Pew just released a survey of religion in America, and the headline is Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population:

The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. 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.

The complete Report is here (pdf.).

The percentage of Christians has declined by 8 percent sice 2007:

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….

In 2007, there were 227 million adults in the United States, and a little more than 78% of them – or roughly 178 million – identified as Christians. Between 2007 and 2014, the overall size of the U.S. adult population grew by about 18 million people, to nearly 245 million.7 But the share of adults who identify as Christians fell to just under 71%, or approximately 173 million Americans, a net decline of about 5 million.

Here’s the summary chart:

Pew May 2015 Religious Landscape Chart Changes

Interestingly, Evangelical Christians are the only growing Christian group:

The evangelical Protestant tradition is the only major Christian group in the survey that has gained more members than it has lost through religious switching. Roughly 10% of U.S. adults now identify with evangelical Protestantism after having been raised in another tradition, which more than offsets the roughly 8% of adults who were raised as evangelicals but have left for another religious tradition or who no longer identify with any organized faith.

It seems that Christians are experiencing a phenomenon taking place in the Jewish community where the Orthodox community is the only growing segment. I’ll be curious when Pew updates its 2013 survey of Jews.

The NY Times purports to be bewildered as to the cause:

The report does not offer an explanation for the decline of the Christian population, but the low levels of Christian affiliation among the young, well educated and affluent are consistent with prevailing theories for the rise of the unaffiliated, like the politicization of religion by American conservatives, a broader disengagement from all traditional institutions and labels, the combination of delayed and interreligious marriage, and economic development.

I’m not bewildered.

There has been a multi-generational attack in the culture and the education system on religion in general, but particularly on Christianity. It is no surprise that Christianity is losing ground most among the young. From the Pew study:

One of the most important factors in the declining share of Christians and the growth of the “nones” is generational replacement. As the Millennial generation enters adulthood, its members display much lower levels of religious affiliation, including less connection with Christian churches, than older generations. Fully 36% of young Millennials (those between the ages of 18 and 24) are religiously unaffiliated, as are 34% of older Millennials (ages 25-33). And fewer than six-in-ten Millennials identify with any branch of Christianity, compared with seven-in-ten or more among older generations, including Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. Just 16% of Millennials are Catholic, and only 11% identify with mainline Protestantism. Roughly one-in-five are evangelical Protestants.

It also is no surprise that unaffiliated is the fasted growing group, and that the percentage of atheists or agnostics among the unaffiliated has grown, as WaPo reports:

The “nones,” or religiously unaffiliated, include atheists, agnostics and those who say they believe in “nothing in particular.” Of those who are unaffiliated, 31 percent describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, up six points from 2007.

The media is practically giddy in reporting the results, particularly the political implications. From the NY Times:

The changing religious composition of America has widespread political and cultural ramifications. Conservatives and Republicans, for example, have traditionally relied on big margins among white Christians to compensate for substantial deficits among nonwhite and secular voters. The declining white share of the population is a well-documented challenge to the traditional Republican coalition, but the religious dimension of the G.O.P.’s demographic challenge has received less attention, perhaps because of the dearth of data.

If there is any surprise at all, it’s that the decline was not more rapid.

Brings me back to a post I have re-posted in various forms over the years, Passover Is No Time To Wish For The End Of Christian America.


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