October 1st, 2013
09:52 AM ET
Study: American Jews losing their religion
By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor
(CNN) - The number of nonreligious Jews is rising in the United States, with more than one in five saying they are not affiliated with any faith, according to a new survey.
While similar trends affect almost every American religion, Jewish leaders say the new survey spotlights several unique obstacles for the future of their faith.
According to the survey, conducted by Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project, non-religious Jews are less likely to care deeply about Israel, donate to Jewish charities, marry Jewish spouses and join Jewish organizations.
Pew says their study sought to explore the question, "What does being Jewish in America mean today?" The answer is quite complicated.
Just 15% of American Jews say that being Jewish is mainly a religious matter, according to Pew's survey. By contrast, more than six in 10 say Jewishness is about culture, ancestry and identity.
The most essential parts of being Jewish, according to American Jews, are remembering the Holocaust (73%), leading an ethical life (69%) and working for social justice and peace (56%).
Almost as many American Jews say that having good sense of humor (42%) is as important to their Jewish identity as caring about Israel (43%).
Even among religious Jews, most say it's not necessary to believe in God to be Jewish, and less than one in three say religion is very important to their lives.
Nearly all American Jews - religious and secular - say they are proud to be Jewish.
"The fact that many Jews tell us that religion is not particularly important to them doesn't mean that being Jewish is not important to them," said Greg Smith, director of religious surveys for the Pew Research Center.
The most essential parts of being Jewish, according to the survey, are remembering the Holocaust (73%), leading an ethical life (69%) and working for social justice and peace (56%).
Overall, the majority of Jews (78%) call themselves religious, but the survey showed much lower rates of religious affiliation among millennials, one of several trends that trouble Jewish leaders.
Nearly a third of American Jews born after 2000 answered "none" when asked about their religious affiliation, suggesting that Jewish "nones" are not only a large group, they're growing, Smith said.
The rise of Jewish "nones" tracks with wider trends in the American population, where about a third of millennials don't affiliate with organized religion.
The nonpartisan Pew Research Center says its survey is the most comprehensive since the National Jewish Population Survey in 2000-2001.
Pew surveyed 3,475 Jews from across the country from February 20 to June 13, with a margin of error for the full sample of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
The study declines to offer a definitive estimate of the size of the American Jewish population, a matter of heated debate in recent years.
Instead, Pew offered several tallies of American Jews, depending on different definitions of Jewish identity.
Approximately 4.2 million American adults - 1.8% of the overall population - identify as Jewish by religion. In the 1950s, the percentage of religious Jews in the United States was nearly twice as high, according to Pew.
Meanwhile, about 1.2 million adult Americans now identify as secular or cultural Jews - they were raised Jewish, had a Jewish parent and still consider themselves Jewish, even though they don't practice the religion, according to Pew.
Secular Jews are much more likely to marry outside the faith, according to Pew, a trend that has worried Jewish leaders in recent years.
Nearly 60% of American Jews who have married since 2000 have a non-Jewish spouse, according to Pew.
Intermarried Jews, like secular Jews, are much less likely to raise their children in the Jewish faith and have weaker ties to the Jewish community, says Pew's report.
But, in a silver lining for Jewish leaders, intermarriage rates have leveled off, Smith said, holding steady at 60% since the mid-1990s.
Jane Eisner, editor-in-chief of the Jewish Daily Forward, said she is not surprised that the study found relatively low interest in Jewish religious beliefs.
"We are a people very much defined by what we do, rather than what we believe," she said.
But Eisner said she is concerned that millennials are less likely to donate to Jewish charities, care strongly about Israel or belong to Jewish groups.
"It's great that these non-religious Jews feel pride in being Jewish," Eisner said. "What worries me is their tenuous ties to the community."
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
Fully half of U.S. Jews (52%) say they know the Hebrew alphabet, though far fewer (13%) say they can understand most or all of the words when they read Hebrew. Roughly one-in-ten Jews say they can carry on a conversation in Hebrew
That is very sad and pathetic, let's learn Hebrew!!!
