The Pew Research Center released the results of a poll last week showing a dramatic drop in the number of people who claim to be Christians in America. Over a period of only seven years, the number went down eight percentage points — from 79% to 71%. Meanwhile, the number of those who claim to be atheists, agnostics, or “nothing in particular” went up from 16% to 23%.
Headlines across the nation ballyhooed the news. But closer examination shows that it’s hardly a victory for the forces of secularization. National Review’s David Paul Kuhn put the poll in perspective. “The share of Americans who identify as Christian has been declining for years,” he wrote. “The share of religious Americans has not. For about 75 years, despite periodic fluctuations, the Gallup Poll has found that approximately four in 10 Americans say they attend religious services at least once a week. Religious Americans made up the same share of the presidential electorate in 2012 as they did twelve years earlier, 42 percent.”
The eight percentage point drop that Pew found comes primarily from people who weren’t serious about faith in the first place. They didn’t attend regular services, and religious faith wasn’t a big deal in their lives. Also, the old line, extremely liberal denominations continue their decline.
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