If evangelical Christianity is growing, or at the very least remaining steady, why is Christianity as a whole shrinking and why are those who claim no religious affiliation increasing at such a rapid rate? In short, nominals — people whose religious affiliation is in name only — are becoming nones — people who check "none of the above" box on a survey.
Those who value their faith enough to wake up on Sunday morning and head to their local church are mostly still going. What I have described as "convictional Christianity" will continue. Those who say their faith is very important to their lives are not suddenly jettisoning those beliefs to become atheists.
This makes sense in regards to what Glenn Beck said yesterday:
It’s no surprise people are saying, “Christian, I’m not Christian.” Why would you call yourself Christian? Those numbers continue to dwindle for good reason. You define yourself as a Christian, and you’re going to be defined by society as narrow-minded, hateful, judgmental.
- Believing marriage between a man and woman used to be ammunition or still is used as ammunition to say you hate gays.
- Saying prayer in school is akin to forcing nonbelievers to conform against their will.
- Teaching intelligent design is literally likened to child abuse now, mocked as anti-science.
- Virginity is mocked.
- Being pro-life is being spun as a war on women
So growing up today as a millennial, that is damn near impossible. Who would intentionally put themselves in a crowd that society has deemed anti-gay, anti-women, anti-science? I mean, sign me up. It’s a harder sell to young people in a culture that bombards them with anti-Christian messaging, but I honestly don’t think that’s the problem. I think that’s part of the problem, but I don’t think that’s the real problem.
Those that in the past have identified as Christians because of a cultural affiliation— grew up going to church and still attend a couple times a year— are seeing what Christians are associated with today and are being forthright and honest: they’re atheists or agnostics. People are not leaving the Church in troves, they are just being honest that they are not Christians and likely never were. That said, evangelical Christianity is on the rise, though marginally. “[W]eekly religious attendance as a percentage of the U.S. population is about where it was in the 1940s.” Nothing to see here except news fodder, people. Nothing to see.