- A harder look at the evidence demonstrates that Christianity is actually not in decline in the United States.
- The Pew Research Center says that 3% of Americans are atheists while 4% are agnostic. Those that declare “none” are in reference to not belonging to a certain denomination.
- A Harvard/Indiana study shows that Christian Evangelicals in the U.S. have grown from 18% to 28% from 1972 to 2016.
- The actual decline occurs in mainline liberal churches and refers to membership rather than Christian beliefs.
The news has been saturated with headlines proclaiming that Christianity is in decline, that the “nones” outnumber the religious, and that atheism is becoming the largest “religion” in America.
However, when you look at all the figures, you’ll discover that evidence suggests that Christianity is not in decline in the U.S. whatsoever.
71% of U.S. Citizens Are Christian
Despite headlines boasting that atheism is the largest religion in America, research statistics tell a different story, and that notion is based more on religious affiliation with a particular denomination not a belief in Christianity.
Data from the Pew Research Center found that 71% of Americans claim they are Christians.
U.S. Going Secular Greatly Overstated
Only about 3% of U.S. adults identify as being atheists, according to data by the Pew Research Center. Additionally, only 4% stated they were agnostic.
Many studies have misinterpreted respondents who declare “none” as their religion as meaning they are agnostic or atheist when in reality, these people are simply indicating that they don’t identify with any particular denomination.
This might also include people who claim to be “spiritual” rather than religious. For some of these people, “spiritual” also means that they believe in Christian spirituality.
Evangelicals Have Actually Grown
“Evangelicals are not on the decline,” according to a study from Harvard/Indiana University. The report said evangelicals “grew from 1972 when they were 18% of the population, to a steady level of about 28%” starting in the late 1980s in continuing to 2016.
“Rather than religion fading into irrelevance as the secularization thesis would suggest, intense religion—strong affiliation, very frequent practice, literalism, and evangelicalism—is persistent, and in fact, only moderate religion is on the decline in the United States,” researchers stated.
Where the Decline is Actually Happening
The decline in church members is predominantly happening in liberal, mainline churches. According to Greg Smith, associate director of research at the Pew Research Center, liberal mainline churches have lost somewhere between 5,000 to 7.5 million members in the last decade or so.
A study from Harvard/Indiana University found that from the late 1980s to 2016, the membership of liberal mainline churches declined from 35% of all Christians to 12%.