Hebrew is very sad and pathetic !!! Its ok little guy, you'll grow up one day.
Most Americans are rejecting their religion while maintaining their faith in God. Extremists Republicans have destroyed Christianity and church involvement due to hateful rhetoric, shoving their twisted views down the throats of the People, and acting anything but "Christian". How low they have gone and are no representatives of God.
Jesus was POOR. He lived among the poor, the sick, and the outcasts of society. He was the ultimate community organizer in helping the helpless. Jesus called upon us to treat the poor as we would Him.
So these "Christian" Republicans degrade the poor, vote to end food stamps (a whole $36 a week), end hot school lunches for poor children, kill healthcare for everyone, use racist comments so easily and with great disrespect of our hard-working President.
These "Christians" have betrayed the nation, betrayed the People with not one single bill for jobs, education, infrastructure, and even veterans aid for our soldiers returning from Bush's fraud war.
They even are taking away our most basic right to vote because no sane person would ever vote for these traitor Republicans again.
They have defiled "Christianity" and defiled the most basic values and rights of our country.
They have their verses and their interpretations to back up their actions and motives, just like you do. The problem is that you cannot prove who is and is not a Christian, and you cannot prove what is and is not god's will. It's all just philosophy with nobody being able to prove anybody wrong or right.
Sorry, NC but while I agree with the last part of your last statement but Christianity actually advocates a lot of pretty awful behavior, including even murder and torture, along with the good bits.
Better to put aside the whole religion and just go with the Golden Rule and our commonly accepted laws. Works great for me, no Jesus or god required.
The newest version of the Bible maintains that Jesus was not actually poor at all and lived in a fairly affluent family. Apparently, the notion that poor people are as acceptable to God as rich people is bothersome... so it was removed.
"Most Americans are rejecting their religion while maintaining their faith in God."
Sorry, this is pure nonsense. Faith in whatever god is religious by definition. They are perhaps rejecting some version of religion that they don't like, but if they are maintaining faith in whatever god, then they are accepting religion.
How can one be a secular Jew/Muslim/Christian. Isn't that an oxymoron in itself??
That's like saying I'm an Atheist Christian. - I don't believe in Jesus but I like celebrating Christmas. I don't read the Torah or believe in Moses or Abraham but I like to wear a Yarmulke and I support Israel.
It's a cultural bias rather than a religious one.
Judaism is an ethnicity, not just a religion. So it makes perfect sense to have an Atheist Jew or a Buddhist Jew.
With Christianity and Islam, less so. While we have Christians and Muslims who don't go to church/mosque, it's hard to think of a Muslim Atheist. An Arab Atheist yes, but a Muslim one? Don't think so.
So being Jewish is akin to being Arab or Italian, and the Jewish faith is just common among Jews.
Actually "Judaism" specifically refers to the religion. However being a Jew can mean one of three things: a member of an ethnicity, a member of a culture, or a follower of Judaism. Or for that matter, any combination of the three.
Thanks D !
"Nearly a third of American Jews born after 2000 answered "none" when asked about their religious affiliation, suggesting that Jewish "nones" are not only a large group, they're growing, Smith said." Does anyone else see a flaw with this survey?? Did PEW really poll children 13 and under to get this result?? Just curious.......
It's a typo, the actual graph lists no group younger than those born starting in 1980.
Most people belong to the 3 largest religions of the world, Christianity,Judaism,Islam are separating themselves from the religion they belong to because the crazies of the world are doing horrible things in the name of their religion Moslems extremist kill in the name of Islam, Israel wants to bomb other countries & its policies are the cause of so much hurts for the children living in that part of the world(regardless of what grown ups do people whom Holocaust is the most important part of their belief must protect & fight for the innocents, more than any other groups) and you look at Vatican and you see the life style there is way different than the life style of Jesus. bottom line is all these religions are great but are being high jacked by bad people.(Excuse my Not so good english).
How ignorant can you be? Judaism is one of the worlds smallest religions only 14-18m followers world wide. Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto have far more followers.
