Author Topic: U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time  (Read 2061 times)

rcjordan

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littleman

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Re: U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time
« Reply #1 on: March 29, 2021, 10:32:14 PM »
Good data in that article and it fits very much with our conversations over the years.  In the meantime many of the religious people I know seem to be rejecting science as if it were there just to break their faith.

rcjordan

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Re: U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time
« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2021, 02:10:32 AM »

ergophobe

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Re: U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time
« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2021, 11:40:02 PM »
What do you think of the arguments in that last article?

rcjordan

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Re: U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time
« Reply #4 on: April 01, 2021, 11:48:44 PM »
>arguments

I'm in general agreement.

I think this is more succinct, though;

"I’m inclined to think that industrial development inherently undermines tradition and cultivates individualism, qualities that render it an adversary of faith-based, communitarian institutions. It also seems to me that late capitalism has robbed the church of its monopoly on a wide range of social functions"

Worth a read (skip the GOP part):

The GOP (Rightly) Fears America’s Churchless Majority
https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/04/gallup-poll-church-gop-christian-right-2024-democracy.html

rcjordan

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Re: U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time
« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2021, 11:53:01 PM »
<+>
>robbed the church of its monopoly on a wide range of social functions

IMO, there is no better example than Denmark.  As women have been given a relatively strong social net, the result has been to move away from the church.

ergophobe

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Re: U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time
« Reply #6 on: April 02, 2021, 12:15:02 AM »
I wonder to what extent that is because institutions were set up to address prior conditions. It may well be that we will see this as a low ebb in church membership rather than the midpoint of a trend.

Let's see... would you say that it's fair to say that religiosity declines as one's sense of control and understanding of the world increases (whether that sense is right or wrong)? So, for example, because I understand that lightning is caused by physical phenomena related to the violent movement of air masses, rather than, say, Zeus being angry or demons cavorting, I'm less likely to make a burnt offering to Zeus or pray to the Virgin Mary and light a candle blessed on Candlemas (Feast of the Purification of the Virgin and candles blessed at Candlemas mass were widely believed to protect against lightning and most prudent householders in the late medieval and early-modern periods tried to keep a few around for protection during storms and delivery of babies).

But what if we are entering an age where people feel less control and more anxiety?

Also, my mother always contended that in the disarray of Vatican II, the Catholic Church which was the center of communal life in her childhood became nothing more than a place to go for Mass in my childhood. So she understood my disinterest in the Church as a reflection of the Church's fundamental disinterest in me (she would not have used those exact words, but that's the essence of it). What if churches figure out, in an age of fractured communities, to once again become the pole of a community?

In other words, I could see many of the trends we see explaining the decline in church attendance being used to explain the increase in church attendance if the trend were to reverse.

Similarly, the article blames late-stage capitalism for the decline in religion, while David Brooks in his take on it blames the decline in religion for late-stage capitalism. In his view, the churches provided a break on boundless greed which has become more manifest as the influence of religion wanes.

Personally, I feel that Brooks and the article cited above are missing something major, but I just don't know what it is! I guess I am skeptical of any attempt to look at two trends as broad and vague as these and say one causes the other.

The first article on the other hand... demographics are powerful and that suggests a trend that will be hard to reverse. But it doesn't really explain why, in a way that convinces me, there is such a sudden decline in religiosity across generations.

BTW, I come to this as someone who was born into a very religious family, never once believed in any of it myself, and somehow ended up with a PhD and 20 years of research focused on who resisted the Reformation and how people adapted to and adopted the Reformed religion. So it's not a topic where I expect to find an answer that I find satisfying between now and the time I die.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2021, 12:20:36 AM by ergophobe »

rcjordan

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Re: U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time
« Reply #7 on: April 02, 2021, 12:20:37 AM »
>missing something major, but I just don't know what it is!

Same.  I keep churning this over & over.  Some thought fragments;

The Catholic sex abuse cases.
Rising feminism and/or rejection of the male dominant role in many religions.
Science.
Membership is falling for many social organizations, not just churches; Elks, Rotary, Moose, VFW ---there is a wholesale dropout movement.
« Last Edit: April 02, 2021, 12:24:08 AM by rcjordan »

rcjordan

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Re: U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time
« Reply #8 on: April 02, 2021, 12:28:37 AM »
>male dominant

"as Trump rose to the presidency, Moore found herself aghast at the church's embrace of him and its stances on women."

