I recently read an article on Google News that disturbed me. It actually prompted me to do some research to see if there was supporting evidence for their summation of the trend they say is currently happening in our nation. This survey was done by Pew Research Center and states that “the question is not whether Christianity will decline [in the United States], but how fast and how far.” Now some of you may be thinking that a large part of this is due to the immigration population in the United States bringing in different religions of their native land. But, in fact, the unsettling news to me is that people are stating they have no belief at all.
Christianity, one of the premises on which our country was built, is on the decline. People seem to be giving up on Christianity. And relatively few of these people are changing to associate with other religions. More and more people who previously identified with Christianity are claiming they have given up on faith in general. When given a survey, the overwhelming majority of those changing from Christianity chose the category, “None.” The option of “Atheist” was available as well, but oddly enough, people are choosing “None.” In fact, atheists are still in the single digits in the U.S. Perhaps this is an indication that those changing still have a belief in God, and perhaps even still pray. But many have become indifferent to religion of any sort. The percentage of those who chose “None” in 1996 was about 10%. By 2006, it had reached 15%. By 2014, it surpassed 20%. It has now raced to over 30%. If this shift continues, it will not be long before Christians will become a minority in the United States.
Why is this occurring? Some sociologists believe it is because main line churches have become too liberal and reek of secularism. It used to be that if you grew up in a Christian home, you claimed to be a Christian. Or, if you grew up in a Muslim or Jewish home, you automatically took on the identity of that religion. But that trend appears to be rapidly decreasing. Those who affiliate with non-Christian religions are about 6% of the population in the United States. Those who claim to be atheists or agnostic in the survey were 8%. If the “Nones” are close to 35%, that leaves about 52% who associate themselves with Christianity.
According to a 2021 Gallup poll, only 22% of those who identify as Christians say they regularly attend church services. In May of 2022 another Gallup poll found that only 40% of those who DO identify as Christian believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. That is confounding…people who identify as Christians that do not trust the Bible??? Follow-up questions probed that particular 40% who identified as Christian, finding that only ¾ of them used the Bible as a moral guide and believed that God hears prayer and intervenes on behalf of the believer.
These declining numbers of faith are further supported by other surveys performed by the Barna Group. Among them, I found one poll particularly interesting. It queried Americans on what they thought of Jesus: 92% believe he was a real person in history; 62% stated they consider themselves Christians, but only 56% believe Jesus is the Son of God (this blows my mind…it appears some of the 62% of identifying Christians don’t really believe Jesus is the Son of God).
Perhaps you do not find these figures alarming, or even interesting. After all, to many there seems to be nothing at all logical about Christianity…nothing really reasonable about it. Rather, it seems to be a decision based on a whim of faith…faith in the character of God. Interestingly enough, God states He is happy to impart that faith to those who ask. But faith is no small thing! Faith is when a dad stands in deep water and tells his son to jump into the water, assuring him that there is no danger…that he is there to catch him. Faith is when that son leaps into the water knowing his father will never let anything bad happen to him. Faith requires action! Faith requires trust. It is not a sign of weakness, but of courage and strength. After all, it takes great courage and strength for that son to jump.
As we see the influence of faith on American culture and individual lives growing more and more invisible, are we losing courage and strength in the battle for our very souls? Our forefathers seemed to know that faith is critical. Not only did our country have a Christian founding, but virtually all of the founding fathers were Christians who consciously drew from their religious convictions to answer most political questions and create our founding policies. They entered into the adventure of the New World with the paradoxical excitement of the Christian faith. The more we die to self, the more alive we feel. We are at our strongest when we are at our weakest. We may be wisest when we realize how little we know. We fear God, but we are not afraid of Him. We may have little, but our lives can be rich. We seem to have the most when we give more away. We may very well be at our best when we are most painfully conscious of our tendencies for failure in character and integrity.
Sometimes I imagine a tragic scenario. A powerful leader (e.g., a Hitler??), decides to annihilate all the Christians of the world and makes the decision to begin in America. He sends armies to invade the country thinking, “Surely these Christians will be easy to detect in this nation founded on that belief.” The troops arrive, expecting to easily find and identify these zealous right-wing outliers. But upon arriving, they struggle to see any distinction in the daily lives of those who populate the cities and countryside. They look for those whose morals and actions indicate a strong faith. But they are confused, finding no discernable differences. The citizens’ treatment of each other shows no obvious signs of this faith that is supposed to be life changing. The soldiers are unsure who to kill. They are surrounded by a culture seeking multiple desires, none of them seemingly seeking a relationship with a man called Jesus. The invading troops find a nation who seemingly sees less value in people and relate more to their phones. They are like children feeding themselves with junk food, not having a clue what nutrition they actually need.
For more than 200 years we have celebrated our independence in this country. And despite all its faults, it is a wonderful country to live in. But what good is independence and freedom if our children have not learned to walk in goodness, justice and mercy? The American experiment will have failed.
In just the span of my lifetime we have seen many changes in America. Violent crime has increased almost 600%. The divorce rate has almost tripled. Less than half of American children live in a home with 2 parents. Our students now rank near the bottom in tests of math and science. The United States leads the industrialized world in murder, rape, and violent crime. In 1995, the FAA reported 146 “unruly” passenger investigations. By 2021, that number had exploded to 1099. As reported by NBC News, road-rage shootings have seen the worst year on record in 2021. More than 500 people were killed or wounded while driving last year, and 8 out of 10 Americans polled, admitted they have engaged in road-rage at least once in the last year. Are we losing our capacity for shock, outrage, and disgust? Are these good things to get used to? Is there a connection? Just sayin’…
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Anne Hope is the award winning author of Bent Pages...a sharp, funny, and deeply inspirational narrative. Kindle version of the award winning, "Bent Pages" is now on sale at Amazon! Click on the link below to take you there.