Fastest growing religious belief isn't.
The New York Times has an interesting report on Spanish-speaking immigrants and religion. Apparently the level of religiousity drops significantly when these people move to the United States.
One reason is outlined by one immigrant from Guatemala who said he went to church every Sunday prior to immigrating but now his family no longer does so. “We pray to God when we feel the need to but when we come here to America we don’t feel the need.”
The report, from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Hispanic Center found that 8 percento Spanish-speaking residents of the US say that they have “no religion” which is close to the 11% of Americans in general who say the same. (Among young people in America the percentage of non-religious is now 20%.)
One difference for the immigrants is that two-thirds of the now non-religious say they were previously religious.
But a larger survey of Spanish-speaking Americans found that there has been a dramatic decrease in religiosity in recent years. In 1990 it was found that 6 percent said they were non-religious but the new survey by the American Religion Indentification Survey puts the number at 13 percent. This survey shows non-religious Americans as being 15% of the population.
And while the totally non-religious are a relatively small percentage a much larger percentage have dropped religion in its traditional form, that is they don’t attend church or affiliate with a religious body though they still think of themselves as Christians. These people are secular in everything but name.
One Catholic priest admitted: “My fear is the strength of secularization, the influence of Americanized pop culture. Is the spiritual tradition of the church, Catholic and Protestant, strong enough to withstand the secularizing cultural influences?”
The American Religion Identification Survey found that the fastest growing religious indentification “in absolute as well as in percentage terms has been among those adults who do not subscribe to any religious identification; their number has more than doubled from 14.3 million in 1990 to 29.4 million in 2001; their proportion has grown from just eight perent of the total in 1990 to over fourteen percent in 2001. It might be even higher since there was also a dramatic increase in the number of people who refused to answer the question, from 2 percent in 1990 to 5 percent in 2001.
One interesting statistic, which we have found repeated in numerous other studies, shows that the more fundamentalist an individual the more likely they are to have a failed marriage. While 9% of people without religion are divorced or separated the figures are higher for fundamentalists: 12% for Baptists, 14% for Pentecostals, 10% for Assemblies of God and 11% for Seventh Day Adventists.
Another interesting statistic is the coversion rates in different groups. That is how many people were new adherent to a religion and how many left the same religion.. Catholics lost twice as many people as they converted. Baptist lost 200,000 more than they “saved”. The non-religious had 1.1 million become religious but had 6.6 million who were previously religious give up the belief. Methodists lost 1.1 million more than they gained, while Lutherans and Presbyterians each lost 100,000. Even the incessant recruitment campaigns of the Mormons didn’t do them much good. where they gained 447,000 they lost 446,000, which is hardly any growth at all.
Even in Utah the Mormons are losing the race. Few are converting in and migration to Utah is quickly changing the religious make up of the state. The 2004 count showed that 62% of the population is still Mormon but every county saw a decrease and it is expected to fall below 50% by 2030.
In fact there are vast discrepencies between the numbers the Mormoms claims to have as member and the numbers of people who claim to be Mormon. In Mexico the Mormons claim to have 850,000 members yet only 205,000 Mexicans claim to be Mormon. In Brazil the church claims to have 743,000 members but only 200,000 claim to belong. The Mormons say 91,000 New Zealanders are members of the church but only 40,000 Kiwis say they belong. Membership is the UK is supposedly 177,000 but 62,000 define themselves as Mormon, in Germany the number of self-identified Mormons is only one-third the number the church claims. In fact it is pretty common for the church to claim members which are 300% to 400% higher than what people themselves say.