The 7 new classifications of religious styles
The Pew Research Center has classified Americans into seven distinct religious types.
Religious typology has never been accurate. The range by which one can claim to be Christian, for example, is much broader than one simple term can encompass. The same holds true for Judaism, Islam, Buddhism — not the umbrella term, per se, but the level of devotion. Religious Buddhists can be as fundamentalist as Evangelicals; they can also be secular and even atheistic.
Instead of defining Americans in terms of stated religion, the Pew Research Center created a 16-question survey about the participant's level of practice and belief. The questions were pulled from years of similar research, factoring for redundancies. This process has resulted in a new typology of seven religious styles that will serve as the organization's classification system for better understanding how we practice faith in this country.
The survey was conducted during a two-week period in December 2017 and included 4,729 respondents. As Rich Morin, a senior editor at the center, comments on this classification system,
Our goal was not to replace traditional religious categories but instead to create categories built around personal religious and spiritual beliefs, as well as behaviors and experiences that are broadly shared by people of different faiths.
Morin believes this is even more telling than the label we choose for our belief system because it offers researchers an opportunity to better understand what unites people across various faiths, as well as what divides members of the same religion. He found it particularly interesting that even those on the far end of the religious spectrum, New Age beliefs still influenced their outlook. More expectable realities — the right is more religious, liberals less so — are expressed in the report.
The Seven Types
Sunday Stalwarts. These believers are actively involved in their communities and their faith. Sunday morning is only for one thing for 80 percent of this group. Their level of belief in their doctrines and texts are unquestioned, even though 30 percent believe in psychics and the energetic importance of crystals and trees. Their identity is intimately tied to their faith. This is the oldest of any group, with 32 percent over age 65. Stalwarts are predominately Protestant, but also include Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and many others.
God-and-Country Believers. This group's level of faith rivals the stalwarts, but they are much more politically focused. These are the nationalists and populists that are likely to believe America has a manifest destiny. They are also more intolerant of immigrants and those of other faiths. Evangelical Protestants are the largest contingent of this group, though Catholics, Mormons, and even religiously unaffiliated are included. Fifty percent of this group lives in the South, the highest of any group.
Diversely Devout. For those immigrants and ethnic minorities that are as faithful as the above groups, this category fills the void. A majority of this group — the majority of whom are textural literalists — also believe in crystals and reincarnation. While this might sound odd from an American perspective, New Age beliefs and traditional religious ideology are intertwined in many Latin American and African communities. Being a good person, as in the two previous groups, requires a belief in God. Interestingly, a percentage of this population includes those who claim their religion is “nothing in particular." This is the only group that is not majority white.
Solidly Secular. This group is comprised predominantly of white men that are relatively affluent and highly educated — 45 percent hold a college degree, the highest of any group; 46 percent earn over $75,000 a year, also tops in this survey. This is where atheists and agnostics conspire, relying more on science and provable facts over speculation and blind faith. Twenty percent of this group describes themselves as agnostic, while it boasts the largest collection of atheists of any group.
Religion Resisters. The previous group might not have much faith, but they're not necessarily rebelling against ideologies. That's the domain of this cohort, which resists traditional religious assumptions, choosing instead to place emphasis on energies and spiritual awakenings. These people are, to use a common phrase, “spiritual, not religious." This group, as with the previous, is more likely to be liberal and vote Democratic. This group has the youngest median age, at 38. They also disapprove of Donald Trump's performance more than any group; 84 percent believe he's not helping.
Relaxed Religious. This interesting collection features 70 percent who believe in the biblical God and about 40 percent who pray daily, yet they rarely attend services and do not feel a higher power is necessary to be a good person. Faith is more ambiguous and less proactive. The two top sources of meaning for those in this group are spending time with family and spending time with friends, with caring for pets coming in a close third.
Spiritually Awake. Every member of this group holds some New Age belief, even if some think the Bible is the way to go. Some form of higher power is involved in the daily orchestration of events. This group features the highest percentage of women of any group, at 62 percent.
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Political division is nothing new. Throughout American history there have been numerous flare ups in which the political arena was more than just tense but incideniary. In a letter addressed to William Hamilton in 1800, Thomas Jefferson once lamented about how an emotional fervor had swept over the populace in regards to a certain political issue at the time. It disturbed him greatly to see how these political issues seemed to seep into every area of life and even affect people's interpersonal relationships. At one point in the letter he states:
"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."
