Oklahomans weigh in on new Pew report showing decline in numbers professing a faith

Several Oklahomans — including religious leaders and atheists — shared their thoughts about a new report from the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life.
by Carla Hinton Published: October 13, 2012
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Hayes said, “God is using us in a strategic moment like this. We have to know how to speak to a generation of people who are more interested in something other than religion right now.”

Hayes aid he thinks the growing number of people with no religious affinity is like a “pendulum swing,” and a majority of people will again recognize their need for the Lord.

“There will be a time in our lives when we as a nation will be brought back to God,” he said, adding that the Church will need to unite across denominational and movement lines to reach people who do not know the Lord.

Atheist perspective

Meanwhile, Reinhardt said the Pew report's findings indicate more and more people are meeting their need for community through social media and in places other than church.

“I would say that more people are willing to go it alone. We still value our connections with family and friends, but that connection is not mitigated by a church or synagogue,” he said.

Reinhardt said the report's findings also can be linked to the fact that America is more diverse than ever in terms of faith communities, and there is a lowering of the taboos against not associating with a church or letting others know about one's atheism.

Red McCall, president of Oklahoma Atheists, like Reinhardt, said atheists and believers have an interest in the so-called “Nones.”

“We both really care about what the answer is to the question of whether there is a God or not. We do have that in common in that we care about what that answer is,” he said.

McCall said the growing secularism is something atheists in Oklahoma are pleased about because they are striving for a pro-secular environment in government.

“We're not anti-religious, we're just pro-secular,” he said.

Other report findings

In the past five years, the religiously unaffiliated has increased from just more than 15 percent to just less than 20 percent of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics, as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation.

This growing group of Americans is less religious than the public at large on many conventional measures, including frequency of attendance at religious services and the degree of importance they attach to religion in their lives.

The growth in the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans is largely driven by generational replacement, the gradual supplanting of older generations by newer ones. A third of adults younger than 30 have no religious affiliation (32 percent) compared with one in 10 among those who are 65 and older (9 percent). Young adults today are much more likely to be unaffiliated than previous generations at a similar stage in their lives.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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