Tuesday, May 12, 2015

New Survey Shows U.S. Church in Decline

A new survey by the Pew Research Center shows Christianity in decline in America. The news is especially bad for mainline Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Church. These have dropped about 3 percentage points since 2007. The median age of adult Catholics rose from from 45 to 49. That means the Church is getting older.

There are also roughly 3 million fewer American Catholics than in 2007. When you account for margins of error and other factors, though, the loss may have been "just" 1 million. In general, Catholic numbers have been more stable over the long term as compared to the steady decline of mainline Protestants, but that appears to have changed.

Evangelical Protestants fared the best, dropping only a point.

One-third of American adults say they were raised Catholic. Among that group, fully 41% no longer identify with Catholicism. So 12.9% of adult Americans are former Catholics, whereas only 2% have converted to Catholicism from another religion. Pew says "no other religious group in the survey has such a lopsided ration of losses to gains."

Evangelical Protestants, on the other hand, have picked up more than they have lost, the only group to do so.

The West has the greatest non-affiliated (i.e. no declared belief) population, at 25%.

What the Bear finds most interesting is that Catholic Church and the mainline Protestant churches -- which the Catholic Church has tried to model itself after -- show an almost identical rate of decline at approximately 3 percent.

It isn't sundown on the Church in America, but it is later in the day than you think.


  1. Are we closing in on Ratzinger's "remnant" church?

  2. It's a race to get there, eh? Francis has told us that he hasn't much time as Holy Father. ...because he intends to effectively "dissolve" the Church? Substantively if not organizationally.

    Hey, when he comes to DC in the fall, you can entitle the entry "Frankie Goes to Hollywood" That's about what it's gonna be. A real show with paparazzi and everything.

  3. There's an interesting analysis of the poll here, which questions the results.

    1. It is beyond a simple Bear's expertise to slice and dice poll data, and the pool itself said it might be as low as one million FWIW. I would be more inclined to challenge it if it didn't match my gut feeling.

    2. Regarding matching gut feelings, I'm kind of surprised this thing has generated as much publicity as it has. My gut reaction on hearing of this thing was, "Why is this is news?"


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