Is Massachusetts Losing Its Religion?

A new Pew Research Report shows that one in five American adults now has no religious affiliation. Do you think that is reason to rejoice — or cause for concern?


Massachusetts has been the land of the Puritans, the Unitarians, the Christian Scientists and the Irish Catholics.

Today's trend toward dropping out of church/synagogue life has been anecdotally obvious for some time. The new Pew Research Report confirms that, across the country, the "Nones" — people who do not identify with any religious group — are on the rise. The number of Americans which does not identify with any religion has grown to one-fifth of the total U.S. public  — and accounts for one-third of adults under age 30. 

The findings of the joint survey conducted by Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life and Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly show that most unaffiliated adults do consider themselves religious or spiritual in some way; 68 percent say they believe in God and 58 percent report that they feel a "deep connection with nature and earth." A little more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious” (37 percent), and (21 percent) admit to daily prayer. 

The survey found that most of those who are unaffiliated readily admit they are not looking for a religion, thank you very much. And they think "religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics."

What do you think is the reason for the rise of the "Nones," the religiously unaffiliated: too much political talk from the pulpit? Too many rules? Is church/synagogue boring? And what about implications of this change: is Massachusetts (and the rest of the U.S., too) on its way to becoming an almost religion-free zone, like Western Europe? If so, does that concern you? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

