As Easter approaches, Gallup has some excellent news: Fewer Americans than ever before attend church regularly.
When asked if they are members of a church, synagogue, or mosque, only 50% of Americans said yes, down from 70% just two decades ago.
Why the drop? Because more people are comfortable living without religion (thanks, atheists!) and people who are religious have less of a desire to attend a formal place of worship.
The decline in church membership mostly reflects the fact that fewer Americans than in the past now have any religious affiliation. However, even those who do identify with a particular religion are less likely to belong to a church or other place of worship than in the past.
Time isn’t on religion’s side either. While 68% of people born before 1945 attend church, that number drops to 42% when looking at those born after 1980. The Millennial aversion to organized religion is stronger than ever. Furthermore, 29% of Millennials say they have “no religion,” compared to only 9% of the oldest generation.
None of this is all that shocking. The largest religious denominations in the country — Catholics, Southern Baptists, white evangelicals — have all been going through public sex abuse scandals that involve covering up the crimes on behalf of leaders. White evangelical Christianity has also effectively become synonymous with the atrocities of the Republican Party and the Trump administration specifically. When that’s what religion has to offer, what benefit do you gain by proclaiming yourself one of them? Even beyond that, those organized religions oppose LGBTQ rights, reproductive freedom, scientific data, and sex education. They stand for discriminating against gay people, not defending the poor. After a tragedy, they offer thoughts and prayers, not solutions.
And, of course, they all believe in nonsense. That’s always been true, though. It’s the way they’re using their irrational thinking to hurt others that’s changed over time.
The only way I can imagine this trend going in the other direction is if the Religious Left ever gains traction and draws in a bunch of disaffected young people. Until then, religion is really nothing more than a cesspool of awfulness. All the benefits of organized religion — and yes, there are benefits — don’t outweigh the damage caused by religious leaders.
Even if you’re not an atheist, it’s getting harder and harder to defend your involvement with any particular religious group. You’re better off believing whatever you believe and living in a way that aligns with your values. There’s no need to give up your Sundays to pledge allegiance to the sort of people who think their highest calling in life is to make life worse for everyone else.
More Americans have finally realized you don’t need God to be good. You also don’t need to go to church to have meaning in your life.