The decline of Catholics in Massachusetts and the rise of those individuals who profess no affiliation with organized religion poses great challenges to any center-right movement. The Hispanic population is growing — sustaining the dominance of Catholics. There are probably more evangelicals but the overall trend appears to be toward secularism. It's time to think what an agenda for the 21st century in Massachusetts will look like.
The Catholic population in New England, long the most Catholic region in the country, is plummeting, according to a large survey of religious affiliation in the United States.
The American Religious Identification Survey, a national study being released today by Trinity College in Hartford, finds that the Catholic population of New England fell by more than 1 million in the past two decades, even while the overall population of the region was growing.
The study, based on 54,000 telephone interviews conducted last year, found that the six-state region is now 36 percent Catholic, down from 50 percent in 1990. In Massachusetts, the decline is particularly striking – in 1990, Catholics made up a majority of the state, with 54 percent of the residents, but in 2008, the Catholic population was 39 percent. At the same time, the percentage of the state's residents who say they have no religious affiliation rose sharply, from 8 percent to 22 percent.
“It’s quite an amazing change," said Barry A. Kosmin, one of the study's authors. He is the director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society & Culture, a research center at Trinity that was founded after two previous versions of the study, in 1990 and 2001, found a sharp increase in the number of Americans who say they are not religious.
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