A new survey of LGBT adults by the Pew Research Center reveals a lot about the intersection of homosexuality and religion.
Let’s run through the data (PDF):
When it comes to the religious beliefs of LGBT adults, 48% are non-religious and as astonishing 17% of them are atheists or agnostics:
When it comes to religion, the LGBT population has a distinctly different profile than the general public. Fewer LGBT adults have a religious affiliation. About half of LGBT respondents describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or having no particular religion (48%) — more than double the portion of the general public that is religiously unaffiliated (20%).
What happens when you break it down by age? We know that, in general, younger Americans tend to be less religious. Does that trend hold true in the LGBT population?
Absolutely. In fact, 60% of 18=29-year-olds are not religious, nearly double what we typically see in the general population in that age group:
Young LGBT adults are particularly likely to have no religious affiliation, a pattern that is also found among the general
public. However, compared with the general public, a higher share of LGBT adults are unaffiliated across all age groups. For example, among adults ages 18 to 29 in the general public, 31% are religiously unaffiliated, while roughly double that share (60%) are unaffiliated among LGBT adults of the same age. And roughly one-in-eight adults ages 50 and older in the general public are unaffiliated (13%), compared with about four-in-ten (39%) of older LGBT adults.
The survey also asks about perceptions of what different religious groups think about LGBT individuals. It asks whether the six popular religious institutions — Evangelical, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Mormon, and non-evangelical Protestant — are friendly, neutral, or unfriendly toward LGBT people.No surprisingly, Unfriendly scored higher than Friendly every time:
Pew also grouped the responses a different way. As it turns out, 93% of LGBT adults think at least one religious institution is unfriendly toward them and 71% think at least four religious institutions are unfriendly toward them. (No word on how many view all six as pretty awful.)
Perceptions of these religious institutions among LGBT adults loosely correspond with survey findings on attitudes toward homosexuality within each of the religious groups. Members of the U.S. general public who identify as white evangelical Protestant, black Protestant, Mormon and Muslim are less accepting of homosexuality than the general public as whole. Each of these groups is more likely to say that homosexuality should be discouraged by society rather than accepted by society, according to Pew Research surveys, with the exception of U.S. Muslims, who are about equally likely to say that homosexuality should be accepted as discouraged by society. White mainline Protestants and Jews (along with the unaffiliated) are more accepting of homosexuality than the general public as a whole. Catholics are also more accepting of homosexuality than the general public as whole, although the Catholic Church officially teaches that homosexual behavior is a sinful act.
So what’s the takeaway from all this? We don’t really learn anything new, but the survey confirms that treatment and attitude toward the LGBT community is going to be a problem in the religious world for years to come. Young people are going to have to decide whether or not to support an institution that thinks gay and lesbian relationships are inferior to straight ones. Given the trends for young people and the LGBT population, the more the religious world speaks out against homosexuality, the faster they push young people out of the fold.
We, as atheists, can help hasten the trends by making our communities as welcoming of the LGBT crowd as we can. Not that we’ve been doing a bad job, but we can always make a concerted effort to let disaffected individuals know that, even if their church doesn’t approve of them, we do.
(Thanks to Erp for the link!)