Judaism is not one of the three largest religions in the world.
This is the actual breakdown:
Christianity 2.1 billion
Islam 1.5 billion
Secular*/Nonreligious*/Agnostic/Atheist ≤ 1.1 billion
Hinduism 1 billion
Chinese traditional religion* 394 million
Buddhism* 376 million – 1.2 billion
Primal-Indigenous religions 300 million
African Traditional & Diasporic religions 100 million
Sikhism 28 million
Shinto 27-65 million
Juche* 19 million
Spiritism 15 million
Judaism 14 million
Good point Nora. It makes me sad to hear that the number of religious Jews is declining. I know it is happening in other religions as well, but there are so few Jews to carry on the religion. As we approach adulthood, many of us come to a point when we find our religions less meaningful or irrelevant. It's good to outgrow our childhood views of our religions, but then we need to make a special effort to learn more about them and grow in our understanding. Enduring religions still have much to teach us that is relevant to our lives today.They are much richer and go much deeper than we imagine, but we have to be willing to question and learn. Studying other religions helped to illuminate my own at a time when I was ready to abandon it. They all have something to teach us.
What if your religion only offers the childish view? I think a lot of people are realizing that, which is why nonbelief is the fastest growing category of religious belief.
Want B I G answers to tough problems?
'The 7 Noahide Laws'
...."The U.S. Congress officially recognized 'The Noahide Laws' in legislation which was passed by both houses. Congress and the President of the United States, George Bush, indicated in Public Law 102-14, 102nd Congress, that the United States of America was founded upon the Seven Universal Laws of Noah, and that these Laws have been the bedrock of society from the dawn of civilization. They also acknowledged that the Seven Laws of Noah are the foundation upon which civilization stands and that recent weakening of these principles threaten the fabric of civilized society, and that justified preoccupation in educating the Citizens of the United States of America and future generations is needed. For this purpose, this Public Law designated March 26, 1991 as Education Day, U.S.A."...
Google (Yahoo, etc.) 'The Seven Universal Laws' Results 1 – 10 of about 23,400,000 for the seven universal laws. (0.31 seconds (Also 'The 7 Noahide Laws')
The Great Seal of The United States of America consistis of The Star of David (Sky) above the Great American Eagle; a Nation founded by GOD and believing in the Bible ....... Why must atheists destroy this Great Nation of believers!
How are atheists destroying anything? I don't understand...I don't see atheists bombing anything, I don't see atheists taking anything away from you, I don't see atheists rioting in the streets, I don't see atheists pointing a gun at anyone...please give me an example of an atheist destroying something. And this article isn't even about atheists, it's about Jews who are not religious.
Nothing real can be threatened, nothing unreal exists...
Dude, y'all 'believers' can do all the believin' you want. Is someone taking away your church?
Everyone knows that there are some religious Americans, and some that aren't.
What's the big deal?
Wow – talk about looking at things through rose-colored glasses....
"The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.
Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind."
–John Adams, from A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, (1787-1788)
Thank you, Doris!
I think Serge is looking through sphincter glasses.
The Star of David is Jewish symbolism, not Christian, correct?
Atheists are NOT a thinking group.
According to Sir Roger Penrose the chances the world happened by
accident is the # 1 with 23 zeros.
The Atheists ability to make decisions on G-d and religion is the same.
"Atheists are NOT a thinking group."
Says the dude who posts his email address in a public comment section. LOL!
and still with aol at that.. LOL.
You think that just because a person doesn't buy into the Abrahamic God that it means they think the world happened by accident? My, what a presumption – and not a small one either.
The paradox is solved by recognizing the Jewish is a name for both an ethnicity, and a religion. Many American Indians are both Navajo in ethnicity and religion, or Hopi, Cherokee, etc. Some are atheists, or Catholic, or Baptist. When the Bible was written, it was inconceivable to compartmentalize or pick your religion. Science and religion and culture were all part of the same belief system you had just by growing up somewhere. As people spread across the world and religions started converting people of other nations, you could be born into one tribe, a different country, be raised in one religion, and convert to another. Why is that so hard to accept? This is America, after all, land of combinations.
