Churches are closing at rapid numbers in the US, researchers say, as congregations dwindle across the country and a younger generation of Americans abandon Christianity altogether – even as faith continues to dominate American politics.
As the US adjusts to an increasingly non-religious population, thousands of churches are closing each year in the country – a figure that experts believe may have accelerated since the COVID-19 pandemic. [Source: The Guardian]
According to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center, the Christian U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing,
Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. 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. (Explore the data with Pew's interactive database tool.)
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%. And the share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths also has inched up, rising 1.2 percentage points, from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.9% in 2014. Growth has been especially great among Muslims and Hindus, albeit from a very low base.
Stephen Bullivant, author of Nonverts: The Making of Ex-Christian America and professor of theology and the sociology of religion at St Mary’s University, said that the Christian world has been impacted by a generational change.
"In the Catholic church, the sexual abuse scandal may have driven away people who had only a tenuous connection to the faith, the other thing is the pandemic,” Bullivant said. “A lot of people who were weakly attached to religion, are now not going, and instead are thinking: ‘Well we don’t really need to go,’ or ‘We’ve found something else to do,’ or thinking: ‘It was hard enough dragging the kids along then, we really ought to start going again … next week.’”
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