A report in the LA Times documents an interesting fact — organized religion is on the wane in the US. The number of people who say they have no religious affiliation is increasing dramatically. For decades, only 7% of the population claimed they had no religion, but after around 1990 the number started growing, hitting 17% today. Even worse, among young people, the percentage with no religious affiliation is even higher, around 27%.
But what is really interesting is the cause. In the 1970s and 80s organized religion became political. Some of this was a reaction to the perceived immorality of the 1960s, but increasingly conservative politicians used moral issues like homosexuality and abortion to mobilize support. This briefly worked to increase GOP turnout for elections, but it has now caused its own backlash.
A side effect of this polarization is that increasingly, religion divides the two political parties. Not that long ago, the Democrats elected an evangelical christian as president. It is difficult to believe that they could do that today.
And as religion has been pushed further to the hard right extreme, with the Westboro Baptist Church continuing to picket gay funerals, established religions like Catholics supporting the Iraq war, and hatred being spewed at other religions, particularly Islam, it is hardly a surprise that at least one of the megachurches has filed for bankruptcy.