Defining Religion

The focus of this week was on the differences between official and non-official religions. In order to be an official religion you must have an official location, official leaders, official doctrines, and official rituals. Non-official religions happen wherever, by whomever, doing whatever, however. In chapter two of Chaves’, “American Religion: Contemporary Trends”, he discusses the society’s, “ self-described religious identity” (Chaves 18). Through studies of self-reported religious affiliations, Chaves was able to gain perspective on fluctuating religious affiliation trends. Of the options given for this study (Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, None, and Other), I found the data for the response “None” most interesting because of its steady increase. From 1974-1993 the percentage of “None” responses was under 10% (Chaves 17). After 1993, there has been a consistent gradual increase. This does not mean that all religions suffer a decrease in followers, but it makes me question why people have chosen to not believe or affiliate themselves with a religion. I also want to know how spirituality fits into the study. Would people feel spirituality so deeply that the would consider to be an “Other” response? Chaves mentions that this study could not measure religiosity or whether or not they attend church services, but I want to know how these measures could be taken into account. How many people who do not attend church consider themselves religious? How do churches and religious leaders define being religious? If you practice non-official religion, are you considered religious in this study?