M C Stringfellow October 24, 2012 at 12:10 PM
Ultra left Liberals, Hollywood, and the "anything goes" attitude. No moral responsibility. Declining family values Two income families which leaves adults tired and kids free to do whatever, which is not going to service or Mass on Sunday. I also agree it's tough to be religious when the Churches are for power and money and coverups (not just the Catholic Church, they're all guilty of coverups), instead of teaching the word of God. HOwever, the other side of religion, it that many people are to caught up in the teachings and feel that this is their only salvation to the point that they do not see anything else, which in my book is a turn off. All said, spiritual is good, religious is better, Belief is best.
Michael Fleming October 24, 2012 at 01:45 PM
When people stop believing in a higher power or higher authority, then by default they themselves become the higher authority. We humans may be the top of the food chain and the smartest critters on the planet, but when we look around and see the wonderful chain of events that occurred over the past billion years or so that resulted in the amazing, complex beautifully designed world we live in, one conclusion is obvious: it wasn't us humans that are responsible for its existence. WE did not engineer the oceans or the clouds or the laws of nature or the solar system or gravity or...I could go on. We humans find it difficult to build a toaster that doesn't fall apart after 5 years, much less the intricate workings of the eyeball or the miracle of a honey bee. I don't know who did it all. I don't his or her or it's name, but I can tell you with certainty ...it WASN'T ME. So to pretend that the humans on this planet are the epitamy, the apogee of the universe, that we the highest authority there is...is quite stupid. Find a higher authority. It doesn't matter what you call him/her. And then be VERY grateful towards that authority for your incidental existence and all the blessings you enjoy and do not deserve, and hope and pray he/she has a sense of humor.
x October 24, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Higher power is okay, but not at the rates Cape Wind wants to charge. Reverend E. Raleigh Pimperton III
Bill Montague October 24, 2012 at 02:02 PM
This survey shows more people are thinking for themselves! They are no longer trapped in the dogma of the past. Hurray! Cheers! Bill Montague
Earnhardt October 24, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Most of the comments here cover it pretty well. A combination of of corrupt religious leaders, Disintegrating family core values, Working parents. Sundays now are becoming full of families with too much to cover. Soccer,Pop Warner, Household chores, etc. All the things that can't get done during the week. There doesn't seem to be time for religion anymore. Perhaps people are just skipping the Church part of it and just "taking it directly to the power upstairs".
Rose J October 24, 2012 at 02:50 PM
I don't know that it's pretense or stupidity so much as how people are wired, Michael. One can't just make a decision to believe or accept. It's like saying if someone wishes hard enough, he will be a foot taller.
MJ October 24, 2012 at 02:58 PM
These comments are so off the mark. It looks good on a bumper sticker-- "When people don't believe in something, they don't believe in nothing, they will believe anything." OK--it's a little long but just because you say it doesn't make it true. Most of my family is very religious but we have some atheists. They are the most moral people you'd ever want to meet, with VERY polite, smart, popular kids with straight As in school. My religious sister has best friends who are atheist. I was shocked! She said "Better to be an atheist & behave like X and Y than go to church on Sunday and be a jerk all week." Morality shouldn't be about fear of the big guy in the sky. It's possible to be extremely ethical without a "God" and extremely immoral while touting religion as even a cursory glance at the news can tell you. We were founded based on freedom of religion. Let's keep the USA free to practice...or not.
Dennis October 24, 2012 at 03:28 PM
+1 I'm an atheist, but I'm still a very moral, ethical, kind and caring person. (Shocker!) I have found Christians to be some of the least "Christ-like" people. Religion breeds rampant hypocrisy.
Vineyard Worker October 24, 2012 at 04:02 PM
To those that follow Gods Word, there are many names which God used to refer to Himself, yet there is most definitely one God the Father, our Lord, not whatever higher authority I choose to find and name. Our God is a jealous God and we are to have no other Gods before Him.
Ken Rice October 24, 2012 at 04:53 PM
There is no special claim on morality by those who wish to worship or believe in religion. Plenty of bad things happen and have happened in the name of religion as we all know. One can cite just too many examples of the very purportedly religious being very immoral and the atheist and agnostic being very moral. There hopefully are much better arguments for following a religion than that. A feeling of belonging to a spiritual community? The comfort of believing there is a higher power looking out for them?
Mark Howell October 24, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Attending church on Sunday gives me an opportunity each week to hear a message which is free from hate, full of love and allows me to refresh and recharge. Quite the opposite of the messages I'm barraged with the rest of the week.
Heather October 24, 2012 at 05:21 PM
I am an atheist, so more atheists coming out is fine by me. A relief, actually.
Michael Fleming October 24, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Rose J- I agree that how a person is wired has MUCH to do with how they see the world, and further, how they see their religious beliefs. But to me, observation, and logic also is part of that calculation. I observe the world, see that it is impossibly complex and interdependent and wholly a miracle that anyone or anything exists at all, and I am put into a state of awe. That awe leads to a feeling of gratitude to someONEor someTHING higher than me. I can't tell you which, if any, religion is the "right"one. My guess is they all have a spark of truth in them, but NONE of them has the right to force their religious beliefs upon another human being, or blow people up at random because they don't agree with your particular outlook. That is the OPPOSITE of religion. If God could speak, i would guess He/She would condemn such things being done in his name. Like fire or nuclear power, religion has done much good, given much hope and comfort, but also can unleash the very worst in us. Belittling those who believe in some religion is arrogant and short sighted, but those who don't believe have an equal right to feel that way, and I suspect will end up in the same waiting room as the rest of us when our lights flicker and die.
Michael Fleming October 24, 2012 at 05:31 PM
ALL of the atheists I know are very moral and ethical, and some of the nicest and funniest people I know. Morality doesn't come solely from religion, it comes from who you are inside. It comes from how you were raised and what kind of person you actually are inside. I agree that we should treat atheists the same way religious people want to be treated. With respect...and to keep the USA free to practice, or not. But that means allowing religious people their freedoms too.
Vineyard Worker October 24, 2012 at 05:55 PM
God is good, pure goodness. Humans choose sinful acts, never God. The creation of life is not sinful, rape is. There is nothing new or unique about God willing a soul to be born to a sinner, because all of us were born to sinners.
