Posted by: Jim Black | March 9, 2009

More Americans Say They Have No Religion… is there any good news in this?

I was struck by the heading on the news article I saw this morning… “More Americans Say They Have No Religion.” It piqued my curiosity to say the least. I have found many statistics recently that have described Christianity as an ever-decreasing presence in America, an alarming trend that has a lot of Christians worried. The article, published on FoxNews’ website on Monday by the Associated Press went on to describe a survey that has recently been done by the Program on Public Values at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. It surveyed over 54,000 adults last year and found that the number of Americans who named “no religion” has risen in every state since 2001. Across the board, religion seems to be playing less and less a role in people’s lives. Thirty percent of married couples did not have a religious wedding ceremony and 27 percent of respondents said they did not want a religious funeral. In fact 15 percent of respondents said that they had no religion, a number up from 8.2 percent in 1990. Northern New England surpassed the Pacific Northwest as the least religious region in the country with Vermont reporting the highest share of those claiming no religion… 34 percent. Nationally, Catholics remain the single largest religious bloc in the United States, with 57 million adherents. The Catholic church gained 11 million followers since 1990, but its share of the population fell by a bout a percentage point to 25 percent, due to the increase in population. In fact, no religious group or denomination has increased its percentage of the population.

These findings make me wonder what is happening? Is Jesus less relevant today than he was in 2001, in 1990… or 1960? Why does the trend seem to be downward? Is it because Christians are less-than-perfect representatives of Jesus and turning people away? Perhaps, but hasn’t that always been the case… even since the first century? So, why are fewer people choosing to be religious today? Why are more churches having to forget about “church growth” and just concentrate on “maintaining”? Is there ANY good news or silver lining here?

Ahhh… I’m glad you asked! It is a reminder that we live in a fallen world and that the mission field is wide open! The study found signs of a growing influence of churches that either don’t belong to a denomination or play down their affiliation. Respondents who identified themselves as “non-denominational Christian” grew from 0.1 percent in 1990 to 3.5 percent last year. That is quite a jump! What does this say to us? Well, it says that eople are less and less interested in their denominational affiliations and increasingly interested in “just being Christians.” Wow, they’re singing our song! Haven’t we long been saying that Jesus has called us to just follow him? Haven’t we long emphasized his plea for the unity of believers and against the dividing of his body? “That they may all be one,” he prayed. Perhaps this is an opportunity for those of us who want to simply follow Jesus without denominational baggage to present the message of Jesus to the world … a world that is increasingly interested in Jesus, but not traditional, denominational “churchianity”? Perhaps this is the opportunity we have been praying for to truly be “non-denominational” Christians? The question… what will we do to take advantage of this wide-open door? What are YOU doing?

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