Lot of chatter over the new Pew survey of religiosity, “Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow“.
Main result: Christianity down, “nones” up. Many take that as saying “religion is declining.” This is not only false, but ludicrously false. Religion is, if anything, increasing in frequency and in intensity. It’s only that Christianity is on the skids.
Catholics and mainline protesting Christians dropped over 3% each in seven years; and evangelicals are down about 1%. Catholics still make around 1/5 of the population, mainline protesters 1/7, and evangelical protesters 1/4. Historically non-Christian faiths, like Judaism, Islamism, Buddhisms, Hinduism and others are up about 1%, but in total are only 1/17 of us.
Loosely affiliated Christian-like religions, like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormonism, remained fairly constant at around 1/35 the population. Orthodox Christian held steady at half a percent, and something under an unchanged 7% historically black Christian denominations.
Lump all the Christian or Christian-like sects together: in 2007 over 78% of the population, and in 2014 over 70%.
The real news are the yoga, hipster, progressive, environmental, agnostic, even atheistic “Nones” (or “unaffiliated”), which shot up about 7% and now represent about 1/4 of Americans. Atheists proper are up from just under 2% to around 3%.
Pew said, “More than 85% of American adults were raised Christian, but nearly a quarter of those who were raised Christian no longer identify with Christianity.” And “within Christianity the greatest net losses, by far, have been experienced by Catholics. Nearly one-third of American adults (31.7%) say they were raised Catholic. Among that group, fully 41% no longer identify with Catholicism.”
These people have slid over to the nones who “now constitute 19% of the adult population in the South (up from 13% in 2007), 22% of the population in the Midwest (up from 16%), 25% of the population in the Northeast (up from 16%) and 28% of the population in the West (up from 21%). In the West, the religiously unaffiliated are more numerous than Catholics (23%), evangelicals (22%) and every other religious group.”
To claim these nones are not religious is the mistake. Of course they are religious. They don’t say they are, but that is nothing. When pressed, they say they are “spiritual” or “caring” or “nice people.” But just you disagree with one of them over their dogma (equality, etc.) and you’ll quickly rediscover the meaning of “sacred.” Their religion is a mixture of old timey paganism, gnosticism, narcissism, nihilism, hanging-outism—and did I mention yogaism?
Mistake number two is to suppose that all those who volunteered they were Christians still believed Christian doctrine in its Biblical form; say, of the Nicene creed. Something that might be a good approximation to that is routine mass or service attendance. CARA tracks Catholic stats: In 1960 about 55% of self-proclaimed Catholics attended mass regularly, down to 24% in 2014.
Pew earlier said Christians (lumped together) who attended regular services was about 39%, while those who attended rarely or never was about 29%. The 39% is probably exaggerated, too: people lie to pollsters about going to service (see this or this)
A crude guess is about 1/3 in each of Catholic and mainline protesters and probably 5/6 or more of evangelicals are seriously serious. That means instead of the proclaimed 70.6%, we’re somewhere in the neighborhood of 20% to 30% of Americans who now stick to the traditional creeds. When push comes to shove—and it will—this will decrease further.
“I don’t follow you, Briggs. Explain what you mean about traditional creeds.”
All right. Yesterday in the far-left Washington Post, they had an editorial by Barronelle Stutzman, the florist who turned down making a floral arrangement for two men who wanted to pretend to marry. She stuck to tradition even though it is ruining her material life (the State chased her down like she was a rabid dog).
A commentor (one of six thousand) rejoicing under the nom de plume “BecauseIAmWeak” said that Stutzman was unChristian and that she, Stutzman, was not only disappointing Jesus, but that Stutzman’s actions were Satanic. Sticking to the creed is now the work of the devil! BecauseIAmWeak would have told Pew she was “Christian.” (You’ll have to trust my quotation because the Post’s commenting software sucks wind.)
There were, among certain blogs, some needless gasping and panting about the Pew results. To counter this, the ever-sober Thomas McDonald reminded us of Pope Benedict’s words in “What Will The Church Look Like in 2000″:
From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge—a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so will she lose many of her social privileges. In contrast to an earlier age, she will be seen much more as a voluntary society, entered only by free decision…
The Church will be a more spiritual Church, not presuming upon a political mandate, flirting as little with the Left as with the Right. It will be hard going for the Church, for the process of crystalization and clarification will cost her much valuable energy. It will make her poor and cause her to become the Church of the meek.
So Benedict was off by a couple of decades. Nobody bats 1000.