First up from the God Machine this week is a fascinating report about the changing nature of the American religious landscape. Throughout the country’s history, white Christians were the dominant group nationwide, but as the Religion News Service reported this week, that’s changed in ways without precedent (thanks to reader R.B. for the tip).
The notion of America as a mostly white, mostly Christian country is rapidly becoming a fact for the history books. […]Last week, [the Public Religion Research Institute] released the American Values Atlas, an interactive online tool that compiles data about Americans’ opinions, identities, and values. One of the biggest takeaways of this years’ study was that, for the first time ever, America is not a majority Protestant nation.
More specifically, Public Religion Research Institute’s study found that in 19 states, white Christians are now in the minority – a result we’ve just never seen before.
The shift is partly due to a shrinking white population in in the Southwest, but note that a couple of the 19 states are actually in the Bible Belt: Georgia and Louisiana don’t have a white Christian majority anymore, either.
Highlighting the factors responsible for the shifts, Jack Jenkins also noted the “swift growth of the so-called ‘religiously unaffiliated,’ or Americans who do not ascribe to one particular religious group” – a trend that shrunk the white Christian majority in parts of the Northeast and Pacific Northwest.
Dan Cox, research director for Public Religion Research Institute, added, “The U.S. religious landscape is undergoing a dramatic transformation that is fundamentally reshaping American politics and culture.”
Also from the God Machine:
* In Idaho this week, the state Senate’s invited a local Hindu leader to deliver the daily invocation. As a result, three Republican state senators refused to attend the morning invocation, with one telling local media, “Hindu is a false faith with false gods.”
* A Michigan school district posted a job listing looking for a superintendent with “a strong Christian background.” The district quickly changed course after the ACLU reminded officials that discriminating on the basis of religion is not legal.
* New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) recently announcement that local schools will now close for the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Adha and al-Fitr. This week, Fox News pundit Todd Starnes suggested the move is discriminatory against Christians.
* And my colleague Laura Conaway flagged one of the most unusual This Week in God stories in recent memory: “A New Jersey man cannot collect damages for burns he suffered while bowing his head in prayer over a sizzling steak fajita skillet at Applebee’s, a state appeals panel ruled today.” Yeah, go ahead and read that sentence again.