Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Religion Poll

Over the past couple of days my local newspaper, The Oregonian, has published the findings from one or two religious polls taken recently. In today's paper was a small summary of where Oregonians fall within the larger poll.

In a nutshell:

The Winner: the unaffiliated. 16.1% of those surveyed say they are not affiliated with any religion, more than double the number who say they grew up in an unaffiliated household. (in other words, people are "quitting" the religion of their childhoods.) This group includes atheist (1.6%), agnostic (2.4%) and what the survey called "nothing in particular" (12.1%, although 5.8% say religion is important to them.) 25% of those ages 18-29 are unaffiliated.

The Non-Winner: the Catholic Church. More people leave Catholicism as they age than any other major religion, with one-third of those raised Catholic no longer being Catholic. While the overall percentage of Catholics held steady (25%), that was because of the large number of Catholic immigrants (1 in 3 US Catholics are Latino, as are 45% of Catholics under 30).

The Aging: Protestant denominations. 6 in 10 age 70 and older are Protestant, but that falls to 4 in 10 for those 18-29.

I find this so interesting!! See, these numbers reflect me personally. I was raised in a Catholic family, but no longer consider myself Catholic. AND, as an added bonus, I would say I now fall squarely into "unaffiliated", going so far as to say the term agnostic applies to me. It seems I am not alone.

I feel sort of bad about pulling away from that common thread of Catholicism with my family. We went to church pretty much every Sunday when I was a kid. I hated it, of course, but had to go. I pretty much just went to see who else I knew was there. I people watched. I checked out what people were wearing. I looked forward to the donuts afterward. I didn't listen to the sermon, or sing the songs, or anything. I never felt comfortable in church. Not ever. So when I was a grown up, do you think I continued attending services voluntarily? HELL NO. But, to keep the peace with the family I got married in the Catholic church, minus the communion part. Mr. Chick didn't grow up with religion and we didn't want to highlight that fact by offering communion. Plus, that just made the ceremony longer. And, we had the kids baptized. Which I think is total bullshit, but it couldn't hurt, right?

I think I declared my independence (freedom?) from religion and church in general when we didn't go to Mass on Christmas Eve. That raised a few eyebrows in my family. But I stuck to my guns, said we would just meet everyone for dinner after they got back from church, and didn't elaborate further about how I felt that attending services is a slow form of torture for me. How it makes me feel very hypocritical to go. How I struggle to understand how seemingly bright, educated, intelligent people can really believe that a supposed virgin had a divine child, celebrated in December when it's unclear if that is even the "real" birthday of Jesus (many speculate he was actually born in the summer months, but when the church was sweeping across the lands, forcing conversion, they made a few changes to better accommodate the pagens and help make their conversion easier by better matching up ceremonies, etc.). I don't buy it. Not one little bit. So going to church is clearly out of the question for me.

I prefer to tell my kids that Jesus was a very good, important man in history and Christmas is about celebrating his birthday. More of a footnote to the much more exciting elements of Christmas, like Santa. And really, the connection between celebrating Jesus' birthday and Santa never made sense to me. I like Santa better. And I'll do the same with Easter. We'll leave the religion out of it and focus on celebrating spring. Easter eggs and the Easter bunny. The fun stuff. Not the bit about celebrating that a guy dead 3 days and left in a cave suddenly came to life again and rose to heaven. No, not that. Anything but that. I have more chance of believing there really is an Easter bunny, Santa Claus, and a tooth fairy than that. The Bible reads like fictional mythology to me (not that I've ever read the whole bible - full disclosure. I attempted it once but didn't get far. But I heard the various readings during years of forced church attendance to have gotten a good taste of it, when I paid attention or was bored enough to read ahead in the missle.) Good stories and valuable lessons, but not fact.

Somehow my personal evolution (de-volution?) where religion is concerned has happened in the past few years. Slowly but surely I started really thinking about it (having kids will do this to you) and further solidified my take on it. It hasn't been easy "admitting" to this position since it so obviously goes against the grain - not only of my family (who are not fanatical Catholics, just your garden-variety, go to church on Sunday types) but of the American society at large. Not being Christian is like a fish swimming upstream. But if I'm being truly honest with myself, I'm not Catholic and I'm not even generic Christian. I'm not Jewish. I'm nothing when it comes to religion. Unaffiliated. And since I can't even say whether I believe there is a god or not, I'm even further astray by flirting with agnostic or even atheist. Can someone believe in Mother Nature? In science? That all life on this planet evolved from the primordial soup, and will continue to change and evolve long after we're gone? That when we die, we just die? We don't "go" anywhere for judgment? Oh, the horror - ! What I wish is that there didn't need to be a label for your personal views and beliefs. Why do I have to fall within one camp or the other? I know that this is a very unpopular view/stance to take. To not affiliate, even in title only, with a religion can mean isolation from the larger group. But I think it's more important to be true to yourself than to profess beliefs that you aren't completely down with, just to fit in to the larger group and feel "connected" that way.

I don't begrudge others their views and beliefs. You believe in god? Good for you! I'm glad you find happiness there. We can still be friends. Our kids can play together and we can all be cool. I don't discuss my non-beliefs with my friends - at least, I don't bring it up. If someone asked me, I would share my thoughts. But I'm not out to convert or convince others to think the way I do. To each their own. I hope we can all still play nicely in the sandbox together, even though I'm not religious and you might be. If these polls and surveys are to be trusted, I am not alone and I'm part of a growing group. I do take some satisfaction in that.

Amen! Heee...hee.. I agree with you completey. I have more to add and will do so later when I have more time.

