This is a really helpful study Pew has done. It is work a close read. Here is what Bright (and atheist group) writes about it.
The new typology sorts Americans into seven groups based on the religious and spiritual beliefs they share, how actively they practice their faith, the value they place on their religion, and the other sources of meaning and fulfillment in their lives.
So, what are you?
- Sunday Stalwarts
- God-and-Country Believers
- Diversely Devout
- Relaxed Religiously
- Spiritually Awake
- Religion Resistors
- Solidly Secular
Sunday Stalwarts are the most religious group. Not only do they actively practice their faith, but they also are deeply involved in their religious congregations. God-and-Country Believers are less active in church groups or other religious organizations, but, like Sunday Stalwarts, they hold many traditional religious beliefs and tilt right on social and political issues. They are the most likely of any group to see immigrants as a threat. Racial and ethnic minorities make up a relatively large share of the Diversely Devout, who are diverse not only demographically, but also in their beliefs. It is the only group in which solid majorities say they believe in God “as described in the Bible” as well as in psychics, reincarnation and spiritual energy located in physical things.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Solidly Secular are the least religious of the seven groups. These relatively affluent, highly educated U.S. adults – mostly white and male – tend to describe themselves as neither religious nor spiritual and to reject all New Age beliefs as well as belief in the God of the Bible. In fact, many do not believe in a higher power at all. Religion Resisters, on the other hand, largely do believe in some higher power or spiritual force (but not the God of the Bible), and many have some New Age beliefs and consider themselves spiritual but not religious. At the same time, members of this group express strongly negative views of organized religion, saying that churches have too much influence in politics and that, overall, religion does more harm than good. Both of these nonreligious typology groups are generally liberal and Democratic in their political views.
The middle two groups straddle the border between the highly religious and the nonreligious. Seven-in-ten Relaxed Religious Americans say they believe in the God of the Bible, and four-in-ten pray daily. But relatively few attend religious services or read scripture, and they almost unanimously say it is not necessary to believe in God to be a moral person. All Spiritually Awake Americans hold at least some New Age beliefs (views rejected by most of the Relaxed Religious) and believe in God or some higher power, though many do not believe in the biblical God and relatively few attend religious services on a weekly basis.
I want to note a strange paradox in these numbers.
It seems that Religion Resistors and God-and-Country Believers strongly dislike each other, and at times are in open war. However, these are not the most devote of their respective groups. Sunday Stalwarts are more religious, and often dislike the God-and-Country Believers , while getting along just fine with Solidly Secular folk. This gives an interesting twist on the typical narrative of conflict being caused by polarization. Perhaps this maps another way forward.
I see a lot of truth in this survey in my dealings with most people in my part of the country. Same sex marriage is a classic example. I didn’t matter what church you went to or didn’t go to, SSM slowly became a human rights issue and not a religious issue. Today’s racism, anti-immigrant, and income inequality is also slowly becoming human rights issues that span all seven categories. I see promise in survey’s like this as we can be any of the seven categories and have strong morals, ethics and values on human rights.
What is so counterintuitive about these results, especially as you dive in, is that the conflict might be with “non-religious” people not being secular enough, and religious people not being religious enough. This, it seems, is exactly where Peaceful Science has found itself, affirming confident faith in secularism, encouraging truly secular science, alongside genuine religious belief.
I think you are correct. Peaceful Science is definitely a place where all seven categories can openly discuss all the scientific, religious, and cultural issues.
That is an odd finding. Are you thinking of conflict in terms of science/religion, politics, dog vs cat people, all of the above? It seems to me that cutting across denominations will help find new avenues of common ground concealed by denominational familiarity.
Moreover, the more one delves into the foundations of their own beliefs, the more one should discover their fragility. Perhaps the poles grasp this better and are more freely able to converse about topics, while the middling positions are more akin to defend like an absolutist due to a more naive view of their belief structure. However, I am shooting from the hip.
I think you are on to something. Perhaps people at the poles have given more thought to their position. This means they likely have a more sophisticated understanding of other views that they rejected, and a less idealized understanding of their own position. That means people on the other side aren’t seen as stereotypical bogeymen.
There is something I noticed as I got older. I don’t feel like my identity is so much tied up in certain beliefs as when I was younger. Maybe people who have not gone through much of a process of critically evaluating their beliefs don’t have much of a boundary between their identity and the beliefs they have. This means they are more likely to feel personally threatned when someone presents an opposing viewpoint. And if both parties to the discussion have poor self-control/emotional maturity, watch out.
We sort of talked about this at lunch on Monday. This is definitely a new twist because I was certainly vaguely aware of this phenomenon. It’s like how Bernie Sanders best friend in the Senate is James Inhofe. They couldn’t be more different, but they are both really committed in their beliefs and thus respect each other for it. Whereas the people who are just a bit “inward” from them tend to be less idealogical and more purely political, which is actually more poisonous. That’s politics, and this is religion, but I think the same sort of thing is going on. Rick Santorum (ugh!) said sort of the same thing on CNN last night. Paradoxically, the more idealogical politicians on the left might be more willing to work with Trump on certain issues than the more centrist ones because they are driven by issues not politics per se. Am I way off in seeing this as a nearly perfect parallel?
I find it interesting that a majority of the general public, according to these results, believes in heaven and hell, and in God as described in the bible. That’s not really the impression I get from everyday life. But maybe the data would be different here in Canada than in the States.
Also interesting that the “Sunday Stalwarts” are marginally less likely to say that their scriptures should be interpreted 100% literally than the “God-and-Country Believers”, though (at 54% vs 57%) that may be within margins of error.
And that “Sunday Stalwarts” are noticeably less likely than “God-and-Country” and “Diversely Devout” to say that belief in God is necessary in order to be moral! (Okay, I’ll stop editing my post with every new observation I find from this survey now.)
I sometime make a distinction between:
- believes in X
- believes in X when asked.
When people tell you what they believe, they are sometime responding to what they think people are expecting them to say, rather than to what they really believe.
While there certainly are people like that, from my experience, most people who are ‘Relaxed Religious’ actually believe in God, they just don’t care much for church’s teachings.
And considering that a big number of churches put ‘Pauline Christianity’ before ‘Christ-centered Christianity’, I kinda agree with them.
There are, of course, other reasons too, like not seeing the need to go to church weekly or things like that.
Though, I think it is dangerous to see politics a model of society. Politics, especially right now, is perversely dysfunctional partly because we have come to see it as a paradigm of society. Politics, however, is not about dialogue and understanding, it is rather about exercise of power, often to avoid the need to understand the other side. In fact, it often seems that politics is dominated by the worst examples of each type.
I think there is an opportunity for the Sunday Stalwarts and the Solidly Secular to forge a new, and principled, pole in the conversation. We have so much in common right now, but we aren’t well represented by many of the public voices, which are often working off a different paradigm. More and more, these two groups are increasingly dissatisfied with Religious Resistors and God-and-Country Believers running the show.
What would happen if we collaborated to build another pole? If it came to define the terms of the conversation, I expect the others groups would go along with us, much in the same way we have tagged along with them for years.
Any how, that is my theory. It is an important reason we need diverse leaders in communities like this. We all have an opportunity to do right by our communities by doing right for everyone.