A new report from Gallup shows that the percentage of Americans who identify with some specific religious denomination is lower than ever before.
In 2000, 50% of Americans said they were Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, etc. By 2016, that number had dropped to 30%.
If you’re religious, there’s an optimistic way to look at this decline: All those people may not be part of an particular denomination, but they may have just become non-denominational Christians. The kind you see at a lot of evangelical megachurches. So people just shifted laterally!
The numbers don’t match up with that explanation, though.
When it comes to non-denominational Christians, the numbers went from 9% in 2000 to 17% in 2016, a rise of only 8%. Where did everyone else go?
They left organized religion altogether.
The “Nones” jumped from 10% to 20% in that same time period. (Yes, many of them still believe in God, but they want nothing to do with any kind of organized religion.)
These trends indicate that, while many Americans remain religious in a broad sense and may continue to seek spiritual guidance and community experience, a formal structure in which to do so has become less important.
More Americans can do without that formal denominational structure — and many can do without a religious framework altogether.
That has to be disturbing news for religious leaders who thrive on the idea that religion — and their church specifically — is the best way for people to have happy, fulfilled lives. People are quickly realizing there are better alternatives out there and religion doesn’t even need to be in the mix.