“Americans switching faiths”? Not so fast….

St. Thomas'Talk about misleading. Now, I must first say that the Pew site is having trouble staying up so I cannot review their survey and findings. It is, however grossly misleading, if I am correct in my assumption as latter portions of this article suggest, that Americans are not “switching faiths.” The article begins:

Survey: Americans switching faiths, dropping out – CNN.com

(AP) — The U.S. religious marketplace is extremely volatile, with nearly half of American adults leaving the faith tradition of their upbringing to either switch allegiances or abandon religious affiliation altogether, a new survey finds.

No doubt many are indeed leaving religion all together, but quotes later in the CNN piece suggest what I surmised above.

On the Protestant side, changes in affiliation are swelling the ranks of nondenominational churches, while Baptist and Methodist traditions are showing net losses.

“Changes in affiliation” is not “switching faiths.” Switching faiths would be a Christian becoming a Muslim, a Jew becoming a Buddhist, or a Republican becoming a Democrat Muslim becoming a Jew. Going from being a Presbyterian to an Episcopalian is not changing faiths.

I did find this bit interesting:

Although evangelical churches strive to win new Christian believers from the “unchurched,” the survey found most converts to evangelical churches were raised Protestant.

And I wonder if “Protestant” here means “mainline Protestant” since I would wager that most “evangelical churches” (as defined by the study that I cannot access because we are all pounding their site) would define themselves as Protestant in theological terms.

So this should be an interesting survey if we can get past the hype and the server overload to read the survey itself. If all else fails, I may email my PSU colleague Roger Finke, who was a part of the project.

PS – I should note that the LA Times version of the story begins with a more balanced tone.

America remains an overwhelmingly Christian country, but the nation’s religious life also shows great fluidity, with many adults switching religious affiliations or abandoning ties to organized denominations altogether, according to a new survey released today.

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