Yet there is something remarkable about so much religious diversity. Elsewhere in the world, religious difference is often a cause for violence and ostracism. America so honors the principle of religious tolerance that it has brought it into the home. Pew’s statistic about church-switching may be less a sign of spiritual flakiness than an emblem of freedom.
It should be noted that a third of the survey’s “converts” have gone from one Protestant congregation to another. In short, America is not, on the whole, giving up serious worship for the sake of New Age platitudes. Half of Americans who grew up without any religious affiliation adopted one in adulthood. Clearly Americans are still convinced there is a such a thing as religious truth — and it’s worth their time to search for it. Sorry, Mr. Hitchens.
The Pew survey confirms what scholars have been saying for years about the winners and losers in this religious economy: Religions that demand the most of people are growing the fastest. The mainline Protestant churches — with their less exclusionary views of salvation, looser rules for sexual conduct and sermons about social justice — have lost membership, especially since the early 1990s. The more traditional evangelical churches keep growing.