Rodney Stark's July 4th Wall Street Journal article The Myth of Unreligious America explains how the press has misinterpreted a few recent surveys about religion in America. Here is how this leading sociologist summarizes the data that is often misinterpreted:
According to Pew, 8% of Americans in 1990 gave their religious preference as "none." By 2007, that response had nearly doubled to 15%, and in 2012 the "no religion" response had climbed to 20%. Earlier this year, an analysis of the General Social Survey by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago tracked a similar trend, also citing the 20% no-religion response.
Many interpret the numbers to mean that America is heading down the secular road. In a survey published this month by the Pew Research Center, 48% of Americans say the growing number of "people who are not religious" is a bad thing for American society (and only 11% say it is a good thing).
But I disagree with the notion that the U.S. is heading toward becoming as unchurched as much of Europe. One reason is that saying you have "no religion" is not the same as disbelieving in God. Many people who say they have no religion are simply saying they have no official religious affiliation. They may actually have strong personal beliefs. The increase in the "no religion" group may also be an illusion caused by the rising nonresponse rate to survey studies.
Stark then explains that a 1944 Gallup poll found 4% of Americans were atheists. Recent polls produce a similar answer: about 3% or 4% of Americans are atheists. This statistic backs up Stark's interpretation of recent polls. But there is much more to Stark's argument. Read it for yourself here.
Michael Medved discussed Stark's article in the first hour of the Michael Medved Show today, July 8 (find the link here). Notice also how Medved responds to a half dozen call-in critics (mostly agnostics) on the topic of religion and its impact on society -- good or bad? I could not find a way to download the show to skip the commercials (though some of the commercials are entertaining too).
In the second hour of the today's show, Mr. Medved talked with Dr. Meyer about the most rigorous, definitive scientific evidence yet for intelligent design. Meyer's new book is highlighted. Hitting #7 on the New York Times bestseller list, Meyer's book is making waves across the English-speaking world: Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. Dr. Meyer offers explosive evidence that the origin of complex animal life gives scientific evidence of intelligent design. It's a controversial, important book. Enjoy the Medved-Meyer dialogue. [Update: go here directly to skip most commercials in the Medved-Meyer exchange]
Here is another Medved Show portion (on ID the Future) that focuses on intelligent design, Darwinism, and academic freedom (without the large number of commercials of the regular Medved Show):
On this episode of ID the Future, Dr. Jay Richards appears on the Michael Medved Show to discuss the meaning of academic freedom and the importance of teaching both sides of debated issues. Listen in as Richards and Medved look at intimidation in academia and the current efforts to censor Professor Eric Hedin at Ball State University.
PS: About Medved and his show. Michael and I were keynotes at a conference about 15 years ago. We first met then. Sharp guy. This was my first time to listen to his radio show. He focuses on politics, pop culture, and, more recently, science and culture (he has engaged fellows at Discovery Institute often). His nationally syndicated talk radio show reaches nearly 5 million listeners in over 200 markets each week.