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.