Michael Gerson: Rise of religious indifference in U.S. raises a bunch of questions

Published: Wednesday, March 27 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

But the trend appears to run deeper. As Lugo points out, declining trust in religious institutions since the 1990s has been accompanied by declining trust in most institutions (with the notable exception of the military). Confidence in government and big business has simultaneously fallen — and the public standing of both is lower than that of the church. Americans may be less affiliated with religious organizations because they have grown generally more individualistic and skeptical of authority.

Whatever the explanations for the decline of institutional religion, it has major social and political implications. Since the nones are disproportionately liberal and Democratic, what does their rise mean for American politics? More broadly: Is America on the path of secularization that — while delayed — inevitably leads to Sweden? Or can religious institutions adjust their appeal to a nation of individualists? Questions to be addressed in a future column.

Michael Gerson's email address is michaelgerson@washpost.com.

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