May 2015 Update: 2014 Pew Study Released:
The results/ analysis of the The 2014 Religious Landscape Study has just been released: “Among respondents who identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, fully 41% are religiously unaffiliated, and fewer than half (48%) describe themselves as Christians.”
The new study was done through interviews while the previous one, discussed in the original post below, was self-administered. See page 87 of the newest study for more detailed analysis.
A study released by Pew Research shows that just over 50% of LGBT respondents identified as being affiliated with one of the institutionalized religions. The percentage selecting “Atheist/Agnostic” is about 3 times the general average; not surprising for a group that has been actively condemned and vilified by most institutionalized religions. For me, the real interesting discovery is that almost 1/3 (31%) of LGBT respondents self-identify as “Nothing In Particular”.
While some of those may be atheists who feel some hesitation to claim that label, I feel most of them are the people who may also self-describe as “spiritual but not religious“. That expression has been subject of some derision as some find the term ‘spiritual’ to be synonymous with ‘spiritualist’ or imply ‘wiccan’ or New Age practises. But many people, regardless of religious (or non-religious) identity, do believe in something beyond what rational scientific thought can explain.
That expression also may contain the spirit behind the oft-quoted “Religion is for people who are afraid of hell. Spirituality is for people who have already been there” which has been credited to various sources, mostly various members of one or other First Nations*.
I accept that ‘modern science’ and ‘rational thought’ are valid methods to explain and understand much of the physical world while also appreciating they each have their limits. Any attempt to define the totality of existence by those methods will be resisted as the fundamentalism it is. Fundamentalism is the world-view that there is only set of unchanging, universal truths that always have and always will apply to every person in every situation. We change, our circumstances change, the amount (and content) of general knowledge grows, and the universe we inhabit is ever-changing. Terminology and definitions change; Pluto is still (as far as we know) substantially the same as it was a decade ago.
I have elsewhere summed up my religious beliefs this way:
I do not worship any god, nor Man; but do share the Religious Humanist approach of many Unitarian/ Universalists as stated by UU Minister Kenneth Phifer; “Humanism tells us that whatever our philosophy of the universe may be, ultimately the responsibility for the kind of world in which we live rests with us.” Moral codes can no more be taken blindly from old texts than a computer could be operated by reading the texts on the Rosetta Stone.
I recognize gods as allegorical; representations of a spiritual reality that is neither quantifiable by, nor reducible to, a modern scientific approach. Spiritual truth may be found around the world and across time; from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome to various aboriginal cultures and “eastern religions” past and present.
* First Nations A term commonly used in Canada to identify the various groups of aboriginal inhabitants and their descendents; more commonly referred to as ‘American Indian’ in the US.
Portions of this post were first published here a few years ago as well as at Rubber Chicken Ministries: a Queer Spiritual Humanist Fellowship. I’ve posted some additional thoughts on how religion distorts our relationship with Mother Earth.