The Sciences

The Barry Kosmin Show--A Rundown

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyJan 3, 2011 7:27 PM

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I'm very happy with the latest POI episode, in which I interview sociologist Barry Kosmin about America's decreasing religiosity. Some themes that emerged:

* The ranks of the so-called "nones" grew dramatically in the 1990s--the Bill Clinton era--a time of prosperity when U.S. religion lost something like 1 million adherents a year. * Secular, consumerist culture has been a huge contributor to the trend as well, and lacking a religious identity is strongest among the young today. * The Catholic church/pedophile priest scandals dramatically drove people away from Catholicism and into the ranks of the "nones." We can actually see the impact on a population level. * "Nones" want secularism, separation of church and state, freedom from religion in their lives and in society, pro-science polices on things like evolution and stem cells. They don't necessarily feel the need to attack religion and still may be turned off by such attacks. They are not all atheists in the strict sense of the term. * The "nones" have grown in number for large scale demographic, cultural, and sociological reasons, and these developments in turn have created a new market for atheism--rather than vice versa. * The rise of the nones could portend a more polarized society, because there are still many very devout religious believers out there, including very politically active ones. In the coming decades, the real battle between secular and more pro-religious forces in American society and political life will be to win over those who remain in the middle. Again, you can listen to the show here.

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