Evidently, the largest religious group (or the group gaining the greatest percentage increase in adherents) is "unaffiliated." That's right. This group contains former Catholics, Jews, Hindus, Protestants. So the tradition that is gaining the most adherents seems to be that amorphous tradition of "no tradition."

Non-Denominational Protestants show huge growth as well: tripling in size due to religious migration.

Many groups have shown loss, but the biggest net loss of all religious groups in the U.S. is among Catholics. According to the survey, 31.4% of adults say they were raised as Catholics, but only 23.9% of them identify as Catholic today, showing a net loss of 7.5%. Note that this is a net loss. 2.6% of the U.S. population has converted to Catholicism, which means that 10.1% has converted from the Catholic Church. Catholics in the U.S. , however, have been able to maintain roughly the same numbers in gross terms due to immigration from primarily Catholic countries, especially from Central and South America. And so the changing face of one tradition is much more dynamic than a simple net loss/gain indicates.

After Catholics, the next greatest net loss is among Baptists, who have lost 3.7%.

Many groups (although perhaps not showing much net gain or loss) have a very high incoming /outgoing dynamic. so, about 2/3 of Jehovah's Witnesses were born in another tradition. They simply lose a lot of their membership as well, showing a low net gain/loss. LIkewise with teh non-affiliated (about 2/3 were born affiliated with something). And among Buddhists in the U.S. , 3/4 were born as something else.

On the other end of things, in indications of stability, despite losing so many adherents, 89% of Catholics were raised Catholic. Also 90% of Hindus were raised Hindus, and 85% of Jews were raised Jewish.

Interestingly, evangelicals have only 51% of their membership being raised evangelical. They draw a very large portio of their membership from other Protestant denominations (31%), while the balance comes from other traditions. This is actually roughly similar to the configuration of mainline protestant churches as well. Because of this Protestant trading, although they change their religious traditions and sometimes very drastically (the different between the SBC and the UCC are HUGE), 80% of those raised as some sort of Protestant, stay within some sort of Protestant tradition.

While nearly all people who join a Protestant group came from another Protestant group, this survey finds that 1 out of 10 protestants were raised CAtholic. Where are those who were former Protestants going? Mostly to "unaffiliated." In fact, former Protestants make up nearly half of the unaffiliated group, and former Catholics about a fourth.

What I find interesting is the demographics of conversion. Amogn men, women, all ages and all classes and all levels of education, the percentage of conversion is in the 40s, except amogn Latinos (35%) and Asians (37%) on one hand, and those who claim mixed racial ancestry (54%) on teh other. The differences are rather on what type of conversion one undergoes. The younger one is, it seems, the more one is willing to go further outside of one's tradition (so from Protestant Christianity to Buddhism, etc.), while older converts change to more comparable trditions (like from one protestant denomination to another).

Another issue is religiously mixed marriages. 27% of married adults married someone from another religious tradition (and if you include Protestants who married a different type of Protestant, 37%). This also tends to be more and more common among younger married couples. On the other hand, Hindus (90%), Mormons (83%), Catholics (78%), and Jews (69%) are the most likely to stay within their own tradition. 81% of Protestants are married to other Protestants, but only 63% of those are within their same PRotestant group. Unaffiliated are more likely to marry someone who is affiliated with something than with another unaffiliated person.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

U.S. Religious Landscape

If you haven't already seen it, check out the Pew Forum's new Survey on the U.S. Religious Landscape here.

You can compare various demographic aspects of different religious groups in the U.S., such as geographical distribution, economic status, gender distribution, racial distribution, and so forth.

I have yet to read the whole report, but I found the following information particularly interesting:

One aspect of note is that, not really surprisingly, evangelical Christians constitute the largest religious group (or group of groups) in the U.S. at 26.3% (and of those, the largest groups are the Baptists at 10.8% of the entire U.S. population). What I had not realized is that the second largest group is Catholics 23.9%. And so, taken together, evangelicals and Catholics constitute roughly half of the U.S. population. Evangelicals have a higher percentage in the southern states, while Catholics seem to be relatively evenly spread out.

Evidently, Hindus have the highest marital percentage at 79% and the lowest number of current non-married divorced rate at only 5%.

For all of this information and more, be sure to check out the survey. I also hear that there is some interesting information about changing religious affiliations in the full report (which I have not read yet), such as rates of people joining and/or leaving particular religious groups (evidently around 1/3 of people who were raised Catholic no longer consider themselves Catholic and so forth).