The Fast Pace Secularization of USA Population

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Op-Ed: Why America’s record godlessness is good news for the nation

Source: Los Angeles Times

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By Phil Zuckerman, who is associate dean of Pitzer College and author of “Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment.”

The secularization of U.S. society — the waning of religious faith, practice and affiliation — is continuing at a dramatic and historically unprecedented pace. While many may consider such a development as cause for concern, such a worry is not warranted. This increasing godlessness in America is actually a good thing, to be welcomed and embraced.

Democratic societies that have experienced the greatest degrees of secularization are among the healthiest, wealthiest and safest in the world, enjoying relatively low rates of violent crime and high degrees of well-being and happiness. Clearly, a rapid loss of religion does not result in societal ruin.

For the first time since Gallup began tracking the numbers in 1937, Americans who are members of a church, synagogue or mosque are not in the majority, according to a Gallup report released this week. Compare today’s 47% to 1945, when more than 75% of Americans belonged to a religious congregation.

This decline in religious affiliation aligns closely with many similar secularizing trends. For example, in the early 1970s, only one in 20 Americans claimed “none” as their religion, but today it is closer to one in three. Over this same time period, weekly church attendance has decreased, and the percentage of Americans who never attend religious services has increased from 9% to 30%.

In 1976, nearly 40% of Americans said they believed that the Bible was the actual word of God, to be taken literally. Today only about a quarter of Americans believe that, with slightly more decreeing the Bible is simply a collection of fables, history and morality tales written by men. And the percentage of Americans who confidently believe in God’s existence, without a doubt, has declined from 63% in 1990 to 53% today.

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