CAIRO – Reflecting a growing departure from religion in the United States, a new survey has found that while 90 percent of Americans plan to celebrate Christmas this year, barely half of them say it is a religious holiday.
"This was the first time we've explored specific topics about how people celebrate Christmas," Gregory Smith, director of US Religion Surveys for Pew, told Deseret News.
"It's not any surprise that the vast majority tell us they celebrate Christmas. But I was struck that only about half celebrate and see it as religious."
The research released on Wednesday by Pew Research has found that the perception of Christmas as a religious holiday is waning in the United States.
Respondents were asked to compare their perception and practice of Christmas between childhood and adulthood.
Whereas 90 percent of Americans of all creeds will celebrate Christmas in 2013, including 80 percent of non-Christians, Pew found that only about half view Christmas mostly as a religious holiday, and a full third of the population considers it to be primarily a cultural event.
Pew researchers said in a news release that their findings were “consistent with other research showing that younger Americans are helping to drive the growth of the religiously unaffiliated population within the US.”
Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to from 7 to 8 million Muslims.
Christmas is the main festival on the Christian calendar. Its celebrations reach its peak at 12:00 PM on December 24 of every year.
Muslims believe in Jesus as one of the great Prophets of God and that he is the son of Mary but not the Son of God. He was conceived and born miraculously.
In the Noble Qur’an, Jesus is called "Isa". He is also known as Al-Masih (the Christ) and Ibn Maryam (Son of Mary).
Defining a generational gap in the American society’s perceptions of Christmas, the research results incited fears about the erosion of Christian piety in America as well.
Fully two-thirds of Americans age 65 and older see Christmas as a religious holiday, as do most Americans ages 50-64 (55%) and half of those in their 30s and 40s (50%).
By contrast, 39% of adults under 30 say Christmas is more of a religious holiday, while 44% say for them, personally, Christmas is more of a cultural occasion.
"There are real generational differences in the way people say they will incorporate religion into their commemoration of Christmas," said Smith.
"Young adults are less likely than older people to view the holiday as religious. They are less likely to plan to attend Christmas services. They are less likely to believe in a virgin birth. It's pretty striking and also consistent with other research that shows young people as 'religious nones,’ ” he added.
The findings stroke a chord with the University of Chicago's most recent General Social Survey, released earlier this year which found that 20 percent of Americans identify as having “no religious preference,” two times higher than in 1990 and four times higher than in 1972, the first year the survey was taken, Aljazeera America reported.
One-third of 18- to 24-year-olds in that survey declared “no religious preference.”
In a landmark survey published earlier this year, Pew found a similar trend among American Jews, with 32 percent of millennials describing themselves as “having no religion.”
Facing the increasing atheism in America, some Christian groups like the Knights of Columbus have launched “Keep Christ in Christmas” campaigns, selling posters bearing that slogan and encouraging Americans to embrace “the true, spiritual meaning of Christmas.”
The news, however, were lauded by atheist groups who wanted to preserve a secular Christmas.
“I think we are already halfway there,” Dave Muscato of the American Atheists, an advocacy group that promotes civil rights for atheists, told Al Jazeera, saying that Christmas could soon be a totally secular holiday in the US.
“I think in another two or three generations, we will see it no differently than we see Valentine's Day today.”
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