by D.C. Innes
Polls indicate that the proportion of Christians in America is declining from one generation to the next, and that the share of the religiously unaffiliated is growing. At the same time, pagan culture has become dominant. One may wonder if there is a future for Christianity in America.
But Stephen Turley points us to demographic data that indicates that “the future, as it turns out, is actually rather dire for secular liberalism.” The U.S. fertility rate (births per woman) is about 1.9, whereas the replacement rate to sustain population levels is 2.1. But religious people have markedly larger families than the irreligious. A Pew survey this year found that the fertility rate among Catholics and evangelicals is 2.3, whereas atheists and agnostics are well below the replacement rate at about 1.4 children per family. University of London political scientist Eric Kaufmann calls this “the soft underbelly of secularism.”
If American Christians were to produce children at a rate double that of secular America, 3 percent or above, including adoptions, then America would have hope of a more Christ-honoring future. To put this in perspective, the post–World War II baby boom broke the 3.6 percent mark at its peak. The Mormon fertility rate is 3.4. It can be done.
But there is more to producing a Christian culture than filling the minivan. According to the same Pew study, 34 percent of those born in evangelical homes have forsaken their religious roots. Thankfully, even more have come into the faith from outside, but not enough to keep up with population growth. This is the backdoor problem, our sad failure in passing on a vibrant faith to successive generations.
SOURCE: World Magazine
D.C. is associate professor of politics at The King’s College in New York City and co-author of Left, Right, and Christ: Evangelical Faith in Politics (Russell Media). Follow D.C. on Twitter @DCInnes1.