The book American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us has been getting a lot of press, as it should. It’s pretty rich in data, and finally puts a spotlight on one of the most underreported trends between 1990-2010, the massive surge in irreligion. Because of the power of the Religious Right many Americans perceive that this is a nation in religious revival. And it is. But only among a subset of the population. A more numerous segment has been disaffiliating, silently, but consistently. The data’s been around for ten years now, though pop culture hasn’t caught up. Probably the biggest surprise in American Grace are results which imply that people tend align their religious views with their politics, not the other way around. This shouldn’t be a surprise, but it is, and that’s because many people hold that the best predictor of religious views are conscious and reflective. The reality is that implicit social cues and pressures are probably more important. You align yourself with your milieu, as much as you select your milieu to align with your own views and attitudes.
If you aren’t inclined to read the book, Pew released many of the top line findings online over the weekend. Some of the graphics are pretty cool. Here are religious trends over the last generation: