Coming Soon: A Godless America?

By Mark A. Kellner | Posted April 08, 2019

The influence of religion in the United States is on the wane, thanks to an astonishing increase in the number of Americans who say they have no religious affiliation.

“The number of Americans who identify as having no religion has risen 266 percent since 1991, to now tie statistically with the number of Catholics and Evangelicals, according to a new survey,” London’s Daily Mail reports.

“People with no religion—known as ‘nones’ among statisticians—account for 23.1 percent of the U.S. population, while Catholics make up 23 percent and Evangelicals account for 22.5 percent, according to the General Social Survey,” the newspaper added. In addition, so-called “mainline Protestant Christianity,” comprised of denominations that are generally theologically liberal, registered a 62.5-percent drop in adherents since 1982, and now number a mere 10.8-percent of the population.

A Nation of Faith

Those with long memories will note the tragic impact of these changes. For decades—most of the past two centuries—America was known, and often celebrated, for being a nation of religiously aware and devoted citizens.

After his survey of American prison conditions undertaken in 1831 at the behest of the French government, Alexis de Tocqueville’s book Democracy in America contained a passage that summarized the importance of faith among the then-new nation’s citizens.

“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers—and it was not there … in her fertile fields and boundless forests and it was not there … in her rich mines and her vast world commerce—and it was not there … in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution—and it was not there,’ de Tocqueville wrote. “Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits aflame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”

While it would be less than honest to correlate mere church membership with a level of general morality—there’s been crime and excess and immorality in this nation since its founding—the current coarsening of society and the “hardening of the attitudes” on the part of many citizens might give thoughtful observers some pause.

Even those who say they’re affiliated with a given faith might only pay lip service to that commitment, according to Ryan Burge, a political science professor at Eastern Illinois University. Himself an American Baptist pastor, Burge has studied the General Social Survey results and says there are many “cultural” adherents to some faiths.

“Catholicism is more cultural than religious in a lot of ways,” Burge told the Daily Mail. “People are less and less likely to disaffiliate from Catholicism than Protestantism, which is less cultural in that people are willing to walk away from it.”

Of course, “cultural” adherence to a faith is not limited to liberal congregations. Even in the more theologically conservative branches of religion, adherents can be found whose practice of the faith’s basic teachings and adherence to its tenets may be hit-or-miss at best. Some will even be honest enough to say they attend to be part of a given community or, perhaps, to merely honor long-standing family connections.

An Inevitable Shift?

But a shift in American attitudes away from a basic faith to a more “God-less” attitude often found in western European nations may be inevitable, Burge said, “'Secularization theory argues that as countries become more industrialized and prosperous then the throwing off of religion becomes more normalized,” he told the newspaper.

The consequences of such secularization can be seen in many areas. Lessening respect for the sanctity of life not means a tragic rise in abortions, but also in less respect for the chronically ill or infirm: Support for euthanasia is rising in the U.S., with several states having debated—or enacted—so-called “right to die” legislation. Marriage, once widely understood as being legitimate only between one man and one woman, has now been opened up to a variety of legal interpretations, with growing public approval.

Untied from the spiritual moorings on which this land was founded, American society and culture is, to some observers, seriously adrift. The final outcomes may be beyond anyone’s imagination, and they may not all be positive for the country as a whole.

Even among those who never claimed religious faith, the cultural imbuement of American life with principles such as those found in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) was a civilizing force. Criminality and delinquency were discouraged. But that has changed. Just check out Twitter.

Interestingly, even as American society drifts away from religious fervor, the Bible predicts that it one day will join hands with a religious power to dictate the conscience of its citizens and the rest of the world. Find out more about it with our FREE Study Guide, “The USA in Bible Prophecy.”

If American society is at a spiritual crossroads, it’s important for ministries such as Amazing Facts to share the good news of Jesus and His soon return. Your support, financially and even more with your prayers, helps us reach lives at home and around the world.

Mark Kellner
Mark A. Kellner is a staff writer for Amazing Facts International. He is a veteran journalist whose work has been published in Religion News Service, The Washington Times, and numerous computer magazines.

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