American Turban

Is religion still “socially useful” in the west?

A Sikh worship service in California (flickr user: SikhRoots)

A Sikh worship service in California (flickr user: SikhRoots)

In an interesting follow-up to last week’s post comparing worship attendance in the United States and Canada, TIME.com reports on another study that looks at the numbers of people claiming a religious affiliation in nine western countries:

Researchers at Northwestern University and the University of Arizona gathered census data in nine countries—Australia, Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Switzerland—where officials have traditionally included questions about religious affiliation in their population count. They found a steady rise in the number of people who claimed no religious affiliation over the past century.

It is not different in the United States, reports the study:

Americans without religious affiliation comprise the only religious group growing in all 50 states; in 2008 those claiming no religion rose to 15 percent nationwide, with a maximum in Vermont at 34 percent

Let’s not confuse “religious affiliation” with spirituality or the belief in God.  Because an individual doesn’t express an affiliation with a particular organized religion does not mean the person doesn’t have a personal faith to which she or he subscribes.


However, what is being predicted by this study is the continued decline of expressed affiliation to a particular religion in these countries to the point of extinction.  The study interprets this data by contending that “People no longer see the slate of benefits [of religion] as being as great as they probably did 100 years ago. It’s become less socially useful.”

Often, Sikhs lament the divergence of their youth from their religious roots, and just as often, the perceived non-relevance of the Gurdwara (the Sikh temple) with culture/society outside of the Gurdwara is considered to be a contributing factor.  It seems that this is an issue not limited to Sikhs, particularly in the west.

However, many Sikhs value our faith and see it as a source of strength and inspiration.  In light of this, clearly, there is a question we must ask ourselves.  Are our faiths being expressed in the most relevant way to today’s society?

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One comment

  1. Pingback: Sikh tradition of Langar: spiritually great, very filling « American Turban

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