Religious Demographics

December 26, 2009

The recently-released American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) contains interesting data about religious trends in the United States. If you’re curious about how many Americans believe in magic, which particular magicians they patronize, and whether business is up or down for various magicians, read on.

Religion Population 2008 (millions) % of 1990 Population % of 2008 Population Change
11.8 2.30% 5.20% 126.09%
Eastern 2 0.40% 0.90% 125.00%
Muslim 1.4 0.30% 0.60% 100.00%
None 34.2 8.20% 15.00% 82.93%
New Age 2.8 0.80% 1.20% 50.00%
Protestant 7.1 2.60% 3.10% 19.23%
Pentecostal 8 3.20% 3.50% 9.38%
Mormon 3.2 1.40% 1.40% 0.00%
Christian Generic 32.4 14.80% 14.20% -4.05%
Catholic 57.2 26.20% 25.10% -4.20%
Baptist 36.1 19.30% 15.80% -18.13%
29.4 18.70% 12.90% -31.02%
Jewish 2.7 1.80% 1.20% -33.33%

Note: Christian generic includes non-denominational, unspecified Christian and Protestant, evangelical/born-again. Protestant denominations includes Churches of Christ, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Seventh-day Adventist. Mainline Protestant includes Methodists, Lutherans, and Presbyterians. Note that all data refer to adults (18+)

I admit to being a demographics geek. Changes over time in the number of people who exist, where they live, what they believe, how much money and education they have, etc., are fascinating. And many of the trends you see in these numbers are as inexorable as the tides. They will rise or fall no matter what you do, so you’d best prepare for it.

Today’s demographics have to do with religion. I’m not a believer. Please, no appeals regarding the perils to my mortal soul. Even if you are right, I’d rather be in hell with Hunter Thompson than heaven with Jerry Falwell. But I do pay attention to market trends in religion, since it appears to me that religion is behind more than its fair share of the ills in this world.

Keep in mind that the US adult population grew from 175 million in 1990 to 228 million in 2008. I’ve done some math where necessary but, if you don’t believe me, you can go get the original report and do your own numbers. Some observations about the data above:

The numbers above count only adults. The increase in adult population amounts to about 30% over the past 18 years. So, if you look at the last column in the above table (Change), any group that shows a change of less than +30% is losing ground. Their share of the total adult population is less than it was 18 years ago. And if the change for a group is -30% or more, not only are they losing market share but they also are losing numbers of members despite the growth in population.

Notice that the biggest increase was “No response,” up 126%. When asked about their religious affiliation, the number of people who said they “didn’t know” or refused to answer more than doubled.

Another cohort that nearly doubled in size were those who said “None,” up 83%.

Personally, I think the group that answered “No response” is comprised of atheists,  agnostics, and skeptics who still stand in some fear of the propaganda they were fed as children. I count them with those who answered “None.” Thus it might appear that there are 46 million Americans, or 20% of all adults who do not believe in god. This conclusion would be wrong. While somewhere around 20% of American adults have no formal religious affiliation, only 12% of Americans describe themselves as atheists or agnostics. Good data are hard to come by, but it appears that the percentage of atheists/agnostics in the US population hasn’t changed much over the past 50 years. That is, even though more Americans than ever deny any church affiliation, somewhere around 86-88% claim to believe in god.

What has changed are the percentage and numbers in the population who do not connect themselves with any organized religious group. In the past 18 years this group has jumped in size from 18 million to 46 million, increasing from 10% of the population to 20%.

The losers: Every major religious group in the country from the Catholics to mainstream Protestants have lost market share. Only a few New Age and Eastern religions have shown real growth and all together they account for less than 4% of the population. The real losers are the Jews and mainstream Protestants. Despite population growth, the number of Jews has declined by half a million and the number of mainstream Protestants  by three and a half million.

Biggest surprise: The Mormons. Mormon market share (1.4%) has not changed a bit in 18 years. This is particularly surprising given that Mormons have larger than average-sized families and that every year they send tens of thousands of young men into American communities to recruit new members. One has to conclude that the Mormons must have a high rate of drop outs.

