Christianity Is Declining in America

This has been all over the news recently, and because it’s related to creationism we think it’s worth mentioning. According to the Pew Research Center, a public opinion polling organization, they’ve found that “Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population.” That’s the sub-title of this article at their website: America’s Changing Religious Landscape. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups.

Many demographic groups? Apparently so. They say:

While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.

What do the numbers look like? Let’s read on:

To be sure, the United States remains home to more Christians than any other country in the world, and a large majority of Americans – roughly seven-in-ten – continue to identify with some branch of the Christian faith. But the major new survey of more than 35,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center finds that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%.

That’s a big change. What’s going on? We continue:

The drop in the Christian share of the population has been driven mainly by declines among mainline Protestants and Catholics. Each of those large religious traditions has shrunk by approximately three percentage points since 2007. The evangelical Protestant share of the U.S. population also has dipped, but at a slower rate, falling by about one percentage point since 2007.

Interesting. The denominations most likely to be involved with science-denial are declining too, but they aren’t dropping like the mainline denominations.

The article has charts and a lot more numbers. We can’t summarize all of it, so we’ll just give you a few more excerpts:

Meanwhile, the number of religiously unaffiliated adults has increased by roughly 19 million since 2007. There are now approximately 56 million religiously unaffiliated adults in the U.S., and this group – sometimes called religious “nones” – is more numerous than either Catholics or mainline Protestants, according to the new survey. Indeed, the unaffiliated are now second in size only to evangelical Protestants among major religious groups in the U.S.

Hey, this is big! Here’s more:

One of the most important factors in the declining share of Christians and the growth of the “nones” is generational replacement. As the Millennial generation enters adulthood, its members display much lower levels of religious affiliation, including less connection with Christian churches, than older generations. Fully 36% of young Millennials (those between the ages of 18 and 24) are religiously unaffiliated, as are 34% of older Millennials (ages 25-33). And fewer than six-in-ten Millennials identify with any branch of Christianity …

This is an ominous portent for the future of Ken Ham’s creationist operation. He’s written about it recently — see Yes, We Are Losing the Millennials. Hambo’s solution — more creationism!

Maybe Hambo knows what he’s doing. Or maybe he’s a clueless as the others, but he’s sticking with what has worked for him in the past. We can’t predict the future, but the statistics are telling us something. What is it?

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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22 responses to “Christianity Is Declining in America

  1. I dunno. Maybe Hambone will get fewer visitors than his attempts to get the local government to underwrite his arc forecast.

  2. I think that more and more people have figured out what I did 50 years ago, that most religion is used to abuse people than to help raise our spirit and benefit society in general. Maybe that are not just buying the old Bull$hit and are looking for something else. Or maybe they are just to damn lazy to get their a$$ out of bed on Sunday morning and go to church. Me too. What ever the reason, it couldn’t happen to a better country. Maybe at some point in the future we will realize that so called “American Exceptionalism” is more right wing bull$hit and that we’re not that much better than most of the rest of the world. We just have a bigger national ego that get’s in the way of actually doing something good for the world. We’re all in this together and there’s no way off this rock. So we need to get along better together, or we’re going to go down together. Mother Nature doesn’t care about one species or another and if we screw up this planet there’s no other place to go. Glad I got all that off my chest.

  3. Adam Latts wrote an interesting take on these data at: basically postulating that the declining numbers will lead to an increase in the temperature of the heated debates.

  4. waldteufel

    Ken Ham’s take on this is amusingly clueless.

  5. Too much baggage trying to prop up unbelievable tales.

  6. I think part of it is people who were previously worried about being ousted from their communities or their social circles realizing it just didn’t matter that much. There’s still a fair amount of discrimination against the “nones,” but even that’s ebbing. This is also why evangelical churches are declining less – being more insular, letting go in those communities is considerably harder.

  7. I would love to go to Ken Ham’s “museum” just for a good laugh. I live too far away and wouldn’t spend the money to get their though.

  8. @waldteufel — Clueless but not really surprising. What ARG’s research shows is that people who know something about reality aren’t dreadfully fond of mythical views of the world. Hambone’s response is, basically, let’s tell more myths! Isn’t there a definition of insanity related to repeating something that hasn’t worked?

  9. dweller42 says: “This is also why evangelical churches are declining less – being more insular, letting go in those communities is considerably harder.”

    I think it’s more than insularity that accounts for the persistence of those denominations. The more detached from reality one is, the more important such a church becomes.

