The fall of religion in America.
More Americans than ever believe the bible “is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by men” according to a nationally presentative survey.
Are Americans finally turning their backs on God? While Americans have long claimed exceptionalism to the modern decline of religion across the western world, two recent studies have offered proof that the United States is no longer the exception, it is the norm. Not only do fewer Americans pray, attend religious services or acknowledge a belief in God than ever before, but they are not even claiming to be religious in private either. Has spirituality simply replaced religion? Apparently not: spirituality declined between 2006 and 2014 in the United States too. Americans appear to following their neighbours to the north in becoming more secular.
A new study, led by Professor Jean M. Twenge author of Generation Me and published in Sage Open, has examined the responses of 58,893 participants in the General Social Survey, a survey of U.S. adults that took place between 1972 and 2014. The results of the new study are striking, concluding that five times more Americans prayed in the early 1980s than in 2014 while nearly twice as many Americans believed in God in the 1980s than they do now.
Americans today are also less likely to believe that the Bible is divinely inspired with 22% of respondents agreeing with the statement that the Bible “is an ancient book of fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by men” compared to the 14% who agreed with this in 1984 (a 57% increase).
While previous studies have stated that Americans were just as religious in private even if they were less likely to publically affiliate with a religion, Professor Twenge argues that this is no longer the case. The decline in religion is occurring, and it has been particularly striking between 2006 and 2014.
Professor David Voas at the University College of London and Professor Mark Chaves at Duke University agree. Their recent study, published in the American Journal of Sociology, showed that belief in the United States is finally starting to mirror the pattern of declining religion in Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.
The decline has been slow, Professor Voas acknowledged, but it’s unmistakeable and it’s driven by generational differences. While 68% of Americans over 65 years old currently have no doubt that God exists, only 45% of young adults aged 18 to 30 agree. In terms of church attendance, 41% of people over 70 attend at least once a month compared to only 18% of people 60 years old and younger.
The overall decline has been spurred by the changing demographics, and it’s most noticeable in the 18- to 29-year-old segment of the population that are least likely to have any religious ties. In fact, so few Millennials claim religious affiliation, regularly attend church, or believe in God that this generation is a contender for the title of the least religious generation in American history.
Although three times as many Americans claim no religious affiliation in 2014 than they did in the early 1970s, for those who are lamenting the decline in American religiosity, fear not: the majority of Americans are still religious…at least for now.