I was raised as a Presbyterian Christian whose grandparents helped found one of Floyd County’s “rock churches” but that church walked away from the Presbyterian Church USA denomination because of its position to recognize same-sex marriage and other evolving beliefs that most Americans now accept as “good Christian practice. “
So I walked away from the church of my youth and became part of the fastest growing part of most Americans who believe in God but no longer believe in organized religion.
And for good reasons.
Atlantic senior editor Ron Brownstein writes:
The claim that any Democratic victory will irrevocably reconfigure the nation taps into a deep fear among key components of the Republican coalition: that they will be eclipsed by the demographic and cultural changes that have made white people — especially white Christians — a steadily shrinking share of the population.
Adds Jennifer Rubin, a Washington Post columnist that I read regularly and admire:
‘White evangelical Christians dominate the MAGA movement. Fear of civilizational decline, dire warnings of an existential crisis and howls that religion is under “attack” form the basis of much of the MAGA ideology. And the apocalyptic language deployed by the right wing bears a striking resemblance to Christian end-times imagery.
But while conservative Christians love to blame the left, a new Pew Research Center poll shows that their problem is not secular elites.
Since the 1990s, large numbers of Americans have left Christianity to join the growing ranks of U.S. adults who describe their religious identity as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular.” This accelerating trend is reshaping the U.S. religious landscape, leading many people to wonder what the future of religion in America might look like.
The Center estimates that in 2020, about 64% of Americans, including children, were Christian. People who are religiously unaffiliated, sometimes called religious “nones,” accounted for 30% of the U.S. population. Adherents of all other religions – including Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists – totaled about 6%.
Depending on whether religious switching continues at recent rates, speeds up or stops entirely, the projections show Christians of all ages shrinking from 64% to between a little more than half (54%) and just above one-third (35%) of all Americans by 2070. Over that same period, “nones” would rise from the current 30% to somewhere between 34% and 52% of the U.S. population.
Christianity is losing adherents — in droves. “A steadily shrinking share of young adults who were raised Christian (in childhood) have retained their religious identity in adulthood over the past 30 years,” Pew found. “At the same time, having no religious affiliation has become ‘stickier’: A declining percentage of people raised without a religion have converted or taken on a religion later in life.”
In other words: “With each generation, progressively fewer adults retain the Christian identity they were raised with, which in turn means fewer parents are raising their children in Christian households.”
The decline is especially acute for White evangelical Christians. “The overall declines in the proportion of Americans who identify as Christian over the last few decades have been driven primarily by declines among White, non-Hispanic Christians,” Robert P. Jones, president of the Public Religion Research Institute, tells me. “A first wave of White non-evangelical/mainline Protestant decline began in the 1970s, followed by White Catholic decline and, more recently — just since the mid-2000s — White evangelical Protestant decline.” He adds, “Over the last 15 years, White evangelical Protestant decline has actually been markedly steeper than the White non-evangelical Protestant decline.”
Not among the reasons so many are leaving Christianity? “Liberals don’t say Merry Christmas,” or “Christianity is under attack.” The data does, however, show that “an association of Christianity with conservative politics has driven many liberals away from the faith,” according to Pew.
Generally, though, people are leaving Christian churches because, among other things, they don’t believe in the churches’ teachings, they are hostile to organized religion writ large and/or they do not find spiritual solace there. Jones says, “One reason younger people are disaffiliating is the hardening of partisanship within churches and conservative political stances are significantly out of step with younger Americans on a range of issues: same-sex marriage, abortion, contraception, climate change, immigration, etc.” He continues, “The culture war battle, particularly with the Trumpian/MAGA edge, simply doesn’t resonate with the bulk of a generation that grew up with Roe as settled law of the land and a much more diverse group of friends who were not just straight, White and Christian.”
Most Christians are taught that their religion is the only true one, which is a lie. Thomas Jefferson, the author of much of the U.S. Constitution, wrote that this nation must not have a “national religion” and said all faiths should be welcomed. He taught that Jews, Muslims and others were just as religious as Christians.
But too many of our elected leaders claim that America is, or should be, a “Christian nation” and nothing else, a claim that is, itself, against the teachings of God. God, however, is not the driving force of the bigoted white evangelicals.
Too many of the so-called “white evangelical Christians are little more than white supremacists, racists, bigots, and homophobes, which means they have little to do with the God whose name they claim to speak for or preach about. Like the disgraced Jerry Falwell Jr., they embrace greed, lust, and power, not any true God.
America is designed to be a nation of mixed races, creeds, and religious beliefs. Jefferson also taught that those who choose not to believe in any supreme being should feel welcome in our country.
God gave each of us minds that should be used to research and study faiths with a balance of skepticism and a desire to explore alternatives. The Jewish Torah raises valid questions over whether or not a carpenter from Galilee was really a child of a supreme being. Raising those questions is a realistic examination of faith. The Koran teaches Muslims to seek their faith through reason and research. Like all faiths, they have manipulators who twist the teachings of God for personal power and greed and they prey on weak minds in the same ways that ministers and priests, and holy leaders of various faiths do
We see these imposters among the white evangelicals, but they are rapidly becoming the fading minority whose place is weakening, along with their religious racism, bigotry, and hate.
For them, MAGA should stand for “Malicious, Anti-religious Grifters Always.” Sadly, they are not alone in a world where weak minds too often become their prey and followers. It is up to those with open minds devoid of prejudice, salvation without showmanship by seeking faith through tolerance.