  10. I wonder how many people that identify themselves as christians have simply been baptized as a child. This may lead some to declare themselves to be christian while having nothing else to do with organized religion.

  11. Doctor Stochastic

    Christianity may be declining but Islam is conjugating.

  12. Charles Deetz ;)

    Christianity is butting up against cultural norms, and cultural norms win. Evolution, abortion, gay rights, peace, love, and happiness. And the internet! The mysterious is so much less mysterious. Looking for substantial justification for hating someone besides what a book and a priest says comes up short, even on the internet.

  13. Dave Luckett

    @ Charles Deetz, cultural norms appear to me to be changing despite the internet, not because of it. Hate groups are one of its main users, it seems. The only place I find full-blown Nazism regularly appearing these days, with Jew-baiting at a level that would have pleased Julius Streicher, is Youtube.

    But you’re right, I think. Notwithstanding the extraordinary degree of febrile fervor on the net for … well, you name the scabrous cause: antisemitism, conspiracy theory, birthers, truthers, racism, confederacy partisans, creationism, loony-tunes history and archeology, extremists on Israel, both sides, and so on and on… I think public opinion is slowly becoming more tolerant of difference and more open to argument from evidence.

    Long may it continue.

  14. I, Prophet. This portends more martyrdom complexes.

  15. The only interesting question is why it happens in the USA now and not 50 years ago (indeed, in the roaring 1960’s), when it happened in Western Europe.

  16. Living in HYPOCRISY for years is now telling.
    90% of catlick women use birth control and the church says they are evil!
    many have premarital sex and are told they are evil.
    Many like their gay friends & are told they are evil.
    Many know nice divorced people & told they are evil.
    Many try to live well & told they are evil and were born that way.
    Eventually you realize they are not evil people & the CHURCHES & PREACHERS ARE EVIL & you leave.
    When I have discussions with religious types and they complain on how the church operates I tell them they have 3 choices
    1-realize the religion is evil and stop buying the BS.
    2-Accept being a hypocrite and continue as is.
    3-DENY-DENY-deny and deny until you believe it and go to church.
    Most accept choice #2 but know a few that did #3 successfully.

  17. L. Long,

    I was raised in a fundamentalist Baptist church. I wouldn’t classify the churches and preachers as “EVIL”. That’s absurd.
    Are they extremely wrong about the nature of reality and the history of biology/geology/ and related fields? Yes.
    Are they naive and ignorant? For the most part.
    Can they be insular and discriminatory? Yes; about the same as any other group of people.
    Are they evil? No.

  18. Sorry Reflectory but no! Look at movies and how do they portray evil…but ugly deformed killers. Now look at reality….People who smile and are nice and say they give to charity, while brainwashing others to hate,be bigots, and fear….YOU CAN’T GET MORE EVIL!!!
    I’ll take the ugly killer as a neighbor rather then the preacher any day!!! Chance are that he is just unfortunate and not all that nasty or bad or evil. The suited, smiling preacher is NEVER to be trusted!!!

  19. @ nmbo “The only interesting question is why it happens in the USA now and not 50 years ago”. One article I read says the rise and fall of atheism (especially militant) in this country has had a lot to do with public religiosity. By that they meant when the religious get all in your face about abortion or homosexuality or voting for jebus, many sectors of the country react against that. I know that for my own part I got a lot more vocal when religion got a lot more overt. You want to worship, fine, but shut up about it. This has been something that has happened before in America.

    My state has some decent republicans in office but I will vote against them every time until the party stops being a wholly owned subsidiary of christianity. I have no desire to see Hillary Clinton become president but if she is the nominee I will vote for her rather than any republican that is currently out there because I don’t want them picking the next supreme court justice. This is a terrible way to pick a president but it is what we are reduced to, the lesser evil.

  20. SC, that’s why I chose that word, “insular.” You have to protect yourself from outside influences and popular culture, consuming them only in ways that the authority, whatever it is, says that you can, or through the lens of your religious beliefs. It’s both how you can know that evolution is wrong without being able to explain what a scientific theory is, and how you can protest a movie as “blasphemous” before it’s even released.

  21. From the article:
    “Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%.”


    I know a lot of “nothing in particular” folks who don’t identify as Christians, but they believe in Heaven, Hell, and some form of old Earth creationism/evolution hybrid.

  22. L. Long.,

    Really? I guess our difference is semantic. My day-to-day is law enforcement and my definition of “evil” is much harsher. I have to say, if church people meet your definition of evil, you might be pretty sheltered in your view of evil. I guess that is good for you. I don’t wish what I have seen on others.