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The Steering Committee meets 1st Wednesday, 7pm
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News: Non-religious population rises in US

The percentage of Americans claiming no religion, which jumped from 8.2 in 1990 to 14.2 in 2001, has now increased to 15 percent. Given the estimated growth of the American adult population since the last census from 207 million to 228 million, that reflects an additional 4.7 million "Nones." Northern New England has now taken over from the Pacific Northwest as the least religious section of the country, with Vermont, at 34 percent "Nones," leading all other states by a full 9 points.

"Many people thought our 2001 finding was an anomaly," Keysar said. We now know it wasn't. The 'Nones' are the only group to have grown in every state of the Union."

The percentage of Americans who call themselves Christians has dropped dramatically over the past two decades, and those who do are increasingly identifying themselves without traditional denomination labels, according to a major study of U.S. religion being released today. The "American Religious Identification Survey" is conducted by researchers at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. Conducted in 1990, 2001 and last year, it is one of the nation's largest major surveys of religion.

The survey of more than 54,000 people conducted between February and November of 2008 showed that the percentage of Americans identifying as Christians has dropped to 76 percent of the population, down from 86 percent in 1990. People calling themselves mainline Protestants, including Methodists and Lutherans, have dropped to 13 percent of the population, down from 19 percent in 1990.

Northern New England has surpassed the Pacific Northwest as the least religious section of the country; 34 percent of Vermont residents say they have "no religion." The report said that the country has a "growing non-religious or irreligious minority." Twenty-seven percent of those interviewed said they did not expect to have a religious funeral or service when they died, and 30 percent of people who had married said their service was not religious. Those questions weren't asked in previous surveys.

Interesting graphs via USA today

Findings:
- So many Americans claim no religion at all (15%, up from 8% in 1990), that this category now outranks every other major U.S. religious group except Catholics and Baptists. In a nation that has long been mostly Christian, "the challenge to Christianity … does not come from other religions but from a rejection of all forms of organized religion," the report concludes.

- Catholic strongholds in New England and the Midwest have faded as immigrants, retirees and young job-seekers have moved to the Sun Belt. While bishops from the Midwest to Massachusetts close down or consolidate historic parishes, those in the South are scrambling to serve increasing numbers of worshipers.

- Baptists, 15.8% of those surveyed, are down from 19.3% in 1990. Mainline Protestant denominations, once socially dominant, have seen sharp declines: The percentage of Methodists, for example, dropped from 8% to 5%.

- Jewish numbers showed a steady decline, from 1.8% in 1990 to 1.2% today. The percentage of Muslims, while still slim, has doubled, from 0.3% to 0.6%. Analysts within both groups suggest those numbers understate the groups' populations, though 'Cultural Jews' (non-religious) are included in the general Jewish numbers.

- nearly 2.8 million people now identify with dozens of new religious movements, calling themselves Wiccan, pagan or "Spiritualist," which the survey does not define.

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HAT meetings are free and open to members and the public. Call (416) 966-1361 for location information. ___________________________________________________
The Humanist Forum meets Saturday morning 11am-1pm.
The Monthly Meeting, is usually the second Saturday at 1:30pm; specifics should be found on this blog.
The Steering Committee meets the first Wednesday of each month, at 7pm.
The Book Group usually meets on the first Saturday afternoon of the month.