Jerry Newcombe on Is America Becoming an Atheist Nation?

Somewhere Bill Maher is smiling. A new Pew Survey (October 17, 2019) has come out, reporting a decline of Christianity in America and the rise of the “nones.” The nones are those who have no religious affiliation.

The report states, “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.”

Included in the bad news is the report that people are attending church less frequently: “Over the last decade, the share of Americans who say they attend religious services at least once or twice a month dropped by 7 percentage points, while the share who say they attend religious services less often (if at all) has risen by the same degree.”

Pew adds, “[M]ore Americans now say they attend religious services a few times a year or less (54%) than say they attend at least monthly (45%)”.

Perhaps most disturbing in the report is that young people are shying away from church attendance or affiliation most of all: “Only about one-in-three Millennials say they attend religious services at least once or twice a month. Roughly two-thirds of Millennials (64%) attend worship services a few times a year or less often.”

Pew notes that the percentage of those who identify themselves as Christians tend to attend church today just as frequently as the same group did in 2009. It’s just that the number of “self-described Christians” in America has shrunk since 2009.

So how are we to deal with this report? On the surface, it seems discouraging. Other studies have shown that the more influence church has, the better off society is—even those who don’t attend church.

Is it possible that the news of the decline of Christianity in America is not as bad as reported?

Dr. Byron Johnson, a professor at Baylor, who previously taught at the University of Pennsylvania and at Princeton, does not agree with the overall tenor of the reporting on this and similar surveys. Dr. Johnson wrote a book called, More God, Less Crime, which documents real and positive differences religion makes in society.

I spoke with him recently on my radio program about this new Pew survey. He told me, “I think the death of religion is greatly exaggerated in these reports. When you start unpacking what Pew actually finds, it really does tell quite a different story. They say that Christianity is in rapid decline. But what they’re not saying is where that decline is.”

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Jerry Newcombe

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