Monday, January 14, 2013

For what it's worth

The rate of growth of religion: unaffiliated is decreasing.

I don't know what to make of that. In my opinion the church is healthier than ever. At the university and at my church I run into younger versions of myself all the time: committed Christians who did not grow up in Christian homes. (And they often are Calvinists!)

I have never been concerned about an overall drop in numbers. First of all I didn't see it. Even more importantly, nobody has (or perhaps even can) estimate what percentage of those leaving the church were merely cultural Christians who identified as Christian because of family, peer, or societal pressure. Now that the stigma of being an unbeliever is diminished, they are leaving the church--and that is a good thing. It's a win-win. In this model the atheist movement, such as it is, is not deconverting Christians, it's freeing people to be honest about their lack of belief.

How accurate or important is that mechanism? Nobody knows.


  1. Anonymous1:26 AM

    On a statistical level, I agree. Those who are saddened by the decreases are so for sentimentality's sake. The same types want to hear "Merry Christmas" in their department stores though such words are desacralizing in the consumerist context.

    I suppose there is a primordial human impulse of desiring as many as possible to be in our tribe and feeling loss when our numbers go down.

    On the personal level, the decline of religion is a tragedy. As TS Eliot said, few humans are capable of much faith or unbelief. Most of use follow some path of least resistance. While they may sound lukewarm, who knows how many have followed and served Christ well due to the natural tendencies in their environment? Now that the zeitgeist has changed, these people will follow the easy path of unbelief.

  2. At the university and at my church I run into younger versions of myself all the time: committed Christians who did not grow up in Christian homes.

    Fallacy of extrapolation from personal experience. I could say the same thing: I run into more and more young people who have abandoned the phony claims and promises of religion.

    Neither of our personal experiences is definitive, however. Good polling and census data is much more reliable, since it covers all of North America, not just the parts we live in. And that polling data clearly shows that fewer people are attending. Membership in the Presbyterian church has been decreasing for some time now.

    In my opinion, religions like yours, which require swallowing a large number of implausible claims, cannot possibly withstand the internet. More fuzzy religions, however, probably will survive. Of course, all this will take some time, and it's hard to predict, since religions are so intimately associated with killing off unbelievers.

  3. Jeffrey,

    Like so many of the pseudo-intellectual camp, you need to learn when to cry "fallacy'. You do it when someone is arguing fallaciously. Relating personal anecdotes is not fallacious--unless you are thereby attempting to win a argument. You will note, however, that the lead-in to my post The rate of growth of religion: unaffiliated is decreasing acknowledged the continuing decline in the number of those claiming religion, commenting only on the sign of the 2nd derivative.

    The rest of my post is pointing out the possibility that an unknown component of this decline might be a decline in cultural Christianity--and that is good for the church.

    In pretending that I was trying to argue rather than simply offer a thought, you make the classic gnu-atheist-acolyte hair-trigger "charge a fallacy" gambit. After which you proceed to, oh-so-scientifically, tell us your unsubstantiated opinion about how "religions like mine" cannot survive the internet--presumably because we'll encounter critical thinkers such as you.

    And, btw, your example is wrong. If you look at the Presbyterian church it is the mainline PC-USA branch--liberal and fuzzy--that is declining. The hardcore biblical-inerrancy, Reformed, and Calvinistic denomination, the PCA, a "religion like mine," as you put it, is growing.

  4. Well, if your argument is that you are an incompetent writer, then I cannot but agree.

    I never said my opinion was "scientific", and I clearly labeled it as an opinion. If your argument is that you are an incompetent reader, then I cannot but agree again.

    Thank you for your information about PCA. Could you provide the source for your statistics?