Lyman Stone, Fellow at American Enterprise Institute, Says Religion in America May Continue on Path of ‘Terminal Decline’ if Families Don’t Get More Support from Society

Unless families get more support and fertility rates are increased among the faithful, religious communities in America could continue on a path toward “terminal decline,” says economist and researcher Lyman Stone.

“If this is about household dynamics, if this is about families, if this is about babies, as I am arguing it is, could society support parents more? Could we change this? And could we do something that would be justifiable in a pluralist and liberal society? As we’re not just going to force people to pray in public schools or something,” the researcher said.

Stone, who is an adjunct fellow at American Enterprise Institute, a Washington D.C.-based think tank, and a research fellow at the Institute for Family Studies, made the argument during a webinar Thursday, billed “Religiosity in America: Trends of the past and options for the future.”

At the beginning of his presentation, Stone made it clear that while current indicators point toward a “terminal decline” of religion in America, it doesn’t have to continue on that path.

“It’s rapidly heading into terminal decline, … a kind of death,” Stone said of religion to webinar participants, including panelists Daniel Cox, a research fellow in polling and public opinion at AEI, and Ross Douthat, a conservative political analyst, author and New York Times columnist.

“Certainly there is plenty … I have written that can feed into that narrative, but by the time I get to the end I actually want to challenge this view that religiosity in America is necessarily going to follow this terminal downward slope,” he said.

Stone, who is a former international economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, highlighted research showing that even though the share of Americans who say they are affiliated with some kind of religion or attend church weekly are all trending downward, America is still more religious today than during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

More Americans today, however, identify with no particular religion than at any period in the nation’s history. Only 65% of Americans now identify as Christian, while those who identify as religiously unaffiliated swelled to 26%, a recent study from the Pew Research Center noted.

The biggest changes in religious behavior, said Stone, is not coming from adults turning their back on faith but differences in religious outlook between generations that are largely influenced by the family life of those generations.

In older generations, Stone argued, data show that families tended to be more religious. He also pointed to studies showing that households that have more at home religious family activities tend to have children who are more likely to remain religious later in life.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Leonardo Blair