Why is religious affiliation decreasing?
As many celebrate Easter and Passover this week, it’s a chance for pollsters to take the pulse of religion in the United States. For the first time, a survey found that less than half of Americans say they belong to a place of worship, reports Shayla Reaves and Heather Brown (3:47). WCCO 4 News – April 2, 2021
MARBLED BROWN: Thanks for watching Mid-Morning this Friday. As many people celebrate Easter and Passover this week, it’s a chance for pollsters to take the pulse of religion in the United States.
SHAYLA REVEALS: For the very first time, Gallup found that less than half of Americans say they belong to a place of worship, be it a synagogue, mosque or church. So why is the membership declining? This is something that is really interesting. You asked the question, as people get older or start their families, they might be looking to go back to religion if they left when they were younger.
MARBLED BROWN: So it’s an interesting thing that you raise up there. It is called the lifecycle of religion. And for a long time that’s how it worked here in the United States, is that young people weren’t that religious, but once they got married and had kids, they came back. Well, in the last 20 years that has really changed here in the United States because people get married later, like they have kids later, some people don’t. And so the experts will tell you, listen, if you’ve been gone 10, 15 years, you’ve found your bands, you’ve found your thing, you’re less likely to go back to religion.
SHAYLA REVEALS: And are thoughts on organized religion, some say, related to politics? And they wonder if it’s something they want to be a part of.
MARBLED BROWN: So here’s another look you talk about that 47%, that less than half of people say belong to a place of worship. And it’s pretty uniform, whether it’s a synagogue, mosque, or church. But if you look at where this drop is coming from, it’s more the case with people who were perhaps only moderately religious, maybe more liberal people. And what they’re telling researchers is, look, religion seems really politicized right now. It’s not something that I necessarily want my family or I to be a part of. So this is where you see part of that change.
SHAYLA REVEALS: And what people look for in a church is changing too. They don’t just go for religion. Mega churches are seeing an increase because people are also interested in programming and what else can they offer a family.
MARBLED BROWN: Yes. I found that to be really interesting too because, yes, you look at people and how they relate to traditional organizations. And while we see fewer people attached to these organizations, you see that some churches are doing really well. These mega-churches that you hear about that have thousands and thousands of members, they’re actually growing up there.
And part of that is because they have so many people, so many people. They have a lot more programming. You also see multi-ethnic churches growing in popularity here. We spoke with a senior pastor at Sanctuary Covenant Church in North Minneapolis. And after George Floyd’s death in May, they saw thousands of people flock to their church to do volunteer work. And these people, many of them, are still there. And so that’s where these trends – you have to dig a little deeper, as always, Shayla, when you look at the data.
SHAYLA REVEALS: Yes. And what part of this really surprised you the most to learn in this particular room?
MARBLED BROWN: So one of the things I think is that even though we see these numbers go down, people still see themselves as religious. You still have 75% of people who still consider themselves religious. It may simply be a loosening of your attachment to a formal organization. So you might see religion in a different way, you might not be connected to a church, mosque or synagogue. So all interesting things to think about as we approach what is a very religious week here with Easter and Passover.
SHAYLA REVEALS: Absolutely. And interesting findings to see how people still find ways to incorporate religion, even if they do it in a different way.