Scott Hardie | February 26, 2008
Pew has released the results of a massive study showing that roughly half of Americans have changed religions, or in some cases, given up religion. So we're an overwhelmingly religious nation, but apparently we can't make up our minds exactly how. :-)

This is a deeply personal topic for some people who will decline to share, and that's fine, but I'm curious if any of you have insights on the topic, either as converted yourself or as family/friends of the converted. Given that the reasons for conversion are semi-universal, I bet we have a lot in common regardless of what we used to believe or what we do now.

Me, I just wonder why the census doesn't ask about religion, as mentioned at the end of the article. I didn't realize that it didn't ask. Doesn't that seem like just the kind of demographical information that the census is supposed to collect? Does it not ask because of the inherently private nature of the question? Or is it a separation-of-church-and-state thing, like the government asking you what you believe, even merely for demographic purposes, would be a state's intrusion into the inviolable religious domain of the private citizen?

Amy Austin | February 26, 2008
Me, I think I'm going to stick with the Church of the Infidels...

Lori Lancaster | February 26, 2008
[hidden by author request]

Anna Gregoline | February 26, 2008
I think it's a separation of church and state - I don't think the government has a right to know that information. But I'm no lawyer.

Aaron Shurtleff | February 26, 2008
Well, I think it's a basic rebellion kind of a thing. People want to show that they are not slaves to what their parents are, so they go out exploring. Either that, or they don't like what they got (the grass is always greener), so they look for something better. There's nothing wrong with that! How can you know that you have the "best" religion (if there is one...) if you don't know what's out there?

And really, how necessary is organized religion? I think people can be spiritual without going through the motions and rigamarole involved with following a religion. You don't need a priest/rabbi/whatever to act as a spiritual go-between to have a relationship with god/goddess/gods/goddesses/spaghetti monster/whatever, now do you? Religions appeal to the need to be accepted in a group (in my opinion only), and just denote like-minded individuals.

The census...probably the separation of church and state thing. But, how useful is the information, really? If asked, I'd identify myself as Catholic, but really, other than doing the Lent thing, and going to church with my grandmother like once or twice every three years when I get up that way, I'm not much of a Catholic. I don't think that kind of information is particularly informative (I think they say in the article that people are generally vague about their religious affiliations anyways).

Tony Peters | February 28, 2008
I grew up Catholic, school, nun's, sunday school, bible study, alter boy, the hole nine yards until my junior year in highschool when the bishop of Fall River Mass banned me from serving mass and refused to take my confession or give me communion because I am pro-choice. I know this sounds extreme but this one man's actions and harsh attitude chased me away from the church and I have never looked back. I eventually found spiritual solace within Zen Buddhism and it both fills the void left from my abandonment of catholicism and provides me with a moral standard on which to base my life, this took me a long time to find and I still occasionally find anger at the time lost. My parents never knew of this until recently when my father, who has re-found his faith since the loss of his own mother, asked why I turned away from the church. Now my story is I'm sure not completely indicative of why so many have turned away from the established church and embraced what used to be the fringe. But I think that the new churches provide an even more extreme viewpoint for those that think the existing churches are too compromising. Alternatively many find the established churches are to restrictive and those who need some spiritual structure look to eastern religions for solace. For many no spiritual structure is needed and the abandon religion completely.

Denise Sawicki | February 28, 2008
Lifelong atheist here yet not entirely sure it's been a good idea... Since I have no, as Tony says, "moral standard on which to base my life", (not picking on you Tony!!) if someone tells me I'm a horrible person and that all my motives are twisted and evil and entirely not what I thought they were, I just go ahead and believe them for years at a time. That is more than likely just my personality though :P

I don't really think a written moral standard is necessary in order to live a moral life but maybe it could help a person feel better about themselves. My dad has a bunch of Zen Buddhist books, maybe it is something I should get into, if I ever felt like I had the energy.

Tony Peters | February 28, 2008
No offence taken, for some Moral standard is what they need and the stricter the better...for me it's more like structure; probably as a holdover from my days as an alter boy I need forms to help me, though less so now that when I first started practicing

Anna Gregoline | February 28, 2008
I'm not sure you got what she was saying, Tony (no offense if *I'm* wrong). But one doesn't need a written moral code in order to be a moral person, is all. A lot of the time (and I don't think you did in your post) it's said or implied that morality comes from religion, when it really doesn't have to at all.

I was raised Catholic. Sunday school, etc. Luckily my parents weren't really strict about it and didn't bring it up every minute. I even got confirmed, but at that time I didn't really want to.

As I got older, I let go of all that and stopped going to church. A few years after that, I started researching religions in an attempt to find one that works with my worldview - that is NeoPaganism. I'm not into the ritual aspects a lot of Pagans are into, but I'm looking into starting meditation cause I think it would be beneficial to me.

Denise Sawicki | February 28, 2008
I was kind of talking to myself or to someone who isn't even here and I don't think either of you got what I was saying wrong in any important way. Yes I have heard that atheists are inherently immoral, from others, not from anyone here, and it just bothered me I guess. I'm not really confident or happy enough with myself to argue back. That is not how I took Tony's post at all and I apologize if it came across that way.

Amy Austin | February 28, 2008
Are you sure they weren't saying "amoral", Denise? -- because that would make a big difference, as well as more sense.

Erik Bates | February 28, 2008
I would argue, and I think that the Catholic church would agree, that it is possible to be moral without believing in God. It is up to the person to make the decision to act in an immoral way.

Morality does not come from believing in God, but rather from God himself. Whether or not you believe in God, the knowledge of right and wrong, good and evil, is written on the human heart in such a way that a person who wishes to live a moral life, can do so without the belief in God.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

The natural law is immutable and permanent throughout the variations of history; it subsists under the flux of ideas and customs and supports their progress. The rules that express it remain substantially valid. Even when it is rejected in its very principles, it cannot be destroyed or removed from the heart of man. It always rises again in the life of individuals and societies: "Theft is surely punished by your law, O Lord, and by the law that is written in the human heart, the law that iniquity itself does not efface."

Denise Sawicki | February 28, 2008
Amy, I've met some people who don't make a whole lot of sense, but that's not on topic and I shouldn't have said anything in this discussion.

Erik Bates | February 29, 2008
To answer the original question:

I don't know if you consider what I did to be "changing religions." I grew up Methodist and converted to Catholicism 2 years ago. I technically went from Christian to Christian, but when it comes to Catholics, there's many who think that we fall into a different category.

I don't fully know my reason for converting, other than to say I felt welcomed in the Catholic church. Studying the theology and the traditions of the Church gave me a feeling that I belonged there. I'm not one to go into something blindly, so I did a bit of research before I went through the conversion process... and it was a process. I'm very happy about my decision to change.

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