Rose J October 24, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Thank you for your respectful reply. I agree completely that to belittle either way is arrogant and shortsighted. I would never presume that my way of thinking and believing (or not believing, as the case may be) is the right way for someone else, and I've never begrudged anyone their beliefs -- so long as they are not harmful to another's way of life.
John DiMascio October 24, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Atheism in and of itself is faith. An atheists believes there is no God. He can't prove He doesn't exist. He can make arguments from reason that there is no God. And the same holds true for Theist. We can make arguments from reason, but no we can't prove it. If we could, there would be no need for faith. Faith is more than mental assent to proposition. We can all agree to 4+4 = 8. That's not faith. Rather, faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Michael Fleming October 24, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Rose J- I wasn't very clear in my response to you. I did not mean to imply that you were belittling anyone or begrudging anyone's beliefs. You were not. I waxed philosophic at that point but did not mean to suggest that I was directing those philosophic wanderings at you. There are posters here that feel if you don't agree with their views, like say creationism and that the earth is only 6000 years old, that they SHOULD be belittled. I disagree. Freedom means having the freedom to believe as your heart and conscience dictates, as long you don't harm others with that view. Unless your belief is that anyone who disagrees with you ought to die, I'd say that most religious beliefs, silly, unfounded, or quoted directly from the Bible, ought to be given room to be expressed. Its called tolerance. Because once it is ok to belittle a religious point of view, the next victim will be your secular beliefs. Which means freedom of expression would be under attack by these same people. Criticism of say, global warming, or of the current administration would then be also attacked. Once silencing an opinion becomes tolerable, then it's just a matter of time before its YOUR opinion that gets silenced.
Vineyard Worker October 24, 2012 at 09:19 PM
Sonny beaches, I am pointing out that God did not will the act of rape. I am not calling rape victims sinners, and therefore rape occurs, I am calling all of us sinners. No one would be born, if birth only occurs in the instance where only those Moms that have not sinned give birth. We are all sinners, No? God is good, pure goodness, not vengeful.
Erick Lackawanna October 25, 2012 at 01:55 AM
I'm an atheist as well and I welcome more godlessness. Some believe in God some don't. Who cares? Live and let live right? I wish it were that simple.
Michael Fleming October 25, 2012 at 03:25 AM
Justin What I mean is that it is simply rude to do so. Yes, you have the right to think that the earth is 6000 years old, you also have the right to challenge that belief. What I mean to say is, the belittling someone based on closely held beliefs that they may have is simply a form of intolerance, and not very nice. May I presume you're a left leaning person? Isn't one of the precepts to to leftist thought is tolerance of other peoples beliefs and cultures? If you were to meet a student visiting America from the Sudan, and he were to suggest that his God needed to be appeased with goat sacrifices in order to help it rain, would you belittle him? All religions have some form of this type of thinking in them. Would you be so crass to belittle a fellow guest at a party if you heard him say that Rosary beads really did help his headache go away? If you start doing that, then you become the very thing that you as a lefty say you hate. Sorry, I am making a presumption of your political leanings. But isn't belittling someone over their religious beliefs rather...I don't know...rude? You certainly don't have to agree with him, but is belittlement your solution?
Vineyard Worker October 25, 2012 at 12:09 PM
Except there is a little thing called life everlasting and where you spend that life. Trying to avoid fire and the gnashing of my teeth for eternity. When you live with the fear of God, you strive to treat others better than you treat yourself and that is a good thing. You have free will to welcome the opposite of God, yet it is not so surprising that others care.
Mark Howell October 25, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Justin - Of course being religious does not preclude believing in evolution, and many religious people embrace evolution. We understand that evolution is an ongoing process, and there will almost certainly come a time where humans will have run their course, and it will be other life forms that will carry the baton forward.
Walt Cassell October 25, 2012 at 04:04 PM
I believe that you do not need to go into a building every Sunday to practice your religion. To me and my family, It is how you live your life. Do you live it with morals and an honest attempt to to good everyday? Or do you live without morals or guidance? I do go to church occasionally, My Family goes usually when I go. But to me, Its keeping it in your heart and mind that guides a person through life.
Michael Fleming October 25, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Justin- NO ONE said ANYTHING about it being "taboo" to discuss religion. I think you are engaged in a conversation that is only happening inside your mind. You used the word "belittle" which is a far cry from "discussion". You said that we OUGHT to belittle such beliefs. THAT is the problem I am having with your post. It was the post of a bully. I think ALL subjects are open game for moderate and reasoned discussion, as long as everyone is respectful of each other. YOU, my absent minded friend advocated "belittlement" as your discussion tool of choice. THAT is intolerant, rude, and disrespectful of others feelings and has nothing to do with political correctness. Get it straight.
Dennis October 25, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Vineyard Worker: See, that's the thing - I don't need the fear of God or an eternity in hell to treat people with kindness and compassion. I do it because it is right and just, not because I'm afraid of being punished if I don't. Religious people think those without religion have no morals because they have no accountability to a higher power. However, it's been my experience that people who have accepted Jesus as their savior feel safe committing whatever "sin" they feel compelled to act on because they have been assured their faith will be rewarded with forgiveness in the afterlife.
Erick Lackawanna October 25, 2012 at 06:39 PM
I don't believe in god because I looked for the evidence of a white dude in a robe whose dad controls the universe and disciplines the human race behind a veiled curtain of fear - i have not found the evidence of god. I found evidence of mans ability to romanticize the beauty of the universe and call it gods work.
Erick Lackawanna October 25, 2012 at 06:41 PM
There are many of us that reject the church and the idea of a biblical god. As time marches on our little mote of dust here in the vast emptiness of space will move on and on without us. With it, I hope it carries the idea of a biblical god into the darkness.
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Vineyard Worker October 26, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Dennis, I abhor your doctrine, the doctrine of Mr. Worldly Wise. I know, no true Christians that challenge or mock God with their sin, yet I know Christians that struggle with sin. I abhor any doctrine, or council that labors to render the cross hateful to me.


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