Study: Progressive and Liberal US Churches Are Shrinking, Fundamental and Nondenominational American Christians Are Growing

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Christians are tired of hearing watered down teachings, instead, according to a recently published study, people of America are turning to Churches that stand on the Word of God.

Globally speaking, people are, according to similar studies, turning away from religion and faith based on what is explained as the secularization thesis. In summary, the thesis reads that “as societies progress, particularly through modernization and rationalization, religion loses its authority in all aspects of social life and governance.”

However, that is not taking place in America, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. According to the study, strong religious affiliation is growing, liberal religious affiliation is declining, and the intensity of American religion is actually becoming more exceptional over time.

We argue, therefore, that religious change in the United States is demonstrably different than that occurring in comparable countries and that the United States remains an exceptional outlier and potential counterexample to the secularization thesis.

Interestingly enough, it would appear as though, mainstream churches are losing more members than ever before, which explains the original interpretation that Christianity is on the decline. However, the study displays that just because people are leaving a church, it doesn’t mean that they are leaving the faith.

Incredibly, the study displays that the percentage of Americans who pray daily, accept the Bible as is, and attend church more than once a week has remained the same for upwards of 50 years. In addition, the percentage of Americans referenced in the aforementioned totals to about one-third of US citizens. Contrastingly, in comparable nations, the percentage totals out to about one in fifteen.

In addition, the amount of people who hold fast to the faith has actually increased according to the research. In 1989 only 39 percent of those who belonged to a religion, housed strong faith. However, today it’s 47 percent of the religiously affiliated who hold strong.

The Persistent and Exceptional Intensity of American Religion: A Response to Recent Research

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American exceptionalism is alive and well, however, the lies and deceit of the mainstream churches are still prevalent, although they are in decline. The world over, Christians, are facing crisis after crisis and American Christians are either unaware or dazzled by the progressive lie of tolerance and acceptance.

Many nations and organizations are attempting to silence the Christian faith. The study, displayed above, inadvertently also portrays the reality of what is taking place outside of the United States.

The reality is clear, the world is shunning Christianity, whether it be by sword or by secularization. In addition, the United Nations, which claims to aid the afflicted, has turned their back on the Christian minority. To add credence to American Exceptionalism, Vice President Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian, stated recently that America will bypass the UN and aid those who are under persecution.

“We will no longer rely on the United Nations alone to assist persecuted Christians and minorities in the wake of genocide and the atrocities of terrorist groups,” Pence told the crowd gathered in Washington, DC, for the annual summit of In Defense of Christians (IDC).

“The United States will work hand in hand from this day forward with faith-based groups and private organizations to help those who are persecuted for their faith. This is the moment, now is the time, and America will support these people in their hour of need.”

As American Christians stick close to their roots, to the Word of God, and to the faith the world is rapidly turning against the Christian religion.

As a follow up to the study published, I requested commentary from the authors of the study, you can see my questions and their responses below.

Are you a Christian?

Landon Schnabel: As a social scientist, I try to report empirical patterns without regard to what I might hope to find. As a social scientist who studies religion, I think it’s all the more important to avoid bias one way or the other (or even the appearance of bias one way or the other). Therefore, I generally don’t discuss my personal views publicly in connection with my research.

After conducting further research into the study, does it make you question what makes America so different?

Landon Schnabel: I think a few factors contribute to making the intensity of American religion unique, and will highlight two here: (1) the politicization of religion along with the rise of the Religious Right and (2) demographic patterns bolstering intense religion.

Religious and political identities are closely interrelated, and can reinforce one another. The rise of the U.S. Religious Right brought religious and political identities closely together, and people whose political identities are consonant with the Religious Right seem to be reinforced in their religious identities, and political liberals and moderates may see their political values conflicting with organized religion.

Immigration and fertility rates bolster intense religion and contribute to the decline of moderate religion. Immigrants are often from more religious countries, and sometimes from places where U.S. missionaries spread intense forms of Christianity. And religion is a strong predictor of fertility, with more intensely religious people having higher fertility rates than the moderately religious and the unaffiliated. Therefore, both immigration and higher fertility rates contribute to the persistence of intense religion. (Michael Hout makes this type of argument about Catholicism, showing how many young Catholics leave, but that immigration and fertility rates help replace the leavers)

How and why, in your opinion, is secularization failing in America?

Landon Schnabel: I don’t know if I’d say secularization is “failing” because “failing” seems to imply an intentional goal that isn’t being met. Some individual secular people in the U.S. may want secularization to happen, but secularism isn’t organized and institutionalized like religion so there doesn’t seem to be an intentional goal not being met. But I can say that the U.S. isn’t secularizing in the same way as comparable countries for the same types of demographic and partisanship reasons that intense religion is persistent. Secular people have fewer children and immigrants tend to be more religious than non-immigrants. And, for some groups in the U.S., religious and political identities are intertwined, and politically conservative people may stay more religious because they see it as matching their politics. And the U.S. is in some ways more politically conservative than many of the countries following the secularization thesis (e.g., they tend to have free national healthcare, etc.).

And it’s important to note that while the U.S. doesn’t fit the secularization thesis, Americans are disaffiliating from organized religion and average religiosity is declining despite the persistent intensity of American religion.

Is technology really the driving point behind the decline of religion?

Landon Schnabel: I’m not an expert on the relationship between technology and religion.

What’s your take on why people are departing the moderate, liberal, church?

Landon Schnabel: I think that moderate religion is on the decline in part due to demographic patterns and in part due to politics. In terms of demographic processes, people in moderate and liberal churches tend to have fewer children, and immigrants are less likely to be adherents to moderate or liberal denominations. So as people disaffiliate or simply age out they’re not being replaced at the same rate as the replacement happening among other groups. Consequently, mainline Protestants for example have a much higher average age than some other religious groups (a young average age is a sign of growth and an older average age a sign of decline). And I’m also guessing that some people are disaffiliating due to seeing religion as not matching their politics. Many of these people retain some beliefs and practices and aren’t necessarily secular, they just no longer affiliate with an organized religious group.

Landon Schnabel is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Indiana University, this year’s Wells fellow, and a consultant for a few groups working to address gender-based violence. Landon also teaches a service-learning seminar on statistics, research methods, and using data to prevent sexual violence for Indiana University’s Liberal Arts & Management Program.

Works Cited

Landon Schnabel, Sean Bock. “The Persistent and Exceptional Intensity of American Religion: A Response to Recent Research.” Sociological Science. . ( November 2017): 686-700. .