According to a report published in the New York Times on February 25, 2007, 44% of Americans have changed their religious affiliations at least once. You can read the article HERE. This information comes to us as a result of a study done by the Pew Forum and the entire study can be found HERE.
The US Constitution guarantees freedom of religion in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Contrary to what some conservatives allege, and based upon case law developed as a result of decisions by the US Supreme Court, this includes belief in no particular religion and thus, freedom from any particular religion.
Beside the obvious thought that no religion equals atheism and/or agnosticism, fully twelve percent of Americans claim to believe in a God or similar Supreme Being, but follow no set organized religion, according to the Pew Forum report. Those folks are guaranteed freedom from any religion, and they have proactively decided to avail themselves of that freedom.
Another four percent are atheist or agnostic. That totals sixteen percent considered to be â€œunaffiliatedâ€.
This is an interesting statistic. At least half of these religiously unaffiliated Americans changed from an affiliated and formally organized religion as adults. It begs the question as to what motivated them, and why this number is growing, according to the report.
According to some reports, many or most of the 16% unaffiliated that chose this road in adulthood became disenchanted with their former organized religion, as did the remaining 28% who simply changed to a different religion. Of course, some of those latter folks changed due to marriage or other logistical reasons. But the majority had â€œissuesâ€ with where they were, and chose to go elsewhere.
One has to wonder, with so many religions practicing world-wide, how anyone could possibly know when switching from one religion to another, which one is the right one. Obviously, no one would say, â€œI practice ABC religion, but I know that XYZ religion is really the right one.â€ It seems logical to project that if one is a member of a certain religion and one chooses to continue being a member, it is because one believes that this one is the really right one, and the others are somehow flawed in some way.
This situation becomes even more pronounced when dealing with religions that believe in the Judeo-Christian-Muslim concept of a single deity, vs. some of the eastern religions that believe in something completely different. It is probable that members of each type of religion believe that they are right and the members of the other religion are wrong.
Considering this, it is not hard to understand how sixteen percent of Americans are â€œunaffiliatedâ€. In this manner, they can avoid the traditional conflict about whose religion is the right one.
This is usually not a big program in a civilized environment until it comes to politics. Some conservatives advocate that the United States be declared a â€œChristianâ€ nation primary because Christianity in its several hundred forms is the majority religion in the US. Others advocate the reverse, stating that this would be tantamount to establishing a â€œstateâ€™ religion in violation of the First Amendment.
One thing is certain: no American seems to think that Islamic republics are a good thing, and yet what these Islamic countries have done in folding their religion into their politics is exactly what some here in the US want to do with their own brand of the â€œrightâ€ religion.
It is not outside the realm of human events that if countries declaring themselves affiliated with one certain religion or another were a commonplace event, there would be far more killing and conquering in the name of religion than there is now. One only has to study the Crusades of the middle ages to see what kind of violence is justified in the name of one religion that seeks to dominate another. Placing a religious stamp on a country with a military force is an invitation and temptation for just such actions to occur.
One only has to note that most of the conflict in the world today is flamed by religiously motivated countries and organizations. Even in Europe, considered to be civilized and above such things, religion-based differences resulting in genocide occurred as recently as the 1990â€™s in the former Yugoslavia.
John Lennon wrote and sang the song â€œImagineâ€. One of his lines was â€œno religion, tooâ€. That is not to say that people shouldnâ€™t be free to practice the religion of their choice in total freedom. The US Constitution, as well as the constitutions of most countries today guarantee freedom of religion, and that freedom should be defended as much as the freedom to speak freely. However, once that freedom conflicts and/or interferes with the right of someone to practice a different religion, which can happen when religion and politics are mixed together, the first microscopic spark of a new crusade can get ignited.
Those unaffiliated sixteen percent of American adults presumably donâ€™t have that problem. After all, without the organization of a formal affiliated religion, where would those practicing such a thing get funding to fuel their political action committees or lobbying efforts?