Interesting poll, indeed. I hear what seems like a lot of people say they believe in God, but not religion, that they don't need to be in a church but that God works by starting the Big Bang, or some such. I wonder if that's the 5.8%.

Being a former Protestant convert to Catholicism, I'm in a weird place. I find that a lot of the most vocal, strong Catholics are converts and it makes me wonder what the Catholic Church goofs up while teaching the young that does a poor job holding onto members.

I'm curious -- if you were married in the Catholic Church, was part of that agreeing to raise your kids Catholic? If so, do you feel that baptizing them was your way of doing so? I'm just wondering because, especially if marrying a non-Catholic, those points seem to be a big deal around here. If you weren't ever planning to raise kids Catholic, I think that's enough to be granted an annulment if you wanted it. (I hope that doesn't come off wrong -- just trying to explain how it's brought up pre-cana here).
Amyrobynne ~ you bring up good points in calling out my personal conflict. Yes, I was married in a catholic church to a non-catholic (we got the dispensation necessary to do so), and ostensibly we agreed to raise the kids catholic. At that point - 10 yrs ago - I would have qualified myself as a "non-practicing" catholic, so it didn't rub me completely wrong or make me feel like a bald-faced liar. Having been raised catholic, I always pictured my wedding in the church as a given, not really giving it more thought than that. I hadn't begun exploring my personal issues of faith (or non-faith) yet. With the baptism, Mr. Chick was quite skeptical, but we met with the priest who explained it more as a way of welcoming the child into the church community, no longer professing the whole elimination of original sin stuff. That's the only reason he was ok with it, and we had been getting the questions from family about when the baptism would be, etc. Again, I didn't have much of a backbone then to really clearly state my own beliefs. What I think is ironic is that I was raised, technically, with more religion than my husband - who had none - and yet he's a godfather and I'm not a godmother. I view these titles as honorary and don't really expect the godparents to actually step in and begin educating our kids about the church if/when we fail to do so. If they did, they should be doing that by now since we are clearly NOT bringing up the kids with religious faith. And, I've asked myself the question about whether Mr. Chick was the "negative" influence on my perspective and how it's changed over the years, since he's always been a vague, non-believer and I was more "religious" than he was. He's never really examined or put much thought into his personal religion other to say he's not into church. I've seem to have given it more thought, have wrestled with it more deeply, and still come out where I do. I must say that it's not exactly something we discuss regularly around here, but it's nice to be on the same page. Just as if someone WAS churchy and religious would be better off with a spouse of the same persuasion, I feel that Mr. Chick and I are on the same page, essentially, so it's not a point of contention like some couples of inter-faith. Which ultimately I think makes us stronger in that we are similar there, not different.
I'm an agnostic and my husband was raised Catholic but doesn't practice religion (although he resists the word "agnostic" to describe himself). We were married by a minister (we sort of had to scrounge one up and he agreed to do it but not in his church, which was fine, because it was an outdoor ceremony at the reception site). We have three kids and have not baptized them since it felt hypocritical to do so (not judging you but we would have had to actually join a church and go through a whole charade of faith to get it done). It's really been a non-issue for us until lately. In our town almost everybody goes to church and my third grade daughter periodically gets asked by classmates and parents of friends which church she goes to. It's like there is an assumption that of course she goes somewhere, it's just a matter of which one. She feels weird about it when she tells them she doesn't go to church at all and it makes me me worry slightly that some wacky parent will have a problem with their child being friends with mine because of our lack of religion. It's also started a deluge of questions about religion, which has been good for me becuase it's allowed me to analyze my own beliefs and to have thoughtful discussions about them with my daughter. However, it also worries me because I'm afraid she's going to start asking me to take her to church and it's not like the free trial Gymboree class where I can just take my daughter for a week to see if she likes it. I don't think they like you just dropping off 8 year olds by themselves either. So, we'll see where it goes in the future.

my parents never took us to church and I still to this day feel I missed out on something. I always felt left out. My kids go to sunday school, to learn about the bible, but also to be a part of a community and part of something (this is the part I missed out as I think).
I'm a little late commenting BUT -
I read the same article in our paper. This article could really get me on a rant. Dh was out of town and I read the majority of it over the phone to him because it was an interesting article AND it hit home.
You know I was raised in a VERY catholic home. My parents were fanatics about going to church, CCD, etc. If we missed a Sunday of church (you had to be DYING to miss), you had to go to confession. So spending the night on a Sat. night at a friends house was out of the question. I was the same as you, I people watched, etc. (I did sing though) I felt like a fish out of water. I did NOT get it. And honestly I did not learn a thing after K - 12th grade of CCD. I have to wonder as amyrobynne did, what is the Catholic church goofing up in teaching the young. Maybe a few too many "rules" to be a Catholic?? Confession?? To some man sitting behind a screen in a booth?? Come on. Isn't that what praying is for?? Baptism?? You CANNOT tell me that my children are going to hell because they aren't baptised. They are innocent children. So what about a Bible? If this is church why do you never see anyone with a Bible in a Catholic church. I was 14 years old before I realized that during the "readings" in a mass, that the "readings" were from the bible. I could go on but won't. My dad's side of the family are Catholics from way back. (My mom is a convert). Funny though that of the eleven cousins that I was raised with, all raised in practicing Catholic homes, NONE, Yes NONE are practicing Catholics today.
No, I never "got it" sitting, kneeling, reciting prayers, etc. in mass. But I found it in another denomination.
I am glad that you aren't cramming it down your kids throats to appease your family. Do what is right for you and them. Your family isn't raising your kids - you are.
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