Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Atheism - Winning More

The pews are emptying in increasingly irreligious USA

Sourc: Gallup
U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time

Congratulations to America for joining the rest of the developed world, where religious non-affiliation and increasing secularisation of society are now the norm.

The latest Gallop poll shows that church, synagogue or mosque membership in the USA has fallen below 50% for the first time. Now at just 47%, this represents a 26% percentage point fall since 1937 when Gallop first began polling. And the downward trend show signs of accelerating, falling 22 percentage points since the turn of the millennium and 8 percentage points since 2015.

Change in church membership amongst affiliated Americans

Source: Gallup
This is correlated strongly with the increase in non-affiliation ('Nones') in recent years from 8% in 1998-2000 to 13% in 2008-2010 and 21% in 2019-2021, but even amongst Americans who have a religious affiliation, membership of an actual place of worship has declined from 73% in 1998-2000 to 70% ten years ago and now stands at 60% (a fall of 1% per year over the last ten years, compared to 0.3% fall per year in the previous 10 years.

Although there is a general correlation between age and (lack of) religious affiliation and membership of places of worship, there are a few surprises (but only a few) in the detail. The decline in membership has been greater at 11% amongst the older, 'Traditionalist' generation, i.e., those born before 1946, than in their children - the 'Boomers' (born between 1946 and 1964) at 9%. This is the 'revolutionary' generation of the 1960s that appeared to be deconstructing many of the traditional values and becoming increasingly sexually liberated and free-thinking. This is the generation which was largely responsible for the decline in religiosity in post-war Europe which is now being reflected in their children and grandchildren. It seems that the USA is running approximately a generation behind Europe in that respect.

But, despite this marginal variation between generations, the decline has been consistenly downwards across all demographics, including age, gender, geography, political leanings, education, ethnicity and faiths.

Membership of a church, synagogue or mosque has declines across all major demographic age groups with the steepest decline amongst the Millennials (born 1981-1996) who were too young to be included in the 1998-2000 data. Given that younger people tend to be less religious than their parents' generation, and that once their pattern of affiliation has become fixed by early adulthood, much of this decline is probably caused by people moving into higher age groups over time, taking their religious identity/affiliation with them. In that case, the signs are good that at least for the next few generations, this downward trend is set to continue and even accelerate.


All demographic groups have show a marked and accellerating decline with the smallest decline amongst Protestants at 9%, half the rate of declime amongst Catholics. The bigest falls were amongst Democrats and those from the East (both 25%) followed closely, and surprisingly, by those without a college edcation and non-marrieds (both 22%). All other demographics showed double digit declines.


Perhaps surprisingly, the areas of America normally associated with fundamentalist religions, the South and Midwest both showed large falls in line with other demographics.


Although there is no data on what is causing the fall, much of th recent decline coincides with Donald Trump's presidency and particularly the abandonment of moral principles by evangelicals in return for supporting him and so gaining political power and influence. This can't have passed unnoticed by moderates. The other major factor was probably the collapse in moral authority of the Catholic Church following the sexual abuses and cover-up scandals that his every Catholic Diocese in the USA and most of those in the rest of the world. This scandal has seen near catastrophic declines in church attendance and support for the church in formerly devoutly Catholic countries such as Spain, Ireland and parts of Germany.

So, the downward trend, which coincides with the increase in Internet access and so the exposure of more and more people to the repugnant and frankly deranged activities of religious fundamentalist, continues unabated and America is belatedly beginning to catch up with a trend which began soon after WWII in about the late 1950s - early 1960s in Europe and the rest of the developed world. The probability is that, as more parents become 'Nones' so the cultural/social pressures on their children to remain or become affiliated will lessen markedly. Since very few people tend to move from non-affiliation into affiliation and that patterns of affiliate tend to become fixed in early adulthood, the upward trend in the 'Nones' will grow exponentially and the influence of the mainstream churches will decline inversely, until they become as they are now in most of Europe, cults operating on the fringes of normal society.

Long may that continue.


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2 comments :

  1. I'm gonna miss the empty highways on Sundays and holidays, but the brain gain will be welcome. Without religious indoctrination as the gateway delusion priming brains to be uncritical and susceptible to evidence free emotional manipulation, perhaps the US population will be able to develop a resistance to authoritarian personality cults and systemic suppression of mutually beneficial, objectively observed, and scientifically based knowledge, which will allow for our societal development. This means we, as a species, can grow wiser and continue to exist.

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    1. Let's hope so. The long-term trends are looking good and the pandemic shows no signs of making people 'turn to God', as some clerics had optimistically predicted. If anything, if the Creationist frauds who push ID keep doing so, it's going to turn people away from the malevolent deity who would create such a thing.

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