Today, we Americans find ourselves in a similar situation, with our political environment even more splintered due to a number of factors. The advent of mass digital media, siloed identity-driven political groups, and a societal lack of understanding of basic discursive fundamentals all contribute to the problem.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In a 2017 Free Speech and Tolerance Survey by Cato, it was found that 71% of Americans believe that political correctness had silenced important discussions necessary to our society. Many have pointed to draconian university policies regarding political correctness as a contributing factor to this phenomenon.
It's a great irony that, colleges, once true bastions of free-speech, counterculture and progressiveness, have now devolved into reactionary tribal politics.
Many years ago, one could count on the fact that universities would be the first places where you could espouse and debate any controversial idea without consequence. The decline of staple subjects that deal with the wisdom of the ancients, historical reference points, and civic discourse could be to blame for this exaggerated partisanship boiling on campuses.
Young people seeking an education are given a disservice when fed biased ideology, even if such ideology is presented with the best of intentions. Politics are but one small sliver for society and the human condition at large. Universities would do well to instead teach the principles of healthy discourse and engagement across the ideological spectrum.
The fundamentals of logic, debate and the rich artistic heritage of western civilization need to be the central focus of an education. They help to create a well-rounded citizen that can deal with controversial political issues.
It has been found that in the abstract, college students generally support and endorse the first amendment, but there's a catch when it comes to actually practicing it. This was explored in a Gallup survey titled: Free Expression on Campus: What college students think about First amendment issues.
In their findings the authors state:
"The vast majority say free speech is important to democracy and favor an open learning environment that promotes the airing of a wide variety of ideas. However, the actions of some students in recent years — from milder actions such as claiming to be threatened by messages written in chalk promoting Trump's candidacy to the most extreme acts of engaging in violence to stop attempted speeches — raise issues of just how committed college students are to
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Most college students do not condone more aggressive actions to squelch speech, like violence and shouting down speakers, although there are some who do. However, students do support many policies or actions that place limits on speech, including free speech zones, speech codes and campus prohibitions on hate speech, suggesting that their commitment to free speech has limits. As one example, barely a majority think handing out literature on controversial issues is "always acceptable."
With this in mind, the problems seen on college campuses are also being seen on a whole through other pockets of society and regular everyday civic discourse. Look no further than the dreaded and cliche prospect of political discussion at Thanksgiving dinner.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
As a result of this increased tribalization of views, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to engage in polite conversation with people possessing opposing viewpoints. The authors of a recent Hidden Tribes study broke down the political "tribes" in which many find themselves in:
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
Understanding these different viewpoints and the hidden tribes we may belong to will be essential in having conversations with those we disagree with. This might just come to a head when it's Thanksgiving and you have a mix of many different personalities, ages, and viewpoints.
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
You'll find that depending on what group you identify with, that nearly 100 percent of the time you'll believe in the same way the rest of your group constituents do.
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 51% of Democrats support a law that requires Americans use transgender people's preferred gender pronouns.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Understanding the fact that tribal membership indicates what you believe, can help you return to the fundamentals for proper political engagement
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Avoid logical fallacies. Essentially at the core, a logical fallacy is anything that detracts from the debate and seeks to attack the person rather than the idea and stray from the topic at hand.
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
- Have the idea that there is nothing out of bounds for inquiry or conversation once you get down to an even stronger or new perspective of whatever you were discussing.
- Keep in mind the maxim of : Do not listen with the intent to reply. But with the intent to understand.
- We're not trying to proselytize nor shout others down with our rhetoric, but come to understand one another again.
- If we're tied too closely to some in-group we no longer become an individual but a clone of someone else's ideology.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
Debate and civic discourse is inherently messy. Add into the mix an ignorance of history, rabid politicization and debased political discourse, you can see that it will be very difficult in mending this discursive staple of a functional civilization.
There is still hope that this great divide can be mended, because it has to be. The Hidden Tribes authors at one point state:
"In the era of social media and partisan news outlets, America's differences have become
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
We need to start teaching people how to approach subjects from less of an emotional or baseless educational bias or identity, especially in the event that the subject matter could be construed to be controversial or uncomfortable.
This will be the beginning of a new era of understanding, inclusion and the defeat of regressive philosophies that threaten the core of our nation and civilization.
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