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Decline of Christianity in the United States
Why are so many Millennials abandoning Christianity?
Christy Thomas is the "Thoughtful Pastor" at Patheos.com. On 2018-JUL-06, she wrote an article with the eye-catching title:
"Millennials Flee The Church Because Of Lies And Sexual Discrimination." 1
She is apparently referring to the treatment of sexual minorities by some Christian denominations.
The heading of her article is also eye-catching. It reads:
"Of course educated young adults, having grown up in a multicultural and gender-fluid world, are leaving the church. They see it as a hateful and ignorant place, a place of lies and sexual discrimination. I don’t blame them."
The term "Millennials" (a.k.a. Generation Y) generally refer to those who were born between the early 1980's and the late 1990's. Unfortunatley, there is no agreement about exactly what the starting and ending years are. During 2018, The College Investor 2 is typical; they used the years 1983 and 2000. That is, they define millennials as young adults who are between about 18 and 35 years-of-age during 2018.
Millennials are probably the first U.S. generation in which a majority has one or more friends or close relatives who are part of the LGBT community. Millennials learn directly from members of the LGBT community about the nature of minority sexual orientations and about being transgender -- understandings that differ greatly from many denominations' teachings.
Conflicting beliefs about human sexuality exist among the various faith groups within Christianity and other large religions. Members of each faith group often believe that other faith groups' sexual beliefs are false. Conservative Christians frequently believe that the findings of scientific studies are also invalid.
A series of books have been written on about the exodus of Millennials from Christianity:
They are sorted alphabetically by their author's last names:
The decline of Christianity in the U.S. according to the Pew Research Center:
In a 2015-MAY report, Pew stated that:
"Between 2007 and 2014, the Christian share of the [U.S.] population fell from 78.4% to 70.6%, driven mainly by declines among mainline Protestants and Catholics. The [religiously] unaffiliated experienced the most growth, and the share of Americans who belong to non-Christian faiths also increased." 3
Among the 7.8% of the population who left Christianity over this seven year interval, many appear to have become "NOTAs:" those individuals who are "NOT Affiliated" with any organized religious faith. Many describe themselves as "spiritual but not religious."
If this rate continues, then the percentage of Christians in the United States will sink to:
- 62.8% in 2021,
- 55.0% in 2028, and
47.2% in 2035. Christianity would have become a minority in the United States for the first time since the time of the European Invasion and subsequent genocide of Native Americans. 1
The decline of Christianity in the U.S. according to the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI):
The PRRI conducts "independent research at the intersection of religion, culture, and public policy." 5 In 2016, they published an article that described the "rise in religiously unaffiliated Americans" of all ages:
- From 6% in 1991,
- to 14% in 1999,
- to 20% by 2012,
to 25% by 2016. 6
making NOTAs the single largest 'religious group' in the U.S.
They also report that the percentage of U.S. young adults, aged 18 to 29, who are religiously unaffiliated, rose by a factor of almost four over 30 years:
- From 10% in 1986,
- to 20% in 1996,
- to 23% by 2006,
- to 39% by 2016!
They reported that:
"More than six in ten (62%) religiously unaffiliated Americans who were raised in a religion say they abandoned their childhood religion before they turned 18. About three in ten (28%) say they were between the ages of 18 and 29. Only five percent say they stopped identifying with their childhood religion between the ages of 30 and 49, and just two percent say age 50 or older.
The reasons that people gave for leaving their childhood religion included:
- 60% ceased to believe in the religion's teaching.
- 29% said that their family of origin was not particularly religious.
- 29% objected to the teachings about gays and lesbians. (This reason was cited by 39% of young adults aged 18 to 29 and by 12% of those aged 65 or older)
- 19% were concerned over reports of sexual abuse by clergy.
- 18% had a traumatic event in their life.
16% cited their congregation becoming too focused on politics. 6
Some survey participants gave more than one response.