You asked people born after 2000? I didn't affiliate myself with anything at that age either.... Wait a few years.
It is a typo in the article –it should read "1980" as in the chart below the text.
"Even among religious Jews, most say it's not necessary to believe in God to be Jewish, and less than one in three say religion is very important to their lives." Then what the heck is this religion all about?
While for me, Judaism is about a covenant between God and the Jewish people beginning with Abraham, for some it could be about a covenant with the traditions of our ancestors and the community of the present. There are many religions which focus more on the world than on a deity. Whether we believe in Him or not, God is either there or He is not.
This article points to what this religion "is all about." Remembering our ancestors, leading an ethical life and trying to make the world a better place for all. In many ways, as a Religious Jew, the results of this survey are encouraging to me. I converted to Judaism because of the focus of the spiritual belief system – not on dogma but on living an ethical life and on Tikkum Olum – social justice. Jewish religion teaches that we cannot put the great mystery in a box – god is way to big to fit. There are many different specific beliefs about god in the jewish community and its our job to continue to work with god/community in Tikkum Olum as explore together and grow spiritually together. Wondering, questioning, arguing – this is all part of god! Rabbi Arnold Rachlis: "God is a force within us and within the universe that leads us to be loving and caring people. It's a force, like love, that can be activated or deactivated in us. We make the choice, and our behaviour will be shaped by that choice."
Some Jews feel there is a second "Holocaust" going on with Jews marrying outside their faith and trying to raise their kids as 'half and halfs" Half Jewish and half the other religion. In particular this is a problem with marrying Christians since that is the largest number of mixed faith marriages for the Jews. Like it or not, trying to raise a kid in a mixed faith family often is a disaster with the kid identifying with neither faith.
So what's more important... Being happy or marrying a fellow Jew? Not saying you can't have both, but if you had to choose, you would choose.... what?
Nobody I've known would ever describe a mixed race marriage as a second holocaust. I know an atheist Jew who married a Catholic Latina single mom who started going and taking her daughter to temple. The stepfather, who is actually racially Jewish, still doesn't go.
I am still trying to figure out why 'the kid identifying with neither faith' is a disaster.
Some call it progress. I'm not taking sides here ... with or without faith is fine with me ...
Maybe you can call this....the " Bill Maher Theory "...
I married a Catholic and I'm Jewish. The thought of my kids not identifying either faith, oh the horror! My kids won't believe in talking snakes, an imaginary man in the sky or any nonsense. How will they survive?
I am a half and half who married a former Jewish woman and I am raising my kids to believe whatever they want. I am giving them zero religious training. We are moral, hard working parents raising wonderful American children. The religious are the ones creating wars, committing adultry and stealing.
"Like it or not, trying to raise a kid in a mixed faith family often is a disaster with the kid identifying with neither faith."
I'm not seeing the disaster part here...
That's because you are a selfish jerk.
"Like it or not, trying to raise a kid in a mixed faith family often is a disaster with the kid identifying with neither faith."
Why would you characterize this as a disaster. I was raised in a mixed religion household, this prevented me from being indoctrinated with the brain washing that is central to all religions. I'm able to float with a working understanding of the beliefs of both religions without feeling strangled by their obvious absurdity. The world would be a far better place if people were able to chose their religion (or lack there of) at an older age. Dragging a child to church
Its not that we are losing our religion... its that we understand religion is opinion and not fact, so therefore the belief in a god is inefficient and causes irrational and illogical thinking which us 'Jews' excel at. Ethnically, we are still Jews... but we are more powerful than ever now... now that god cant stop us.
That is the most interesting comment I've heard in a long time.
A Jew without God is like a banana without a banana tree. What't the point of it? And without the tree, won't that banana quickly waste away?
Any religion without a real god is simply itself, unchanged.
Of course you don't need the tree once you have the banana. Eat the banana or if it gets too ripe make banana bread out of it. You know how to hide a banana if you need to do that?
