According to the latest report from the Pew Research Center, Christianity in the United States is declining and the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing.
The drop in Christian affiliation is particularly strong among young adults; but it is occurring among Americans of all ages and of all ethnic and educational backgrounds.
Americans are shifting away from organized religion.
The percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christian has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in seven years — from 78.4% in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%.
Mainline Protestants are declining but Roman Catholics are declining more rapidly both as a percentage of the population and in absolute numbers.
Currently there are about 51 million adult Catholics in the U.S. That is 3 million fewer than in 2007; and 13 percent of U.S. adults are former Catholics, up from 10 percent in 2007. Just 16 percent of the 18-to-24-year-olds today are Catholic, and that is not enough to offset the numbers lost through aging and switching. The American RCC bishops are looking to the Latinos to save their church. For certain, U.S. Latino population growth over the past two decades has boosted numbers in the Catholic Church; but a new, in-depth analysis shows Latinos’ allegiance to Catholicism is now waning as growing numbers move toward other Christian denominations or claim no religion at all.
One can expect more closed Catholic churches in coming years. Unless…..
One of the most important factors in the declining number of declared Christians is the growth of the unaffiliated. 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.
The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, finds that many of America’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are “spiritual” in some way. Two-thirds of them believe in God. More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth, while more than a third classify themselves as “spiritual” but not “religious.”
Overwhelmingly, the unaffiliated see organized religion out of touch with contemporary life when it comes to issues of gender and sexuality. They think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules, and too involved in politics. Large numbers of Catholics are still not convinced that the horrors of clerical sexual abuse are over.
Christian decline is our Christian challenge. The unaffiliated have not sold their souls to hedonistic secularity. In their hunger for bread and living water, they too often find their churches handing out dried-up old stones.
We need to change our focus. We need to help people on their spiritual journeys. We need to see our parishes as meaning of life clinics, where people are listened to, their problems are appreciated, spiritual exploration is stimulated, support communities are built, and people find direction and encouragement in difficult times. Christianity is about life, hope, and future life.