5 Interesting Facts about Religion and Modern Society by Kile Jones


Following up on an older (and my most popular) post, 5 Interesting Facts about Women and Religion, I am going to draw your attention to 5 other telling facts.

1: Women clergy are blowing up in the Anglican Church!

In U.K. Church Statistics, 2005-2015, Dr. Peter Brierly shows that out of 9,615 Anglican ministers, 1,928 are women.  This is a radical spike since 2005.  That is 20.05% of all Anglican ministers.  This is about double compared to lead pastoral roles in U.S. Protestant Churches (see here).  The year of 2010 showed the first time women outnumbered men in Anglican ordination, and it continues to rise up to the present day.  And although they are growing as ministers, they are still blocked from becoming Bishops.  The vote for allowing female bishops at a General Synod in 2012 failed to get the 2/3 support BY 6 VOTES!


2: 72% of Americans think religion is losing its influence in modern society

This percentage, which has risen from 39% in 2001, is shown in a Gallup poll considering yearly aggregates.  Only 24% think religion is increasing its influence, down from 55% in 2001.  Only 2% think religions influence is staying the same.  And yes, notice “2001.”  As Frank Reynolds said about this poll, “By the early 1990s, Americans became more convinced again that religion was losing its influence. These views persisted until a sharp reversal after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when a number of social and political indicators, including presidential and congressional approval and overall satisfaction with the way things were going, showed substantial increases.”


3: Catholic “religious sisters” (nuns and charity workers) are dropping by the 1,000’s every year

Ever heard of Carmelite nuns?  Sisters of Mercy?  Poor Clares?  Well, they are dwindling in numbers.  In a recent compilation of statistics on Catholics, CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) looked at numbers given by the Official Catholic Directory (OCD) and the Vatican’s Annuarium Statisticum Ecclesiae (ASE), showing drastic drops in the amount of “religious sisters” in the U.S. and worldwide.   Since 2005, religious sisters in the U.S. dropped from 68,634 to 51,247.  Worldwide, they dropped from 760,529 to 721,935.  On top of steady rates of those leaving the Catholic Church (10.1% in U.S.), what might some of the other contributing factors be for this decline?


4: American LGBT persons are over twice as likely to have no religious affiliation 

A recent Pew Study flushes this out, by noting that “LGBT adults are less religious than the general public. Roughly half (48%) say they have no religious affiliation, compared with 20% of the public at large.”  Sociologists give many reasons for this: religions generally have traditional views about sex and marriage, the history and current state of LGBT shaming, and the presence of patriarchy.  “So, who can blame LGBT people for eschewing religion altogether,” as Candace Chellew-Hodge, an LGBT Christian, said, “when the overall message from many religions—aided by the media constantly turning to the most homophobic religious commentators when they cover the subject of God and gays—is that God doesn’t just hate them, but will send them to a fiery hell for all eternity?”  On a similar vein, LGBT persons see Islam, the Mormon Church, the Catholic Church, and Evangelical Churches as particularly “unfriendly” towards them (see image below).  But really, who can blame them?


5: Since 2005, religiosity dropped globally by 9% and atheism rose by 3%

This is mentioned in the “Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism,” by Gallup International.  The poll asked “would you say you are a religious person, not a religious persons or a convinced atheist?” to 50,000 men and women in 57 countries.  Some common threads it found were that religiosity is higher in poor (bottom income groups) populations;  countries like Vietnam and Ireland are experiencing the fastest decreases in religiosity; China and Japan lead in the highest percentage of atheists.  On a micro-level, the U.S. follows suit.  With what has become known as “the rise of the nones”–that is, those who mark “none” under “religious affiliation,” which is now 1 in 5–the U.S. has seen remarkable growth both in levels of non-belief, and in levels of religious affiliation.


Do we see the role of feminism in these interesting statistics?  Can we see feminism as one of the reasons why people are not only leaving organized religions, but also changing them from the inside?  I think so.

Kile Jones holds a Bachelors of Theology (B.Th.) from Faith Seminary, a Masters of Theological Studies (M.T.S.) and a Masters of Sacred Theology (S.T.M.) from Boston University, and is a current Ph.D. in Religion student at Claremont Lincoln University.  He also holds a Certificate in Science and Religion from the Boston Theological Institute.  Mr. Jones has been published in Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, Philosophy Now, Free Inquiry, World Futures, Human Affairs, and the Secular Web.  He is the Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Claremont Journal of Religion (www.claremontjournal.com), and is the Founder/Director of Interview an Atheist at Church Day (interviewatheists.wordpress.com).

21 thoughts on “5 Interesting Facts about Religion and Modern Society by Kile Jones”

  1. It should be pointed out that Christianity is Britain is far more on the wane than it is in the US, thus there being more women clergy probably reflects that fact that many parishes are small and made up of older people, and the pay it little or nothing.


