The Wall Street Journal has some thoughts on the recent Pew Survey of Religion in America. A couple of highlights:
A new survey of the American religious landscape, out this week from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, confirms the dynamism of American religious experience. Its results stand in contrast to Europe, where Christian observance has slowly withered under the Continent's now moribund state-sanctioned churches.
Some 60% of Americans say religion is "very important" to them. That's compared with 12% for the French and 25% for the Italians. The study describes a "competitive religious marketplace" in which 84% of Americans claim one of hundreds of religious affiliations -- from Pentecostalism and Judaism to Islam and Mormonism.
Religions that demand the most of people are growing the fastest. The mainline Protestant churches -- with their less exclusionary views of salvation, looser rules for sexual conduct and sermons about social justice -- have lost membership, especially since the early 1990s. The more traditional evangelical churches keep growing.
People need something to believe in, and if they don't have it their lives become arid and meaningless. Secularism offers nothing to fill the void left by the loss of religious faith and many liberal churches are virtually secular in the extent to which any real religious conviction has been scrubbed from their worship service.
The lesson of the survey seems to be that if people are offered a muscular faith they'll respond to it, but a tepid faith that amounts to little more than weekly fellowship offers nothing more than what most people could find at the corner tavern. Why should anyone find that compelling or attractive?
There's more on the Pew findings at the link.RLC