Over at Why Evolution Is True Greg Mayer wonders:
I also recalled that the percentage of religiously unaffiliated had gone up noticeably from 1990 to 2008, and that another survey found the percentage was higher among young people. What could have happened so that younger people, growing up in the 90s and 00s, would be less religious? And then it occurred to me: 9/11. Something finally happened which gave religion a bad name. This was forcefully expressed at the time (here, here, and here) by Richard Dawkins.
The the fact that the % of Americans who aver “No Religion” has increased greatly in the past 20 years is a surprise to many people, because naturally it isn’t as if Richard Dawkins is organizing revivals. Like the decline in crime in the 1990s this is a trend which social scientists have no good explanation for. The crash in church affiliation in the 1960s was accompanied by concomitant cultural changes. Though the 1990s were certainly vibrant, with the explosion of the internet, I don’t think people will speak of a “90s generation” in a way that we talk about the 60s generation. From what I have heard the cultural gap between 1960 and 1970 was far greater than the cultural gap between 1970 and 1990.
In any case if Greg Mayer is correct we should see a shift in religious affiliation after a specific date. The American Religious Identification Survey does not support the hypothesis that 9/11 was a hinge of history. Here are the proportions of those with “No Religion” by the survey years:
1990 – 8.2%
2001 – 14.2%
2008 – 15.0%
These data suggest that the “action” occurred during the 1990s. The General Social Survey allows us to drilldown to a more granular year by year scale:
(I put the 95% intervals, and limited the data sets to “whites” so as to eliminate the confound of changes in ethnic proportions)
Here’s the table with detailed results….
|Year||None||Low bound||High Bound|