Americans and religion

Americans and religion

: A new Gallup poll on Americans and religion says:

: Eighty-eight percent of Americans say it is OK to say merry Christmas “as a way to spread holiday cheer.”

: Of those who do not identify with a Christian religion, 79 percent say it’s OK to say Merry Christmas.

: Asked which greeting they would use with someone they just met, 41 percent said they’d say happy holidays while 56 percent said they’d say merry Christmas.

: Asked whether they’re upset with the shift from merry Christmas to more secular greetings, there’s a split: 44 percent said it’s a change for the better, 43 percent for the worse.

: Regardless of religious affiliation, 96 pecent of Americans celebrate Christmas. Four out of 10 Americans say they attend religious services on a regular basis.

: Eight-four percent of Americans identify themselves as Christian. Another five percent are affiliated with nonChristian religions.

“Religion is very important to about 6 out of 10 Americans, while another quarter say that religion is fairly important in their lives. Only 16% of Americans in 2004 said that religion was not very important to them. This measure of the personal importance of religion to one’s daily life has not changed much during the last decade.”

What does that say to those who argue that Republicans are the religious ones? Yes, the poll finds that Republicans are more likely to attend church than Democrats or independents. But they didn’t get 84 percent of the vote.

: Among the 9 percent who say they have no religious affiliation are agnostic or atheist, “tend to be politically liberal, Democrats, independents, younger, living in the West, students, and those who are living with someone without being married.” In short: Berkeley.

: Protestantism is fading. Young people, 18 to 29, are the least likely to attend church overall. Among Protestants, only 37 percent of 18 to 29s identify themselves as Protestant vs. 63 percent for those age 65 and older.

: SEPARATELY: See this report about the International Bible Society sponsoring the distribution of New Testaments in the Colorado Springs Gazette. There’s a supposed controversy about this. I don’t know why. There are ads for churches and synagogues in every paper. I get plenty of advertising that doesn’t relate to me; if this doesn’t relate to you, then ignore it. I agree with Tom Rosenstiel:

Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a Washington research organization affiliated with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, disagreed.

“I think there is a free speech issue here,” Mr. Rosenstiel said. “I think this is one of the things about newspapers: they deliver you everything. If a newspaper is open to all, I don’t understand the issue here. Are we frightened of having this in our house? Should people of one religion not read the scriptures of another? We can’t neuter our society.”

The problem, from a press perspective, is that reporters are forever on the lookout for someone who is going to be “offended” and that becomes a story: “Some Jews and Muslims said getting the New Testament with the Sunday paper felt like being proselytized in their homes. Journalism critics debated whether this was free speech or skating too close to an endorsement of a particular religion.” But, in fact, only five people canceled subscriptions over this — far fewer than when a cartoon is dropped, the publisher said.

This shows how the press encourages our culture of complaint, our society of offense.

  • Angelos

    If I don’t care about the New Testament, I throw it away with the other 5 pounds of circulars and ads. I don’t complain.
    But “taking offense”, and PC oppression, is an industry in and of itself, and thus it makes news, especially on a slow news day.
    This brings to mind the Sports Illustrated subscribers who are somehow surprised when a magazine full of practically naked women appears in their mailbox in February. There is nothing more entertaining that the Letters to the Editor section of SI in one of the March issues, with all the complaint letters. Hey, MORON, every issue from December through January has a big disclaimer, offering you the option to NOT receive the swimsuit issue. I guess it’s easier to write an indignant letter than to call an 800 number.

  • Quentin

    Another poll I found in a European newspaper, which was taken, in 2002, and published by John Micklethwalt and Adrian Woddridge, authors of ‘The right nation: conservative power in America’, from which I think the paper took it.
    Religion plays a very big part in my life. Yes.
    U.S. – nearly 60%
    U.K. – 30-35 %
    Italy – 25-30 %
    Germany – 20-22 %
    France – 10-12 %
    The differences between the U.S. and the European countries are startling. Can anyone explain this to me?

  • Angelos

    The European responders tend to answer yes more accurately. They’ll only answer “yes” if they attend services regularly, for example.
    I really want to know how may of the 60% or 84% in the US actually attend church 3-4 Sundays a month.
    How many weddings have I been to for the full 45+ minute Catholic service, but the kids just did it to please the parents or to get the priest to perform the ceremony? If 20% of those couple attend church other than at Easter or Christmas, I’d be surprised.
    America is a shallow, marketing- and image-driven society that worships money more than god. OF COURSE people will answer a survey “yes”, if “yes” is the “right” answer, regardless of the reality.

  • Patricia

    Amen, Jeff, encouraging people to act like little kids on a playground will solve every complaint!
    Here’s a last lovely word on it all from a local college professor.
    Christmas essay
    Merry Christmas to all! Thanks for an enjoyable year of posts, Jeff.

  • If those moral misfits who dislike this and that are labelled “Berkeley,” then, pray (ha) tell should we call “the rest”? Mississippi?

  • I’m always amazed at the number of folks who wish me a Merry Christmas. Some of whom I’d never have thought would be “Merry Christmas” people.

  • bklyngirl

    Amen Angelos. Unless you define “regularly” as attending church on the major holidays, I would bet that the number is nowhere near as high as the poll says.
    As for the generalization about agnostics/atheists – well I am an atheist. I am also a politically conservative, registered Libertarian, independent, 40-year old, living in New York City, working full-time and married with a child. (Sorry – did I ruin the little “Berkeley” stereotype there?) Incidentally, I also voted for George W. Bush – so make of that what you will. What a shame that we can’t all be placed into nice neat little boxes so that we can continue to try and easily dismiss whole parts of the population all together.