It's always funny when non-science folks try to offer scientific arguments.
Ray was being funny, not trying to prove anything.
Topher, lying makes baby jesus cry.
Austin, is that me?
Did I lie? Or would that be you with your not-so-subtle insinuations?
Yes, Topher, you lied. Ray was attempting to be clever, not funny.
Comfort and Cameron presented the banana argument as a serious one for creationism. If they hadn't meant it as a serious argument then they were mocking that which they professed to be supporting. There was no "gotcha" attached to the original videos. Their, or your trying to spin it as some kind of intended joke doesn't fool anyone. He got caught making a stupid argument out of ignorance. He should have been man enough to have admitted his mistake.
Neither ray nor you prove anything, gopher, except your level of delusion
come on, coward, issue some more empty proxy threats
I am always careful of how I handle bananas. Depending on their use I wash them thoroughly before I peel them and always use a condom for the other thing.
Yup religious people are bananas.
How many Americans have banana trees to go along with their bananas? Silly analogy 🙂
Daniel Burke, Sir, Would you report this on all other religions ??? Why and Why not ??
Yes, every article that CNN rights is either some conspiracy by, or against, Jews, or Muslims, or gays, or liberals, or blacks, or something else. Nobody would just write an article because the Pew Foundation released a report; why they were hoping nobody would read it or know about it.
That's me in the corner. That's me in the spot-light .... Losing my religion!!!
But they won't be losing their stereotype any time soon.
Susan, you have a very long nose.
Depends on where you live. Where I live, Jews are not stereotyped. Nobody expects a Jew to be conservative, or support Israel's occupation of Palestine, or to be in jewelry/medicine/entertainment. In fact where I live Jews are a small minority in all of those fields.
News–Jews are not "stereotypically" conservative. They are, in fact, the opposite and have been for quite some time. They overwhelming vote Democratic and were strong supports of the civil rights movement, unions, and the gay rights movement. These are pretty well known positions and, if anything, the Jewish people were in the past stereotypically communists, socialists, and supporters of other leftist positions.
CHILDS SOLD TO HUMAN RACE STUDIES.
100.000 CHILDS IRRADIATED FROM SATELITES SOLD BY ITALIANS AGENCIES.
Damn those Italians and their satellites!
But what about the 100.000 CHILDS?
Poor thing hasn't been right since they saw the movie "*batteries not included".
Welcome to the club.
Maybe we'll have peace in the world yet.
I was born into a Jewish family but have been an atheist since the age of 14. One of the many problems was that the services continue to be in a language nobody understands. It is simply silly to sit there for hours and have no understanding of what is going on. Big turn off for kids. And, the Old Testament is riddled with horrible atrocities carried out by the Bible god. It lacks any form of ethical guidelines. We as a society have fortunately rejected most of what is in the Bible. This is good. On the other hand, the people who wrote the Talmud seem to have seen the crazy things and tried to re-interpret them. The New Testament (which I have read) is a bit better but still there are some unethical teachings. The truth is that we are starting to recognize that the scribblings of bronze-aged men making up stories to explain natural events, don't have that much relevance to us anymore.
I will so pray for you. Being born into a Jewish family used to be an awesome thing. The Jews are considered God's chosen people. Their are many things in the old testament that are hard to understand, but the key is that the new testament is the old testament revealed. They point to Jesus Christ and God's salvation for mankind.
True, there are many bad things in the old testament, but that was to show us that man is desperately wicked. God gave laws, and still nobody followed them.
And I'm waiting for you next to say, "and please hurry up back to Israel so that the rapture can come for us Christians. The poster is dead on – an all-knowing, all-loving God, is all-vengeful and all-destructive in the Old Testament. How can my loving mother, with all of here human flaws, be more loving in her ways than the God of the Old Testament? That would make my mother more powerful than God, and that makes absolutely no sense, and that's why the number of "nones" has increased.