    1. The ordination of women in the Anglican church has also sent a quiet exodus of Anglican priests (and anti-women priest parishioners) over to the Catholic Church.

      The National Catholic Register says:
      “Many of today’s Anglican Catholics broke away from their national Anglican churches in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere when these churches voted to ordain women.”


    1. Carol: that is true. Christianity is on the decline in the UK even faster than here.

      Karen: I was actually thinking about doing just that for my next post. The tricky part is finding accessible stats, but I am sure there is good stuff out there. Specifically women and Hinduism in India, religion and the one child policy in China, etc. Thanks for the comment!


  2. Does non religious equate to atheism? As a therapist, I have dealt with many clients who are not associated with a particular church or religion, but have a Higher Power, and in many cases, a spiritual practice. I also think of people in AA and self help groups who are definitely spiritual and religious, but many are not associated with a religion. As one woman said to me, “My Alanon meeting is my Mass.”


    1. Along with feminism, I think the decline in organized religions is due to more mature concepts of “God” or whatever we call it. The Churches have also driven many away because of abuse and control issues that people no longer tolerate. The decline in religious sisters and nuns is in official numbers. There are many living as nuns, monks, who are not “official”. I don’t see this decline as negative, but as evolution to new forms of religious life and to renewed ways of living in a spirit of what is best in religions – compassion, simplicity, peacemaking, social justice, sharing, etc.

      While feminism is certainly a part of a new awareness, there are other influences at work as well. Attendance at a church is not as important as the way we live.


      1. Barbara: I agree. Good points. There are many reasons, feminism simply being one, that contribute to these numbers. What other factors do you think are involved in this? You mention the abuses, which I agree as a factor, especially in Ireland right now, but I also wonder about economics, gender relations, and law relating to thslese numbers. Best!


  3. Kathleen: that is a good question. No, atheism is different than non-religious. Those who mark “none” under religious affiliation can be atheist, spiritual, and even consider themselves religious. This is why on this survey they explicitly ask about atheism. Best!


    1. I also think that Humanism may be a philosophy that you may want to consider as it is also a non-religious practice.


  4. Kyle, Great post! I love learning about the statistics that show some of the changes we are all experiencing.

    I couldn’t find the statistics about women ministers in American Protestants churches when I went to the link you posted. Maybe it’s hidden in that post somewhere, but not easy to discover. Could ;you please post those statistics, too, because I have difficulty believing that women make up less than 20% of ministers in American churches. In the Unitarian Universalist Association, it’s OVER 50%. And in (admittedly liberal) Madison, Wisconsin, I’m surrounded by UCC, Methodist, even Lutheran women ministers.


  5. On the one hand, I’m pleased that women are gaining ground in a traditionally male occupation. On the other hand, I like it even better if women would recognize that religion – organized religion, at least – is and has always been a male-supremacist endeavor. Women would be better off dispensing with it entirely.


    1. Isaac —

      I think you need to inform yourself a little bit better about the non-traditional religions in the U.S. today. As Mary Ann says below, many of us empowered women make up a good portion of feminist Wicca, femininst neo-paganism, feminist Tawhidic Islam (which was posted about this week by Laury Silvers), and even Unitarian Universalism, as I stated in a response above.


  6. I would look a bit closer at the definition of “religion” in the polls, particularly the non-affiliation of the LGBT community that you discuss. Typically, only mainstream traditional religions, e.g., Christianity, Buddhism, Moslem, etc., are given as options in these polls, with perhaps “Spiritual, but don’t belong to a church” as an option. I know that in my region many lesbians (can’t speak to gays) look to a wiccan or earth based religion, a religion centered on a female deity. We are very religious. We have ceremonies and gatherings and icons in our homes. We are just not part of the “traditional” religious base. If the polls were restructured to include non-traditional religions, I believe the numbers would change.


  7. I think one reason there is a decline in women becoming nuns in the US, is there are now thousands of jobs open to women, that didn’t exist in my lifetime. Women can become episcopal priests now, and I think one of the bishops of Los Angeles was once a catholic, but then she joined the episcopal church because it did ordain women, for example.

    One reason I’ll never listen to men speak is the feminist movement. Once I read Mary Daly, that was the end of male supremacy, first I walked out of the church, then I decided that I never had to listen to men lecture anywhere again, then I wanted more and more women in my life, with a few token “exceptional men”– then I realized everything I had been taught about religion was a male supremacist lie. I credit the incredible power and inspiration of radical lesbian feminists worldwide for my sense of freedom in the world. They saved me from so many horrifying fates, they gave me the sword of knowlege to behead the dragon of patriarchy. I guess I get to be included in those stats because of radical feminism! Yeah radical feminism!


Please familiarize yourself with our Comment Policy before posting.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: