Christians Decline as Share of U.S. Population and the Unaffiliated Are Growing

According the Pew Research Center Christianity is on the decline in the United States. Religion, as a rule, has been on the decline in more prosperous and socially progressive countries world wide for some time.  The numbers don’t necessarily imply a decline in belief and even if religion were to disappear, then what? Some experts believe the decline in religion shown in a lot of modern research is more indicative of a decline in religious affiliation. For example this chart shows that there is indeed an increase in people who identify as non-religious (atheist, agnostic, unaffiliated, etc.):

But this chart also shows an increase in diversity among Christians:

On first look these two sets of data do reinforce the theory that people aren’t necessarily less religious but more often going their own way in finding what sort of beliefs they like. (Source). The research also points out: ‘While many U.S. religious groups are aging, the unaffiliated are comparatively young – and getting younger, on average, over time.’ It’s hard to pinpoint while younger generations are less religious but Michael Hout, a professor of sociology at New York University says :

Many Millennials have parents who are Baby Boomers and Boomers expressed to their children that it’s important to think for themselves – that they find their own moral compass. Also, they rejected the idea that a good kid is an obedient kid. That’s at odds with organizations, like churches, that have a long tradition of official teaching and obedience. And more than any other group, Millennials have been and are still being formed in this cultural context. As a result, they are more likely to have a “do-it-yourself” attitude toward religion.(Source)

Hout cites cultural upbringing as the reason for Millennials to be so disconnected from religion. Things like Watergate, televangelists and other scandals have shaken younger generations’ trust in traditional institutions. In 2009 The Center For American Progress found that Millenials are much more progressive then older generations.

Millennials support gay marriage, take race and gender equality as givens, are tolerant of religious and family diversity, have an open and positive attitude toward immigration, and generally display little interest in fighting over the divisive social issues of the past. Almost two-thirds agree that religious faith should focus more on promoting tolerance, social justice, and peace in society, and less on opposing abortion or gay rights. (source)

I did post on why religious unbelief is tied to affluence in 2013 and concluded that religious belief is indeed tied to social and economic progress.  This is very positive. However history has taught us that until human condition changes there will always be hate, greed..etc but perhaps as civilization grows more of a focus on this world and not the next we will save ourselves from a very uncertain future.


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