Trends in Christianity: the decline in the US

Merry Christmas to everyone!

As the decade comes to a close, Christianity continues to decline in the US according to the polls from Pew.

Apparently, a decade ago, 77-78% claimed to be Christians but now at the end of 2019 only 65% do. The religious unaffiliated (atheist, agnostic, or none) jumped from 16-17% to 26%.

I’m pretty shocked that 65% of people in this country still claim to be Christian. I could be falling for the over-representation of anti-Christian bias in the media, universities, etc, but based on how people live in their everyday life and even the ones in Church I am scratching my head at this number.

What appears to explain it is that there is apparently little change in the attendance of Churches from 2009 to 2019:

  • 46 -> 44% weekly or more
  • 17  -> 18% once or twice a month
  • 19 -> 20% a few times a year
  • 13 – 12% a few times a year
  • 5 -> 6% never

Given the stats, it’s much more likely to say that in 2009, virtually all Christians who attended weekly or more and once a month (46 + 17 = 63%) and most of the few times a year (19%) claimed they are Christian. 63+19 = 82% where 77-78% claimed to be Christian. Now, it seems like only those attend weekly or more (44%) or once and twice a month (18%) are claiming to be Christians. 62% vs 65%.

The people who attended a few times per year stopped claiming they were Christians between 2009 to 2019. This is to be expected as being a Christian becomes a much more negative thing. It’s also a good thing for Christians as now more people who were claiming to be Christian aren’t living how they want and showing a incorrect hypocritical example to the rest of the world. The light shines brighter in the darkness.

In another decade as Christianity becomes much less popular, we might see only the weekly or more (44%) claim they are Christian. I suspect the actual number is much lower as many in the Church use it not for Christ but as a social club or to absolve themselves from living how they want the rest of the week.

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11 Responses to Trends in Christianity: the decline in the US

  1. Gunner Q says:

    People need to believe in something even if it’s halfhearted and there’s currently no cost to being a Christian. That will change soon and then we’ll see who’s a real believer. In fact, that’s probably why God allowed the organized Church to die.

  2. Derek Ramsey says:

    These population wide numbers are interesting, but so are the numbers comparing denominations. The Seven Sisters (UMC, Disciples of Christ, PCUSA, Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, American Baptist Churches (USA), and the United Church of Christ) have all been hemorrhaging members for decades. Most are less than 50% of their 1960s to 1970s peaks, and that’s without considering the rise in total population. The “mainline protestant” churches are filled with cultural Christians who see no need for God.

    Many traditional Christian churches are seeing growth. My own church has seen sustained multi-digit percentage growth rates for years. It is not unique.

  3. @ Derek

    Yeah, I didn’t include those but they are also interesting to look at. The farther you get away from the Bible/gospel, they’ll start to lose members and die it looks like.

    The republican/democrat splits are also not unexpected either. Not that I would consider any a “Christian” party though.

  4. Joe2 says:

    What I find amazing is the Pew Research Center actually found individuals who were willing to participate in their random-digit-dial (RDD) political polling on the telephone.

    They state that 88 surveys from 2009 to 2019 were taken and include interviews with 168,890 Americans. As part of the demographic battery of questions, they ask respondents about their age, race, educational attainment and other background characteristics. Each of these political polls also include one basic question about religious identity – “What is your present religion, if any? Are you Protestant, Roman Catholic, Mormon, Orthodox such as Greek or Russian Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, atheist, agnostic, something else, or nothing in particular?”

    What the Pew Research Center didn’t provide is the total number of calls they had to make to secure the 168,890 participants. With all the concerns about identity theft, phishing, etc. I don’t understand why anyone would be willing to provide personal background characteristics to an anonymous caller claiming to be conducting a survey? I would just hang-up if I were contacted.

  5. Frank K says:

    Yeah, I also refuse to participate in surveys.

    Meanwhile, in my community, the “seven sister” churches have oceans of empty pews every Sunday while the local Greek Orthodox, RCC and some fundamentalist Protestant churches are packed.

  6. Novaseeker says:

    As a whole things are consolidating. So more of the lukewarm are simply leaving altogether, because there is no social need or benefit to being a church-goer today, so they simply melt into the growing “unaffiliated”. At the same time, the remaining firm believers tend to concentrate in more traditional churches — either traditionalist Protestant congregations or the more traditional of the liturgical churches. So Christianity is at the same time shrinking in terms of overall participation, while at the same time the traditionalist places are growing due to the remaining Christians tending to consolidate there. Those two things can and do go together when you are seeing the conditions we have today.

  7. feeriker says:

    Confirms what anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear already has long known: most “Christians” are as fake as a four-dollar bill. The only thing these stats clearly show is that more people have decided over the last decade to just stop faking it, as the OP points out. Also in no doubt whatsoever is that once the coming-soon-to-a-doorstep-near-you persecution starts, even the strongest of the facades will be torn away and wholesale apostasy will be a routine and very public event.

    “Many are called, very, VERY few are chosen.”

  8. Lexet Blog says:

    They normally pay you.

  9. Lexet Blog says:

    Note. If you ever receive a survey letter in the mail, it probably has cash. I wonder how much has been thrown away

  10. Joe2 says:

    “Many are called, very, VERY few are chosen.”

    I don’t see the applicability of the above (Matthew 22:14) to the situation described by the OP. Jesus was in the temple courts addressing the chief priests and the Pharisees. They knew Jesus was talking about them through parables.

    The next parable was the wedding banquet of the king’s son. Here the king sent out many wedding invitations, but the invited guests did not show up. Who were the invited guests? Since the chief priests and Pharisees knew Jesus was talking about them, they were the invited guests. The king then had his servants go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. The king noticed a man without a wedding garment. The king asked the man how he got in without a wedding garment. The man was speechless and was cast out.

    From a wedding hall filled with guests, one man was cast out. One guest doesn’t seem that significant. Had the king cast out 3/4 or 1/2 of the the guests, then one could conclude that many were called, but few were chosen. That did not happen. The “chosen” in the parable seem to point to the chief priests and Pharisees and not to the population at large.

  11. Anonymous Reader says:

    What I find amazing is the Pew Research Center actually found individuals who were willing to participate in their random-digit-dial (RDD) political polling on the telephone.

    If that is aimed primarily at landlines then the demographic polled skews older. If it includes cellphones then there’s still a selection bias as Joe2 pointed out. This data could be mostly worthless. The more obvious index of “actual members reported” would be better. Or one could just count church buildings that are no longer in use. New England has quite a few.

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