Does the Recent Pew Forum Data Undermine My Outsider Test for Faith?

Over at Atheism Sucks Mariano is crowing about the atheist "failed" argument that people adopt the religion of their parents, based on the recent Pew Forum Poll, which says: “28% of American adults have left the faith of their childhood for another one. And that does not even include those who switched from one Protestant denomination to another; if it did, the number would jump to 44%.” If correct, this would tend to undermine the basis for the Outsider Test for Faith that I’ve developed, where I ask people to test their faith as if they were an outsider to it, since that’s how they test these other faiths, as outsiders.

However, this poll data does not, I repeat, does not undermine the sociological data that what faith a person adopts is because of "when and where they were born." Our parents have an extremely significant role to play in what faith we originally adopt. This is indisputable regardless of this new poll data. People still adopt the religion of their parents. The fact that they leave it later on in life says nothing against this sociological data, which is proven over and over again in separate geographical areas around the globe.

What's the difference in America then? The difference is that we are now more than ever embracing syncretism, pluralism and pragmatism. These beliefs are the new "religion" in American culture, and so it should not surprise us in the least if American people abandon the religion of their parents. More and more people are treating religion like they do with diet and sex. Variety is the spice of life when it comes to these things. So also is religion. Our American culture doesn't think there is much of a difference between many of the religions. So it stands to reason people will switch church affiliations for a better, warmer pew, with a better building, and where their friends from work attend, that has a better sermon or better music. After all, the moral message still seems to be the same, and that’s what more and more Americans think the value of religion provides anyway.

So until someone can dispute that children adopt the religion of their parents, or until someone can dispute that the dominant beliefs among Americans are syncretism, pluralism and pragmatism, this poll data has no effect on my argument.

19 comments:

goprairie said...

http://religions.pewforum.org/pdf/report-religious-landscape-study-chapter-2.pdf

It is there in Chapter 2, page 5, of the report, showing what percentages of people left and you can see where the 28% came from.

It is 11% leaving Protestant groups, 10.1% leaving Catholicism, 1.5% leaving Mormon, Jehovah's Witness, Orthodox, and Other Christian, 2% leaving Jewish, Muslim, Buddhism, Hinduism, Other World Religions, and Other Faiths, and 1.5% leaving Unaffiliated.

But if you look at where they WENT, they must have gone into some other Christian group or the overall Unaffiliated would be much larger.

Erroneous claims about data. You say people stay Christian and they do. This survey says people flop around among Christianity. Why are they so unhappy that they leave, but why do they only leave for another brand of the same thing?

goprairie said...

If you look at the declared affiliations, if that many left christianity, wouldn't you expect to see some higher numbers in the non-chistian categories?
This is fake data based on treating Catholicism and Protestantism as separate 'religions' because apparently most of the switchiing was among those groups.
Most people in this country were raised 'nice' Christian and taught the pick-and-choose pleasant parts and are now holding beliefs in a somewhat nicer version of Christianity or a vague theism based on the nicer principles of Christianity and clinging to a view that they have risen above their old fashioned childhood religion. But by and large the study SUPPORTS the idea that people do not leave the CORE religion they are raised with. Few Christians left to become Hindus or Jews or Muslims or Buddhists. They left one for of Christianity for another. SUPPORTING the claim that we are what we are raised, not refuting it.

lee said...

"Sizeable numbers of those raised in all religions – from Catholicism to Protestantism to Judaism – are currently unaffiliated with any particular religion."

The largest switch that I see are those who once were affiliated who are no longer affiliated with any particular religion, I don't see where leaving a traditional church to go over to a non-denominational, burger King, have it your way service adds any weight to the churches argument. If anything, the fact that 33,000 denominations exist today in the Christian Church should be a message. We don't expect you to understand the bible, cause..... we don't either.

goprairie said...

If there was not so much fear pounded into people, instead of jumping from one unsatisfying christian group to another, they might have the courage to try something different entirely . . . or nothing at all . . . but fear keeps them close to home. Kinda sad, really.

oli said...

This data proves our point perfectly. To say that over 50% of people stay with the denomination of their parents is huge. That so many of those leaving their faith simply join another christian church with slightly different rituals, slightly different dogma just shows that Christians, by and large stay Christians. Muslims, by and large i am sure mostly stay muslim. And so on.

Interestingly, three times the amount of people that were raised atheist now consider themselves atheist. Thats a 300% gain, quite significant.

Agnostics are likewise much more common later in peoples life.

Interesting that 50% of kids raised in godless homes later convert to a religion. It seems that kids without religion are not overly hard to convert. Still, there is a difference between not believing and having actually studied the issues.

The figure i am most curious about is re-conversion rates of people who have left their church and become atheists. I'd love to see how many go back to the faith. Likewise figures for dis-believers that join a church, i'd be interested to see how many of them deconvert back to atheism.

Jamie Steele said...

What about the stats of the number of people who come to Christ in other countries each year.

Here are some stats from the International Mission Board for 2007 alone.

Baptisms overseas- 609, 968
Overseas church membership- 9.9 million

THis is just thru the Southern Baptist Denomination and doesnt' take into account other denominations.

Have you looked at Africa which is experiencing many conversions and South Korea and the Philippines are predominately Christian now.

This study is wrong in my opinion.

Also if this is true how did christianity spread so over the world.

Many places it doesn't spread is because of persecution.

John W. Loftus said...

