The Postmodern Eclectic
James R. Beebe
According to the American Religious Identity Survey conducted in 2001 (Kosmin & Lachman, 2001), 76.5% of the U.S. population identified themselves as Christian. Although that seems like an overwhelming percentage, it reflects a 10% decrease from a similar survey conducted 10 years earlier. Some Christian groups recorded modest gains (Episcopalians/Anglicans increased 13%; Presbyterians increased 12%; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints increased 8%; Baptists and United Methodists remained the same). Hindus, on the other hand, exploded from 227,000 to 766,000 (an increase of 237%) in that same period. Muslims increased about 109%, and Buddhists 170%. This is all to say, of course, that the clear trend within the U.S. population is toward religious pluralism.
Even within established Christian denominations there seems to be a blending of theologies, with denominational boundaries much weaker now than they were 50 years ago. Roman Catholics are marrying Methodists and Baptists are marrying the Eastern Orthodox, and as young couples begin to decide in which tradition they should raise their children, doctrinal considerations seem to be taking a back seat to family practicalities. As sociologist Peter Berger notes, American culture has shifted “from fate to choice” (Carroll & Roof, 2002).