Christianity: On the Decline in the United States?

I mentioned last week that I didn’t want to do a post entirely about the gay marriage ruling because I couldn’t find a good focal point for it.  This week I’m slightly backpedaling on that decision as the topic I want to talk about is directly related.  I once again stress that this is simply my opinion, and not intended as an attack on religion in any way or form.  With that said, let’s get started.

At this point it’s been almost two weeks since the Supreme Court ruled the gay marriage was legal in all fifty states.  And since then, there’s been a loud outcry from some within the Christian community.  Some have been insinuating that Christianity is losing relevance in modern culture, that their religion is shrinking.  At first I thought it was just a bunch of “poor me” nonsense in reaction to the ruling but I became curious as to the actual statistics.  So I headed off to the Pew Research Center’s website to find out exactly what Christianity’s state of affairs in this country was.

And you know what?  I was actually surprised.

Growing up, it was hard not to notice that most of the people around me believed in something I didn’t.  It occasionally put me at odds with my peers, and I even had some kids as far back as elementary and middle school tell me that I was going to hell because I didn’t believe.  I don’t blame them for what they said.  They didn’t really know any better at that point.  They were just parroting what their parents and the other adults around them said.

But I digress.  I did notice as time went on that it became easier and easier to talk about the fact that I was nonreligious.  I thought a lot of that was just me growing up and becoming more comfortable with who I was.  But as it turns out, the culture was shifting along with me, something I became more aware of during college.

The Religious Landscape Studies preformed by the Pew Research Center shows something rather interesting.  They conducted two large surveys of more that 35,000 people each, one in 2007 and another in 2014.  After comparing the surveys, they came up with the figures and how much membership of religious and nonreligious groups has changed.

In particular, Christianity has dropped from 78.4 percent to 70.6 percent, a drop of nearly eight percent.  You can see the full chart below.

 

Pew Research Religion Chart

 

 

So it is true that the number of Christians in the country has been in the decline in the last seven or so years.  Honestly the drop was sharper than I anticipated.  I knew on some level that Christians didn’t have the same numbers they did when I was growing up, but I figured that the drop wouldn’t have been as significant as it was.  But there is something I would like to point out.

While it is true that the number of Christians has dropped, it is still a majority force in this country.  It may be a nearly eight percent drop, but at 70.6 percent Christians still make up more than two-thirds of people in this country.  There’s this strange trend I’ve seen among some Christians where they like to paint themselves as being marginalized or even victimized because of the Supreme Court ruling.  Often this comes in the form of some story about a Christian small-business owner refusing service to a gay person and then being set upon by the government.  “Well if it’s all about equal rights, then what about my rights,” they often cry.  Never mind the fact that the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution basically says that business owners are not allowed to discriminate against people based on such things as skin color or sexual orientation.

That would take research, and as we know some people in this country just hate doing research.  Why do that when you can just follow the flow?

(I realize that the above sounds incredibly bitter, but I’ve found it to be true for a significant number of people.  It becomes far too easy to fall into one of two overly simplified stances on an issue.  I’m talking about stances like all cops are bad, all protesters are thugs, all Christians are homophobic, and so on.  Often when you look beneath the surface of an issue, you find that it is far more complicated than you realize.  I just wish some people would actually take the time to do that instead of giving in to knee-jerk reactions.)

Admittedly it is true that Christians have declined in number and the number of people who identify as nonreligious, atheist or otherwise, has increased.  But this hardly constitutes a marginalization of the Christian people.  Like I said, Christians still make up over two-thirds of the population in this country.  That percentage is most likely going to decrease in the next couple of decades, but that’s normal.  Cultures shift all the time.  Groups will often decrease in size only to increase in size at a later time.  I would hardly say that Christianity is in danger of dying out or anything like that.  I think people hit the “panic” button long before it was due, if ever it was.

This country was never a Christian nation, no matter how many people insist that it is.  When one of the reasons for breaking off from your parent country (Britain) includes a frustration with the rigid orthodoxy of the church, you don’t turn around and create a nation founded under one religion.  It makes absolutely no sense.

Besides, the declining number of Christians has no effect on your ability to believe what you want to believe.  This country was meant to be a place for different ideas, different faiths and different lifestyles.  One group should not have absolute power over all others.  Much of our country’s history has been us learning this lesson time and time again.  Let’s not make that same mistake with religion.  Let’s accept each other for who we are and not force our way of thinking on everyone else.

We’re all just clutching desperately onto a tiny planet in a small part of a larger galaxy that is spiraling through the universe at over a million miles an hour.  We might as well make the best of it.

 

And that is all I have for this week.  Thanks for reading.  Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week everyone.  For those of you who want to look at the Pew Research Center’s study in full, here’s a link.

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