Despite a deep drop in the number of Americans who identify with a particular faith, the country could be on the cusp of a religious renaissance, says Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of The Gallup Poll.Grounded in more than a million Gallup interviews, Newport’s new book, “God is Alive and Well,” argues that the aging of the baby boomers, the influx of Hispanic immigrants and the links between religion and health could portend a bright future for faith in America.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.Q: Why did you write this book?A: I think religion is extremely important in America today. All of our research shows that, and I wanted to get empirical data about religion out there, rather than just speculation.
We here at Gallup have had a tracking project since 2008. We do 350,000 interviews a year, which is a huge and unique dataset that nobody else has. And personally, I grew up in a religious background and always found it interesting.
Q: What’s the most important trend in American religion today?
A: One trend that I’m asked a lot about is the rise of the “nones,” about which there’s a huge amount of publicity, but which is often misinterpreted. When Gallup asked the question about religious identity back in the 1950s, almost zero would say they have “none.” People would say “Baptist” or “Catholic” even if they were not particularly religious. Now, 18 percent of Americans, according to Gallup polls, say they do not have a particular religious identity. That doesn’t mean that 18 percent are atheists — only 5 or 6 percent say they don’t believe in God — but people are changing how they express their religiosity.
Q: Despite the rise of the nones, you say that religion is poised for a renaissance in America. (more…)