The religious landscape of the United States continues to change at a rapid clip. In Pew Research Center telephone surveys conducted in 2018 and 2019, 65% of American adults describe themselves as Christians when asked about their religion, down 12 percentage points over the past decade. Meanwhile, the religiously unaffiliated share of the population, consisting of people who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular,” now stands at 26%, up from 17% in 2009.
Both Protestantism and Catholicism are experiencing losses of population share. Currently, 43% of U.S. adults identify with Protestantism, down from 51% in 2009. And one-in-five adults (20%) are Catholic, down from 23% in 2009. Meanwhile, all subsets of the religiously unaffiliated population – a group also known as religious “nones” – have seen their numbers swell. Self-described atheists now account for 4% of U.S. adults, up modestly but significantly from 2% in 2009; agnostics make up 5% of U.S. adults, up from 3% a decade ago; and 17% of Americans now describe their religion as “nothing in particular,” up from 12% in 2009. Members of non-Christian religions also have grown modestly as a share of the adult population.
Look at how fast things are changing. In only 12 years:
And notice that the decline is among everybody. It’s much more true among Democrats than Republicans, but otherwise, it covers the entire demographic landscape:
And notice how religion falls off a cliff when it comes to Millennials. If you think somehow there’s going to be a recovery with Generation Z, you’re dreaming:
There is no good news anywhere in this report. It breaks down religious decline by region. It’s down dramatically in every region in the country, though the most rapidly secularizing is the Northeast, having lost a staggering 15 percent of its Christians over the past dozen years. It breaks it down by party affiliation too. The Democrats are without a doubt the secular party now. Most white Democrats no longer identify as Christian. Christianity within that party’s partisans is largely confined to blacks and Hispanics, though it is declining among them too. And, most white adults say they rarely if ever attend church services.
Church people, the alarms are ringing. Can you not see it? Just yesterday I heard from a reader who teaches in a school in one of the most conservative, religious parts of the US. He told me that he discussed the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision the other day in class as they were discussing the Supreme Court. He said every one of his students thought that the cake baker ought to be crushed. We will not long have religious liberty in America without religiously observant Americans.
As I always say, we have to stay involved in politics, if only to protect the right of religious believers to run our own institutions and affairs. This is important! But if we are not at the same time doubling down on teaching and forming Christians, our political victories, and our legal victories, will do us no good.
Read The Benedict Option. It’s important. We don’t have all the time in the world to think about this, and to work out a response. The crisis is here. The crisis is now. What we have been doing is not working. Donald Trump is not going to save us.
What is it going to take to wake you up?
UPDATE: I missed this data point:
Pretty momentous finding deep in this big Pew report:
Millennials appear to have become the first generation (in U.S. history, no doubt) to be majority non-Christian.
Just a reminder: if you work for the Catholic Church in the U.S., your employer is Blockbuster Video, it’s June of 2008, and you’re still arguing about how to better display the DVDs on the shelves. pic.twitter.com/1wLe4kaEOI