The term "nones" is often used in the media to refer to the religiously unaffiliated. Unfortunately, the two religious terms NONES and NUNS are homonyms. They sound the same, but have different spellings and meanings. This leads to a lot of confusion during lectures and on TV and radio. We prefer the term "NOTAs." Unfortunately, NOTA has not caught on as a religious term. In is currently widely used in India as a ballot option during voting, and is the name of an obscure political party in Ontario, Canada.
Comparison in the sizes of different religious groups in the U.S.:
Pew Research found that, In the adult population, the percentage of religious NOTAs between 2007 and 2014 increased by 6.7 percentage points from 16.1% to 22.8% ... almost one percentage point a year! 3
In 2018,reported on the populations of the largest religious groups in the U.S. Their report mentioned that the poll was the result of polling more than 35,000 Americans from all 50 states, but -- surprisingly -- did not mention the year that the following data was actually determined. They found that the six largest religious groups were:
- Evangelical Protestant: 25.4%
- Nones/Notas: 22.8%
- Roman Catholic: 20.8%
- Mainline Protestant: 14.7%
- Historically Black Protestant: 6.5%
Other Christians: 3.3% 3
The margin of error of the survey is ~+mn~0.6 percentage points.
It seems inevitable that NOTAS will be the largest religious group in the U.S. by the year 2020, if it is not already.
The root cause of the conflict:
Much of the conflict that is causing so many Millennials to become disallusioned by the Church and leave can be traced to the range of Christians' belief of the nature of the Bible.
Conservative Christians -- evangelicals and fundamentalists -- generally believe the Bible to be inerrant -- without error -- as its authors original wrote it, when literally interpreted. In addition, conservatives view most of its moral and ethical teachings as valid and fixed for all time.
Liberal Christians often interpret the Bible differently, recognizing that it was written by people who lived in a pre-scientific era when little or nothing was known about:
Further, they note that cultures have changed significantly during the interval when the books of the Bible were originally written -- from the eighth century BCE to the second century CE -- and now. For example:
- Pagan temples and other religious centers no longer employ heterosexual and homosexual prostitutes.
- Transmission of most sexually transmitted diseases (STD's) can be prevented.
- Most STDs can be detected and cured.
- Slavery has been abolished in most countries.
- Women who are found to be non-virgins at marriage are no longer stoned to death.
- Fathers can no longer sell their female children into slavery.
- Women are no longer required to marry their rapists.
- Widows with no children are no longer required to marry their former-husband's brother.
A main reason for the banning of same-sex activity was to cause a high birth rate to maximize the size of armies. This is no longer applicable because over-population and the resultant high pollution rate and global warming/climate change are now serious problems.
- Pre-marital and otherwise unwanted pregnancies can be prevented by birth control.
As a result, many religious liberals believe that many of the biblical passages related to sexual activity and slavery are no longer applicable. The former has resulted in support for same-sex marriage reaching a majority in the U.S. during 2011 and more than two out of three adults by 2018. The current figure includes 83% of Democrats, 44% of Republicans, and 71% of Independants; the poll's margin of error is ~+mn~4 percentage points. 4
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Christy Thomas, "Millennials Flee The Church Because Of Lies And Sexual Discrimination," Patheos, 2018-JUL-06, at: http://www.patheos.com/
"What is the Millennial Age Range And What Does That Mean Financially?," The College Investor, 2018-APR-24, at: https://thecollegeinvestor.com/
"America’s Changing Religious Landscape: Christians Decline Sharply as Share of Population; Unaffiliated and Other Faiths Continue to Grow," Pew Research Center, 2015-MAY-12, at: http://www.pewforum.org/
Aamer Madhani, "Poll: Approval of same-sex marriage in U.S. reaches new high," USA Today, 2018-MAY-23, at: https://www.usatoday.com/
"About," PRRI, at: https://www.prri.org/
Betsy Cooper, et al., "Exodus: Why Americans are Leaving Religion—and Why They’re Unlikely to Come Back," 2016-SEP-22, at: https://www.prri.org/
How you may have arrived here:
Original posting: 2018-JUL-09
Latest update : 2018-JUL-10
Authorr: B. A. Robinson