Jamie, what exactly do you hope to establish by this data? It shows nothing to me. Polls and numbers do nothing for either side, otherwise polytheism should be adhered to if you lived in the ancient world. If persecution shows a belief is true then every major movement was persecuted and yet survived.

Jamie Steele said...

John,
I am saying that persecution is keeping missionaries from going to some countries.
But the main point is that, Most Africans don't grow up with Christianity but when presented with the Gospel many come to Christ, regardless of their parents faith. It happens all the time.
This is going on all over the world.

lee said...

Jamie said: Most Africans don't grow up with Christianity but when presented with the Gospel many come to Christ, regardless of their parents faith. It happens all the time.This is going on all over the world.

It is also occurring in Islam as well. Islam is growing faster that christianity. It still does not change the fact of the sociological phenomenon that most people adopt the faith of the culture and family that they grow up in. ALL religions.

goprairie said...

Jamie said: Most Africans don't grow up with Christianity but when presented with the Gospel many come to Christ,
The story is not new nor is it restricted to Africa.
When presented with 'the Gospel' along aid in the form of food and medicine, they take up the religion of their rescuers. Not exactly a 'free choice' is it?

goprairie said...

Pastor Steele asks "Also if this is true how did christianity spread so over the world."
Force - conquering nation forces their religion on the conquered masses.
Lies - in the conversions today, the people are only told half the 'truth' - they are sold first that they are flawed sinners and then they are sold the warm fluffy stuff about how Jesus loves them and will save them. When they discover the illogical or contradictory parts, sometimes you say 'oh, we don't beleive THAT part' or you already have them hooked with fear so they don't question much.
I think we covered here how Jesus is marketted like feminine hygiene deoderant - create a need, an insecurity and then, quick, offer a solution.

Jamie Steele said...

goprarie:
you said:
Force - conquering nation forces their religion on the conquered masses.

I am talking about Christianity not Islam.
Today can you give me one instance where a person has been forced into Christianity. ONE!

Also, you said: Lies- false, false almost laughable

You also said:The story is not new nor is it restricted to Africa.
When presented with 'the Gospel' along aid in the form of food and medicine, they take up the religion of their rescuers. Not exactly a 'free choice' is it?

-CAn you give me an example of one African who came to Christ this way. ONe.
HAve you ever been on the mission field? Doesn't sound like you have.
I have and when our church did a week long medical mission in the city of Dipolog, we didn't see a lot of conversions. We didnt beg people to come to Christ. Salvation is a sovereign work of God not man.
Maybe this is why you had such a hard time with the Christian faith.
I wasn't forced, coerced, tricked, begged, manipulated or baptized into the Christian faith, maybe this is why I am still a follower of the TRUTH.

goprairie said...

Pastor Steele: "Maybe this is why you had such a hard time with the Christian faith."
Who said I ever did? You presume to know so much about us and what motivates us and how we are and why, yet you know nothing. Maybe if you listened and asked and observed instead of 'knowing' all the answers to everything, you would not be so angry and bitter.

goprairie said...

And no amount of capitalizing the TRUTH will ever make your version of it be true.

libhom said...

A lot of the changing of faiths are within Christianity. They really are like Coke/Pepsi switches: big branding change, but little product change.

Jim Lippard said...

Jamie: The religion with the most success in the last century has been Pentecostalism, which has grown like wildfire in South America and parts of Asia (like Korea). It has gone from zero to 400 million adherents since the beginning of the 20th century.

Christianity has gone from 1 to 2 billion adherents in that same timeframe. Islam has grown faster than Christianity (on a percentage basis), going from 200 million to 1.5 billion since 1900. 60% of the 2 billion Christians are in developing countries, while Christianity in Europe has been on the decline.

(These stats are from the 2007 year-end issue of The Economist, which I blogged about at the Secular Outpost blog.)

Jim Lippard said...

Correction--the Christianity vs. Islam stats came from that issue, the Pentecostalism stats came from another issue of the same magazine, which I wrote about at my own blog.

Shygetz said...

That's funny; the data actually strongly support your claim, John (for almost all religions, about 80% of adherents were born into it), but they say that it refutes your claim. It says right in the report that the majority of religious movement was from a religion to the unaffiliated. You'd almost suspect they didn't even read the report.

jamie steele said: Today can you give me one instance where a person has been forced into Christianity. ONE!

"In mid-May, the Vatican was also co-sponsoring a meeting about how some religious groups abuse liberties by proselytizing, or by evangelizing in aggressive or deceptive ways. Iraq ... has become an open field for foreigners looking for fresh converts. Some Catholic Church leaders and aid organizations have expressed concern about new Christian groups coming in and luring Iraqis to their churches with offers of cash, clothing, food or jobs.... Reports of aggressive proselytism and reportedly forced conversions in mostly Hindu India have fueled religious tensions and violence there and have prompted some regional governments to pass laws banning proselytism or religious conversion.... Sadhvi Vrnda Chaitanya, a Hindu monk from southern India, told CNS that India's poor and uneducated are especially vulnerable to coercive or deceptive methods of evangelization.... Aid work must not hide any ulterior motives and avoid exploiting vulnerable people like children and the disabled, she said."

That's not us crazy evil atheists complaining about coercive and aggressive mission work, that's the Catholic Church. And if the Catholic Church is complaining about aggressive conversion, you KNOW you have a problem.

brettlee said...

Christianity vs islam came from the issue,pentecostalism which came from another issue.I would love to see how many go back to faith.
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brettlee
http://www.christian-drug-rehab.org