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Ethics & Religion
Column #2,037
August 27, 2020
Americans Are Losing Faith
By Mike McManus

There has been a swift and even accelerating decline of religious commitment in America.

Historically, Americans have recorded relatively high levels of worship service attendance and belief in God as compared with other advanced nations, such as Europe and Japan. It appeared that faith could survive an environment dominated by science and technology.

However, America seems to be moving in a new direction. When asked to express the importance of God in their lives on a scale of 1-10, Americans rated God 4.6 in 2017 -down from 8.2 in just over a decade, reported Charles Lane in the Washington Post.

Some 38% of Democrats say they regularly attend church services, while 54% of Republicans do. Fewer than half of Americans attend religious services regularly, with only 36% of millennials going at least once a month.

This is not a recent phenomenon. When Barack Obama became President, he said, "Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation. We are a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation,, a Buddhist nation and a Hindu nation - and a nation of non-believers."

He added, "We are a country that prizes faith and believes that we are endowed by one Creator with certain inalienable rights; among them are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'

However, in the 2012 book by David Aikman, One Nation Without God? he notes that since 1990 there has been a near doubling of the number of Americans claiming "no religious affiliation," rising from 8% to 15%.

A Newsweek poll reports that in 2009, the first year of Obama's presidency, fewer people said they regarded the United States as a "Christian nation" than did so when George W. Bush was president. (62% in 2009 vs. 69% in 2008.) And two-thirds of the public (68%) thought religion was "losing influence "in American society while only 19% said religion's influence was on the rise."

Is this the end of Christian America? Not really. The number of self-identified Christians is up from 151 million in 1990 to 173 million in 2009.

And "movies with strong moral messages - not necessarily Christian - earned about four to seven times as much money, on average, as movies blatantly in opposition to traditional Christian morality," reports Aikman in his book.

In 2007, 47& of Millennials thought that gays raising children was just fine. By 2010 only 32% did. On the question of single women having children, however, Millennials strongly disapproved of the trend with 69% against and 34% for it.

The vast majority of young adults believe that living together is a smart if not absolutely necessary experience. However, nearly all studies show that couples who live together before their wedding are more, not less likely to divorce. My wife and I wrote a book on this issue: Living Together: Myths, Risks & Answers.

One sad and surprising finding is that half of all pastors would leave the ministry if they could. Some 70% are fighting depression.

George Washington, in his first inaugural Address, said "No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States."

John Adams, after serving as our second President, wrote "The highest, the transcendent glory of the American Revolution was this - it connected in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the precepts of Christianity."

However, Christian church attendance at the time of the American Revolution was probably not more than 15%.

Some words of early Americans, such as john Winthrop in 1630 are relevant today: "For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all peoples are upon us."

Both Ronald Reagan and John Kennedy quoted those words to affirm that the United States, as a nation has a unique responsibility to be a blessing to the world. Reagan spoke of "a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than the earth, wind-swept God blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds, living in harmony and peace...The walls had doors and were open to anyone with the will and heart to get there.. That's how I saw it and see it still."

The numbers of believers is falling in recent times. But the principles which made America great and an inspiration to the world - are still valid today.


Copyright (c) 2020 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. To read past columns, go to Hit Search for any topic.


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