The USA’s Christian majority is shrinking

PF_15.05.05_RLS2_1_310pxAlthough there are more avowed Christians in the United States than in any other country, the U.S. Christian majority in the United States is shrinking, Pew Research Center reports.

About 5 million fewer Americans identified themselves as Christians in 2014 than in 2007, and the percentage of self-identified Christians declined by nearly 8 percentage points.

The decline was most noticeable in the Millennial generation—those born in the period from 1981 to 1996.   Only 56 percent of this group identified themselves as Christian in Pew’s 2014 poll.

Evangelical Protestants are the strongest segment of American Christianity.  They grew in absolute numbers from 2007 and 2014, and declined only slightly as a percentage of the U.S. population.

But they are growing at a less rapid rate that the religiously unaffiliated.  And growth in that segment comes from the “nothing in particular” group, not the avowed atheists or agnostics.   I suppose this includes a lot of people who say they are spiritual, but not religious.

I don’t claim to know why this is so.

I can think of possible reasons.  One is the sexual revolution and the decline in the belief that marriage is a sacrament received through a church wedding.  Another is the growing awareness that scientific belief is incompatible with the literal belief in the Bible.  A third is the identification of Christianity in the public mind with conservative politics.  The so-called religious right, which is strongest among evangelical Protestants, is a backlash against these trends.

I would be interested in your thoughts.

For the full Pew report, click on America’s Changing Religious Landscape.







Remember that numbers are one thing and percentages are another.  The following charts are not from Pew.

3.1999PartCtyVoltaire is supposed to have said that the best thing for a nation, from the standpoint of liberty, is to have many religions, and the worst thing is to have just two. The great danger for American religious liberty, as I see it, is a cultural war between the conservatives and fundamentalists of all the diverse U.S. religion groups and the liberals and modernists of all groups.
2010 U.S. Religion CensusAmerican religious diversity comprises more than just Protestants, Catholics and Jews.

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2 Responses to “The USA’s Christian majority is shrinking”

  1. Bill Harvey Says:

    And one more possible reason: the punitive moralizing quality of much Christian thinking. The tendency to view individuals’ problems (or triumphs) in either sexual/bodily issues or life prospects has continued to take a justified heavy hit over the last decade.

    This point could perhaps be accommodated in your points 1. and 3., but it’s worth emphasizing.



    • philebersole Says:

      I agree. And there are a certain number of people who need a strict religion, which is why (in my opinion) the evangelical Protestants are doing better than the mainline Protestants.

      I have a friend who had a grown son who was an alcoholic and drug abuser. One day he decided to go to the most extreme fundamentalist church he could find. From that day on, his lips have not touched tobacco, alcohol or dope, nor has he spoken a civil word to his mother.


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