Traverse City Record-Eagle

Life

March 20, 2009

Losing our Religion? Survey finds more saying they have no religion

TRAVERSE CITY -- Jamie Treadwell thinks there must be some kind of a higher being because science doesn't explain everything.

"Like love," the junior at Traverse City West Senior High said. "I don't know if there's a scientific reason for that."

Bill Mudget, on the other hand, thinks science can explain everything. "The most 'a-ha' moments I've ever had were when I was studying evolution," he said.

Neither Treadwell nor Mudget, a 73-year-old Elmwood Township resident and president of the Grand Traverse Area Humanists Club, consider themselves religious.

They're part of a growing trend.

A wide-ranging study on American religious life found that the percentage of Christians in the nation has declined and more people say they have no religion at all.

Fifteen percent of respondents said they had no religion, an increase from 14.2 percent in 2001 and 8.2 percent in 1990, according to the American Religious Identification Survey.

The study found that the numbers of Americans with no religion rose in every state.

"No other religious bloc has kept such a pace in every state," the study's authors said.

Jamie, 16, has attended the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Grand Traverse in Traverse City for four years. She said her parents "tried to raise me atheist but I think there has to be some kind of a reason besides science."

Mudget was raised going to Seventh-day Adventist services on Saturdays and Methodist services on Sundays. "I questioned even in high school," he said, "and I haven't believed in God in years."

Mudget said Humanists are "the most ethical, caring, believing people I know," but they don't believe in an afterlife. "When a person is dead, they're dead. Their soul doesn't go anywhere else."

The current survey, released March 9, found traditional organized religion playing less of a role in many lives. Thirty percent of married couples did not have a religious wedding ceremony and 27 percent of respondents said they did not want a religious funeral.

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