Wednesday, 11 March 2009

USA: Atheism Grows, Christianity Declines

The much vaunted resilience of religion in the USA raises significant questions about classic secularisation theory which asserts that as societies modernise they also secularise. Various modles have been put forward to explain differing patterns in North America and Western Europe. However, in recent years research findings have begun to indicate that stateside Chrstianity is not as resilient as was once thought. The latest report is the American Religious Idnetification Survey conducted in 2008.

Alan Hirsch offers the following summary:

1) Religion and Christianity are on the decline in the US;
2) Protestantism is doing worse than Catholicism due to Catholic immigrants;
3) Mormonism is keeping up with population growth, and Islam and New Age/Wicca are exceeding it;
4) Atheism, while still a small percentage of the population, is on the rise; and
5) “Spirituality,”–or non-organized belief in God–is still vibrant in the US.

For the full report go here.

The USA is not the same as Western Europe. Religion is more resilent there than here. It still poses questions for classic secularisation. But the long recognised decline in the American mainline denominations now seems to be affecting other expressions of Christianity as well.

Many in the past have taken comfort from trends across the pond looking to learn lessons for own struggles to resist decline. There is still some mileage in such an approach when applied with due care but we must not take false comfort. The first step to finding a new way forward is to look reality in the face. Whistling in the dark is no way to find an anthem to which we can march forward. It could well be that the challenge we face is even bigger than we thought.


mikemcmack said...

It's simple why atheism is growing so fast now. I have been an atheist since about 1973 or so. The internet is the one key reason for atheism advancement. Until internet there was no good ways for non believer to gather and talk. The internet makes it easy.

Glen Marshall said...

Interesting point Mike though I reckon it's far more complicated. The trend has been around far longer than the past ten years or so. Certainly in Europe and many other "westernised" societies you can trace the growth in the number of professing atheists back to the early years of the 20C.