The Long Slow Death of Religion

The Good Men Project

June 29, 2019

By James A. Haught

By now, it’s clear that religion is fading in America, as it has done in most advanced Western democracies. Dozens of surveys find identical evidence: fewer American adults, especially those under 30, attend church—or even belong to a church. They tell interviewers their religion is “none.” They ignore faith.

Since 1990, the “nones” have exploded rapidly as a sociological phenomenon—from 10% of U.S. adults, to 15%, to 20%. Now they’ve climbed to 25%, according to a 2016 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI). That makes them the nation’s largest faith category, outstripping Roman Catholics (21%) and white evangelicals (16%). They seem on a trajectory to become an outright majority. America is following the secular path of Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and other modern places. The “Secular Age” is snowballing.

Various explanations for the social transformation are postulated: the Internet exposes young people to a wide array of ideas and practices that undercut old-time beliefs: That family breakdown severs traditional participation in congregations. That the young have grown cynical about authority of all types. That fundamentalist hostility to LGBTQ+ persons and abortion has soured tolerant-minded Americans. That clergy, child-molesting scandals have scuttled church claims to moral superiority. That faith-based, suicide bombings and other religious murders horrify normal folks.

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