So what does all this mean to you? Make your own choices about religion but, in these hard economic times, you would be wise to join a religion with a low or negative growth rate. Sure, they may hit you up to help out with their budget problems but that will cost you a lot less than contributing to the building fund of some growing Pentecostal church.


1990 Pages – Only “Two Small Parts” Remain for Debate

November 4, 2009

The press would give you the impression that all that remains to be hammered out in the 1,990-page health care bill are two “small parts of the legislation,” funding for abortions and funding for illegal immigrants.

Neither of these issues is small, particularly since the country seems to be divided just about down the middle on both matters. (It is worth noting that the country is divided down the middle on most things these days—this is the biggest reason we’re getting nothing done on nuclear security, terrorism, health care, energy policy, education, illegal immigration, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, taxes, or anything else that is of real concern to voters).

Abortion Funding

[picapp src=”3/b/0/5/Obama_Makes_Contentious_3342.jpg?adImageId=7121798&imageId=4812588″ width=”234″ height=”155″ /]

The cost of a first-trimester abortion is pretty cheap considering the cost of most medical procedures in the United States. Prices range from $90 to $1800, with the average about $430. Wait until the second trimester and costs double or triple—high, but still less than 5 grand.

Abortion probably is the worst possible means of birth control but for those whose situation is such that they seriously are considering an abortion it is arguably the best choice for them and for the rest of us. The produce of unwanted pregnancies have much higher than average chances of suffering everything from child abuse to criminal convictions. Nothing we’ve tried over the past 50 years has done much to ameliorate the the social and economic problems associated with unwanted children. Economically, abortion costs far less than 1% of what it would cost to raise the child to adulthood.

If the above calculus of birth vs. abortion upsets you, I apologize. If this is a religious or moral issue for you, fine. Get the members of your church together and from among them, raise the $250,000 or so that it’s going to cost to see each of these fetuses to adulthood. And you’d also better be prepared to find homes and good foster parents for them because the odds are their birth mothers are ill equipped to raise children and don’t really want them. Else, why would they have considered an abortion in the first place?

“Adoption Not Abortion” is is a hypocritical slogan of mammoth proportions. Think about it. The greatest opposition to abortion is from the Religious Right. The greatest opposition to government intervention in the lives of individuals also seems to come from the Religious Right. Yet the Religious Right has no qualms about trying to prohibit abortion at every turn and then expecting all taxpayers (rather than just those who believe in Magic and Hell) to suffer the social and economic consequences.

This current health care bill is one of the worst ideas to come out of Washington in years but, if they stick it down our throats, it had better cover abortions. Otherwise I would suggest that the mothers of these unwanted infants leave them on the doorstep of your local pentecostal churches. If you think abortion is a problem that must be solved lest our mortal souls fry in Hell, then make it YOUR duty to solve it.

Illegal Immigrants

erIt isn’t going to make much difference whether illegal immigrants are covered by this bill or not. In fact, we might actually SAVE MONEY by providing free health care to illegal immigrants. Why? Because most of them, if they really are ill, go to an emergency room. They know that they cannot be denied care and that the ER staff are prohibited by law from reporting them to the authorities.

Emergency room care is expensive to deliver but hospitals cannot deny it to anyone, regardless of citizenship or financial means. When a patient shows up with a complaint, the hospital is obligated to diagnose the patient and stabilize him. It probably would be a lot cheaper for a government-run health program to cover illegals by paying for a physician’s office visit and a prescription.

The real problem with illegal immigrants is not the cost of their health care. We all know that something has to be done about illegal immigration before it destroys ever larger portions of our country. But Obama and the Congress refuse to act until “we solve the critical issue of health care.” What they’re really doing is holding us taxpayers hostage, telling us that they won’t even talk about illegals until we go along with their health care proposals. Then they’ll “talk.”

The “talk” won’t result in much of anything except to ensure that illegal immigrants are counted in the 2010 census and that they are registered to vote in time for the fall Congressional elections. The only thing likely to change between now and next November is that Congress and the press will finally have the balls to refer to illegal immigrants as “Undocumented Democrats.”