America is losing its religion

the unchurched

LOSING-OUR-RELIGIONAmanda Marcotte at Salon explains why America’s losing its religion. “Church membership is in a freefall, and the Christian right has only themselves to blame.” And “fewer than half of Americans now belong to a church, and the trend of pew abandonment isn’t slowing down.”

What’s fascinating to me is the acceleration in the unchurched. “In 1937, 73% of Americans belong to a church. And in 1975, it was 71%. In 1999, it was 70%. But since then, the church membership rate has fallen by a whopping 23 percentage points.” Why is that?

Marcotte notes, “The drop in religious affiliation starts right around the time George W. Bush was elected president, publicly and dramatically associating himself with the white evangelical movement. The early Aughts saw the rise of megachurches with flashily dressed ministers who appeared more interested in money and sermonizing about people’s sex lives than modeling values of charity and humility.”

“Not only were these religious figures and the institutions they led hyper-political, but the outward mission also seemed to be almost exclusively in service of oppressing others. The religious right isn’t nearly as interested in feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless as much as using religion as an all-purpose excuse to abuse women and LGBTQ people.” And that was before 45.

Begets power

The conclusion: “Christian leaders, driven by their hunger for power and cultural dominance, become so grasping and hypocritical that it backfires and they lose their cultural relevance.”

The Atlantic had noted an increase in the religious non-affiliated earlier. “By the early 2000s, the share of Americans who said they didn’t associate with any established religion (also known as ‘nones’) had doubled. By the 2010s, this grab bag of atheists, agnostics, and spiritual dabblers had tripled in size.”

But the atheists are only about 5% of the total population by most measures, suggesting many people consider themselves “spiritual, but not religious.”

The Black Church

The recent PBS series The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song, the four-hour series from Henry Louis Gates, Jr., touches on this. Henry Louis Gates Jr. notes “The [black] church is the oldest, the most continuous and most important institution ever created by the African American people. In the final hour, in particular, the push-and-pull between social justice and the Gospels was examined.

Jeffrey Brown, interviewing Gates, notes that “as many young people move away from organized religion and protesters again demand justice, the church faces a new challenge of relevance and vitality.

“There was a very moving moment in there to me when Reverend Traci Blackmon is telling [Gates] about going into the streets in Ferguson during the protests, and she talks about holding a prayer vigil. And she says that, halfway through, some of the young people said, ‘That’s enough praying.'”

Of course, Black People in America are not a demographic monolith. The Pew Forum has scads of information about the intersection of race, religion, and justice. Some of a higher economic class may gravitate towards a megachurch, such as the one T.D. Jakes runs in Houston. Others may cheer on William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign. I relate more to the latter.

Per this link, Black Americans “tend to think [black] churches have declined in influence over the years,” but feel they “should have a greater role today than they do.”

As they say, “God” – or how you experience a higher power if at all – “is in the details.”

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

One thought on “America is losing its religion”

  1. Organized religion is not a lot different than organized crime. Some of the concepts of bringing people together to study whatever religious beliefs of the particular religion and prayer, for certain results of common thought and beliefs might be good and might not.
    If you take a comparative religion class, you learn what makes all of the different religions similar and what differences exist between them. One of the most important elements that most religions have in common is the “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you “ beliefs. Go for the good, no matter what religion you practice and know that the good has to be universally good for the planet and everyone on it. The whole idea is to get people to grow and act, spiritually.
    This can happen, if people can get past what has divided them and do the work of making things right for everybody and the Earth that we all share.
    And then, we have “God”, something, totally indefinable, with different names in each religion, but essentially, the Creator and behind the life force present in and around all of us. Thought on what God really is have varied over the centuries and it is doubtful that any organized religion gets it right.
    Learn to recognize the good, which will never be money, nor political power, but that universal good. Exercise the power of prayer. Enough people praying and WORKING toward common good will get us all there and save the planet we live and depend on . How do you think that “God” works, if not though all of us doing what is good and beneficial to all of us?

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