Michael Gerson is on a decline of religion kick. In his second article on the topic in the last week, he states:
Those cheering the trend of religious disaffiliation should consider some broader social consequences. The rise of the nones is symptomatic of the decline of many forms of belonging. According to Pew, all of the recent growth in the nones has come among those who are not married. This indicates a group of people distrustful of institutions, with marriage being the most basic of institutions. The unaffiliated donate less to charity than do the affiliated. They participate in fewer volunteer organizations. Individualism can easily become atomization. Whatever else you may think of the communitarian creeds, they help create community.
Now I do not know if it is a factual statement to say that the unaffiliated donate less to charities, or volunteer less than their affiliated counterparts, however, I do know that it’s lazy “journalism” to make such a statement based on a biased source. Gerson cites in his “less” link above to familyfacts.org — a component of the Heritage Foundation.
I’m not knocking familyfacts for what they publish — they’re geared to a particular audience. Gerson, on the other hand, should be expected to draw from unbiased sources in his editorializing. Think how a conservative feels when seeing the source material drawn from MSNBC – is it to be trusted?
I’d give much more credence to the statement if it came from Gallup or Pew — established polling companies that operate with tradecraft to make such a conclusion.
I don’t believe familyfacts statements on the issue are well studied. The sources used in their bullet paper are drawn from 2005 and 2000 respectively. Not to say they’re wrong, I just don’t think enough research has been devoted to this matter.
Nones for the most part tend to be younger – Millennials that are just getting started in life. Understandably, they lack the financial resources to be comparably philanthropic. With regard to volunteerism, a community church is a perfect place to encourage and foster volunteerism; however, endeavoring to say that Nones are not charitable with their time is a gross injustice. There are thousands of volunteer opportunities in a wide range of interest areas that are not religiously-based. I can’t recall being asked my religious background when volunteering or supporting non-profit activities — how does familyfacts, or Gerson, measure this statement? The fact is, they can’t – because the data to support it simply does not exist.