|Where have all the Catholics gone, long time passing?|
A recent Pew Survey shows some alarming trends. The overall Christian population is declining while the numbers of unaffiliated are growing. Here are a few bits of data from the poll of 35,000 Americans:
1) The percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. And the share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths also has inched up, rising 1.2 percentage points, from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.9% in 2014. Growth has been especially great among Muslims and Hindus, albeit from a very low base.
2) While many U.S. religious groups are aging, the unaffiliated are comparatively young – and getting younger, on average, over time. As a rising cohort of highly unaffiliated Millennials reaches adulthood, the median age of unaffiliated adults has dropped to 36, down from 38 in 2007 and far lower than the general (adult) population’s median age of 46.4 By contrast, the median age of mainline Protestant adults in the new survey is 52 (up from 50 in 2007), and the median age of Catholic adults is 49 (up from 45 seven years earlier).
3) The results of the second Religious Landscape Study indicate that Christians probably have lost ground, not only in their relative share of the U.S. population, but also in absolute numbers.
4) Catholics appear to be declining both as a percentage of the population and in absolute numbers. The new survey indicates there are about 51 million Catholic adults in the U.S. today, roughly 3 million fewer than in 2007. But taking margins of error into account, the decline in the number of Catholic adults could be as modest as 1 million.11 And, unlike Protestants, who have been decreasing as a share of the U.S. public for several decades, the Catholic share of the population has been relatively stable over the long term, according to a variety of other surveys. [When you consider the massive influx of Hispanic Catholics, this is particularly troubling.]
5) One of the most important factors in the declining share of Christians and the growth of the “nones” is generational replacement. As the Millennial generation enters adulthood, its members display much lower levels of religious affiliation, including less connection with Christian churches, than older generations. Fully 36% of young Millennials (those between the ages of 18 and 24) are religiously unaffiliated, as are 34% of older Millennials (ages 25-33). And fewer than six-in-ten Millennials identify with any branch of Christianity, compared with seven-in-ten or more among older generations, including Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. Just 16% of Millennials are Catholic, and only 11% identify with mainline Protestantism. Roughly one-in-five are evangelical Protestants. [When you lose the young, you lose the future!]
6) Christianity – and especially Catholicism – has been losing more adherents through religious switching than it has been gaining. [The New Evangelization doesn't seem to be working very well.]You can check out the Pew Report yourself here. Let us pray for the zeal of the first Apostles to reconsecrate ourselves to the mission of going out to the whole world with the good news. We apparently aren't doing a very good job. See Phil Lawler on American Catholics are flunking the test of evangelization.