Personally, I’m NOT into religion, even though I grew up Catholic and was an altar girl for years. That said, I am, fascinated by “future of religion” predictions.
The big takeaway for me from the latest study in Religion News is that although more people are drifting away from religion, its sociocultural impact is huge. Religion is intertwined with politics, race, money, the arts and fashion (the Heavenly Bodies show at the MET in 2018 was spectacular). I am especially intrigued by what Kanye West is up to with his “Sunday Services” – I mean who’s not going to be at least a tiny bit curious about what that all means?
5 trends, in particular, from Religion News caught my attention.
1. The rise of the “nones” (Source: Ryan Burge, professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University)
By 2029, the so-called “nones” will be larger than any other religious group.
The two other large religious groups in the United States (evangelicals and Catholics) will each make up about 22% of the U.S. population.
Mainline Protestants, i.e. United Methodists and Episcopalians are on the outs. They make up about 10% of Americans currently, but by 2030, their numbers will dwindle to just under 5%. A stunning reversal considering that in 1976 they made up 30% of the population.
American culture and politics will slowly begin to change as the “nones” continue to rise.
Scroll down for more.
2. A post-white Christian America hits the polls (Source: Robert P. Jones, CEO/founder Public Religion Research Institute)
The 2010s witnessed two remarkable trends that transformed America’s religious landscape.
#1: The U.S. crossed a major demographic milestone, moving from being a majority white Christian nation to one without any religious or racial majority. At the start of the decade, 53% of Americans identified as white and Christian; today that number is 42%.
#2: Attitudes about LGBTQ relationships and rights have shifted dramatically.
In 2010, 48% of Americans supported same-sex marriages while most major religious groups were divided on the issue.
By 2019, support for same-sex marriage among the general public jumped to 66%. Only white evangelical Protestants strongly oppose same-sex marriage (71%).
If the 2010s was the decade of transformation, the 2020s will be the decade of reckoning with change.
Because white Christians vote at higher rates than other Americans, the ripple effects of these tectonic changes in the general population haven’t yet reached the ballot box.
2008 was the last presidential election year when white Christians were still a majority among the general population (and interestingly, they overwhelmingly voted for Obama).
White Christians will likely remain the majority of voters in 2020. But in 2024, that will change dramatically based on demographics.
This new reality will impact partisan politics, particularly the calculus of future Republican presidential candidates.
Currently, the GOP base is about 70% white and Christian. The more tightly President Donald Trump ties the party to this shrinking and graying base, the longer the road to victory will be in 2024 for the Republican nominee, who by necessity must create a broader, younger and more racially diverse coalition. However, if you look at the Democratic lineup for president, it’s not exactly a picture of diversity either.
3. The religious left is here to stay (Source: Patrick Horn, Religion Communicators Council, Board of Governors)
The proliferation of digital platforms may be contributing to rising social alienation and the decline of religious affiliation especially for mainline Protestant Christianity.
However, 53% of the religious “nones“ believe in a higher power, if not God. As such, there has been a complementary rise in “alternative spirituality” such as astrology, New Age beliefs, esotericism/occultism, and yoga or Eastern philosophies.
The religious rhetoric and woo-woo of Democratic presidential candidates show that there is a definite “religious left” and new moral majority that is more concerned about environmental stewardship and migrants than pot smokers and gay sex. Their symbolic gestures and bold social agenda will strongly influence future headlines, legislation and business.
“Alternative spirituality” and inclusive opportunities for social justice will increasingly be expressed through the interfaith movement and such groups as the United Religions Initiative, which is active in over 110 countries, has over 20 million participants and is expected to reach 100 million people soon.
4. Jews prepare for a new and difficult year (Source: Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin, award-winning column Martini Judaism)
This past year has seen the rapid acceleration of anti-Semitic incidents — both in Europe and in the United States. The social contract, complete with an immune system that guarded against the excesses of hate, has vanished.
For American Jews, this is something for which nothing in their experience has prepared them.
More disconcerting: With the exception of certain major cities, synagogue affiliation rates are dropping. With a shrinking sense of religious community — less communal Velcro — young Jews, and others, will be less prepared to meet the external challenges they will face.
But while synagogues might be shrinking, alternative kinds of communities are growing. The number of Jewish startups, and the energy within them, is admirable. The Jewish arts are also experiencing a new vitality.
However, all the experts predict that the 2020 election cycle will foment more hate than unity. How will society face that challenge?
5. Religious differences as national identity (Source: Mark Silk, professor, Study of Religion in Public Life, Trinity College)
During the next decade, the overarching story will be the ideological importance of religion in the domestic politics of nation-states.
This includes the suppression of Muslim minorities in Myanmar and China, the Modi government’s effort to define India as a Hindu state and the embrace of Eastern Orthodoxy in Russia.
In the U.S., partisan conflict over religious rights and values continues to intensify.
Increasingly, differences over religion lie at the core of the politics of national identity.
Simran Jeet Singh at NYU’s Center for Religion and Media, similarly writes about the “troubling trend of backlash against the freedom of religion in what are ostensibly democracies, driven by nationalist sentiment.”
He notes that the phenomenon of religious nationalism and ethno-nationalism has increased steadily over the past decade and has boiled over all across the world. This is our new normal, and it has profound consequences for societies that have drawn their strength and prosperity from pluralism and diversity.
If you’re still with me, you will undoubtedly be interested in checking out Religion News for these expert predictions in their entirety. Link here.
Even though I am not a believer myself, I do find religion a fascinating topic because it’s infiltrated every aspect of our lives.
That said, and perhaps because of my strict Catholic school upbringing, I give religion a wide berth. Not for me personally.