Both jittery church goers and smug atheists are making too much out of that Pew poll revealing that a fifth of the U.S. public, and a third of adults under 30, aren't affiliated with any religion today, a 15 percent increase in the past five years:
The survey reveals neither a “tsunami of secularism,” which Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., spokesman for the bishops synod, fears is bearing down on organized religion, nor a triumphant upsurge of “godless” atheists who revere Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Despite the rise in the religiously unaffiliated, for example, Pew also found that more than two-thirds of those people believe in God. What’s out there instead is a nation of people who, like most people in most nations in the developed West, acknowledge faith as a positive human urge but are increasingly, and not too surprisingly, turned off by the often archaic institutions that claim to represent faith.
Little irony there, huh? At a time when atheists are getting more organized (the better to get public attention), more of the faithful are leaving their organizations. Level playing field, what?
The story fails to mention what to me seems an obvious point. It's not just organized religion that is losing members who want to explore their faith on their own. People are discarding, or at least beginning to greatly disturst, the middlemen gatekeepers in all sorts of endeavors, including my own news and information field. This is the great DIY era in which thinking and doing for oneself are prized more and more every day.