Beth Moore Says She Is 'No Longer A Southern Baptist' : NPR
https://www.npr.org/2021/03/11/976124629/prominent-evangelical-beth-moore-announces-split-from-southern-baptists

rcjordan

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Re: U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time
« Reply #9 on: April 02, 2021, 12:34:24 AM »
>churning

Big one: BIRTH CONTROL & abortion

Religious rejection of homosexuality, same-sex marriage, LGBT

buckworks

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Re: U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time
« Reply #10 on: April 02, 2021, 01:23:02 AM »
>> Religious rejection of homosexuality, same-sex marriage, LGBT

That isn't true across the board. Some denominations including my own (Anglican, in Canada) have moved / are moving to bless same sex marriages. There was lots of controversy along the way but at least in some corners the church is becoming more accepting and supportive of LGBTQ2+.

ergophobe

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Re: U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time
« Reply #11 on: April 02, 2021, 01:52:09 AM »
>> Religious rejection of homosexuality, same-sex marriage, LGBT

That isn't true across the board.

No, it isn't, but there has been a lot of reporting on this being an increasing rift between the young and old in white evangelical circles.

One annoying thing is that in the media and even more often in casual conversation with very secular people, I find that they often equate "Christian" not just with "evangelical" but with "conservative evangelical" or even, though they don't know it, with "Southern Baptist." Meanwhile, many of the people I know are "liberal" or centrist politically and "conservative" or very conservative theologically and a mix of those who do and do not identify as  "evangelical".

That said, many of the concerns of the older generation among American evangelicals, and above all the anti-homosexual agenda, are off-putting to the younger generation. Meanwhile, many of the concerns that the younger generation considers important (climate for example) are either off the radar or actively opposed by the older generation.

So that's what made me say that we could be seeing the inexorable decline of church affiliation, or we could be seeing the groundwork for a revival. You're probably tired of me saying it, but the thing that makes the future so hard to predict is that it hasn't happened yet.

>>Beth Moore

Yeah, I saw that too. I found it interesting and that again is floating around in my head when I made the comments above. Maybe 30 years from now we see 2021 as the moment when Mooreism definitively broke the Southern Baptist stranglehold on American conversation about religion and kicked off the religious revival.

rcjordan

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Re: U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time
« Reply #12 on: April 02, 2021, 02:10:16 AM »
Vatican Rejects Blessing Same-Sex Marriage, Saying We "Can't Bless Sin" --March 2021
https://nowthisnews.com/news/vatican-rejects-blessing-same-sex-marriage-pope-francis-approves

Brad

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Re: U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time
« Reply #13 on: April 02, 2021, 11:32:17 AM »
Hm,  this is really old stuff and may not pertain or might be a very small factor amongst the many theories you have brought up.

This is something I remember from a theology class at Uni back 40+ years ago.  Back during the turbulent 1960's and '70's attendance to mainstream churches went down.  Somebody did a study afterward, that found that those denominations that got involved in preaching about secular political events from the pulpit suffered the biggest decline.  While those denominations that ignored the turmoil of secular society and stuck with purely a message of salvation of one's soul, suffered the least decline.

What the researchers found out was, back then, church goers, wanted church services to be a refuge from the scariness of the turmoil of the secular world that seemed, in the 1960's to be falling apart, and they wanted comfort from their fears and direction about salvation, eternal life after death -- the Big Questions.

Bringing that home today: those churches that got deeply involved in politics may be suffering a backlash.

I think all of RC's points and ergo's are in play but two generational shifts are factors IMHO:

1. Role of women and the women's equality movement.  Boots on the ground, it's the women that are the backbone of any congregation and have been for generations.  This is a double edge sword: A. women are not allowed in the hierarchy of many churches which alienates them, but also: B. women may have been the backbone of the congregation precisely because they were marginalized in society and careers.  Now, women are advancing on those fronts plus raising children and don't have time for the church role their mother's had.

2. The whole same sex, LBGTQ acceptance thing.  Even in conservative churches many younger members are much more accepting of this than their elders and the hierarchy.

And this is just my own theory, but the rise of evangelical movements, and everyone wearing their religion on their shoulder like a chip to be knocked off, has not helped.  The neighborhood I grew up in had Roman Catholics and Heintz 57 variety Protestants all mixed together and you wouldn't ever know who was what because nobody talked about religion and their chosen denomination was just something for them and their family and we all just got along. Even though many had very deep faith they kept that to themselves.

rcjordan

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Re: U.S. Church Membership Falls Below Majority for First Time
« Reply #14 on: April 02, 2021, 04:06:29 PM »
Montana passes ‘sweeping and dangerous’ religious freedom bill that could block life-saving healthcare for queer people

https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2021/04/02/montana-house-greg-gianforte-lgbt-discrimination-religious-freedom/

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In Michigan, women hold power. Not everyone seems comfortable with that.

https://19thnews.org/2021/04/michigan-women-whitmer/