Traverse City Record-Eagle


March 20, 2009

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


Anthony Weber, youth ministries pastor at the Church of the Living God on Birmley Road in Traverse City, said his church has grown 10 to 15 percent in the last year, but isn't as big as it was 10 years ago.

He teaches two classes at Traverse City Christian School, as well as leads "20 to 25 on a good night" in the Church of the Living God's youth group.

One of his challenges as a youth pastor is keeping kids engaged, he said. He also thinks the current generation "needs to experience things for themselves before they make up their minds."

To that end, his youth group, with kids in grades seven through 12, goes to concerts and takes mission trips, along with the weekly meetings. He and the other pastors also work to build relationships with the teenagers, finding that it's easier "to let Christian teachings and lessons flow out of those relationships."

Evangelical or born-again Americans make up 34 percent of all American adults and 45 percent of all Christians and Catholics, the study found. Researchers found that 18 percent of Catholics consider themselves born-again or evangelical, and nearly 39 percent of mainline Protestants prefer those labels. Many mainline Protestant groups are riven by conflict over how they should interpret what the Bible says about gay relationships, salvation and other issues.

The percentage of Pentecostals remained mostly steady since 1990 at 3.5 percent, a surprising finding considering the dramatic spread of the tradition worldwide. Pentecostals are known for a spirited form of Christianity that includes speaking in tongues and a belief in modern-day miracles.

Mormon numbers also held steady over the period at 1.4 percent of the population, while the number of Jews who described themselves as religiously observant continued to drop, from 1.8 percent in 1990 to 1.2 percent, or 2.7 million people, last year. Researchers plan a broader survey on people who consider themselves culturally Jewish but aren't religious.

The study found that the percentage of Americans who identified themselves as Muslim grew to 0.6 percent of the population, while growth in Eastern religions such as Buddhism slightly slowed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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