The reality is they are European Jews and have no claim or ancestrial ties to the land of Israel nor the Israelites from and Bible. Being Khazar's they adopted the religion they practice from those true chosen people of The Almighty, rather than to choose Muslem. They too live in a world where truth is hidden and denied
Carbon14 supports the Bible ...
Uranium or Potassium/Argon not so much...
You're right, it's not carbon 14 dating that disproves the Bible. It's the carbon 14 dating, the uranium-lead dating, the potassium argon dating, the rubidium-strontium, uranium-lead, in addition to tree ring correlations, pollen samples, stratigraphy, etc., etc., etc. Now, I'm just waiting for the part where you try to introduce helium dating, in contrast to all the other dating methods noted above, as clearly indicating the earth is 6000 years old, and that all of those methods above ... are wrong.
Most man-made chemicals are made of fossil fuels, such as petroleum or coal, in which the carbon-14 should have long since decayed. However, such deposits often contain trace amounts of carbon-14 (varying significantly, but ranging up to 1% the ratio found in living organisms, a concentration comparable to an apparent age of 40,000). This may indicate possible contamination by small amounts of bacteria, underground sources of radiation causing the 14N(n,p) 14C reaction, direct uranium decay (although reported measured ratios of 14C/U in uranium-bearing ores would imply roughly 1 uranium atom for every two carbon atoms in order to cause the 14C/12C ratio, measured to be on the order of 10−15), or other unknown secondary sources of carbon-14 production. Presence of carbon-14 in the isotopic signature of a sample of carbonaceous material possibly indicates its contamination by biogenic sources or the decay of radioactive material in surrounding geologic strata. In connection with building the Borexino solar neutrino observatory, petroleum feedstock (for synthesizing the primary scintillant) was obtained with low 14C content. In the Borexino Counting Test Facility, a 14C/12C ratio of 1.94×10−18 was determined; probable reactions responsible for varied levels of 14C in different petroleum reservoirs, and the lower 14C levels in methane, have been discussed by Bonvicini et al.
Well, you know, practically anything will support vapor.
Will the real Andrew Snelling please stand up
Andrew Snelling, Ph.D is an Australian and a qualified geologist. According to his biography he " ... completed a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Geology with First Class Honours at The University of New South Wales in Sydney ... ".
Andrew Snelling is also a leading creationist who, despite his scientific qualifications in geology, purports to believe the Earth is only several thousand years old. He is employed as a "Creationist Assistant Professor of Geology" by the Institute for Creation Research in the USA.
Andrew Snelling, as his biography states, worked in the exploration and mining industries in Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and the Northern Territory and has been involved in research projects with the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) and ANSTO (Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation).
His biography also states that he has been involved in research with Australian, US, British, Japanese and Swedish scientists as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency.
None of this would be at all surprising if Andrew Snelling was a working geologist operating within the ethics of his discipline, nor would it be surprising that, again according to his biography, " ... Andrew is involved in writing scientific papers that are being published in international scientific journals.".
But it IS surprising! It's surprising that a geologist who obtained his qualifications writing about billion year old rocks and later accepting " ... work in the exploration and mining industries in Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia and the Northern Territory variously as a field, mine and research geologist.", continues to tout his qualifications and prostitute his learning in order to convince the gullible that mainstream geology is wrong and only geology as practised by Andrew Snelling, Ph.D is valid.
It's not that Andrew Snelling has abandoned mainstream geology altogether for, to quote from his biography once more, " ... he is still called upon as a geological consultant to Cogema Australia Pty Ltd for their Koongarra uranium project."
As Dr Alex Ritchie wrote in his article Flood geology: a house built on sand (below):
"If any geologist were to be caught salting a deposit, falsifying results or engaging in other forms of behaviour likely to bring his/her discipline into disrepute, they would be promptly dealt with by their peers.
In my opinion it is equally abhorrent for anyone claiming to be a professional geoscientist to indulge in deliberately misleading and deceptive conduct aimed directly at lay audiences and especially at young people."
... unless there's money involved, and plenty of it. Pass those collection plates please and open those wallets and purses wide, for we have a mission!