If religious kitsch is a guilty pleasure, one of my favorite indulgences is a graphic that depicts a school of ichthus—the simple outline of a fish that is was an early symbol for followers of Christ—with a contemporary “evangellyfish” swimming in the opposite direction.
The caption reads, simply, “Go against the flow.”
The 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study, which is being rolled out in a series of reports this year, depicts a deep shift in how Americans identify (or don’t) with religion. It’s tempting to approach the latest report, and those to follow, with attention grabbing headlines that portray the complex statistics as a simplistic counting of which way the proverbial “fish” are swimming.
To do so would be a grand mistake.
While fluctuating statistics about how American adults affiliate religiously are important, the greatest insight the latest report provides is about the water in which we are swimming.
A deeper dive into related polling data indicates that the greatest shift right now might not be in attitudes toward religion or religiously related behavior, but instead about default assumptions regarding what it means to choose (or not to choose) to affiliate religiously.