Many people donned their Sunday bests of hats, flowery pastel dresses, and linen or seersucker suits to attend church on Easter Sunday.
But it is getting harder and harder to fill those pews even on Easter, the busiest Sunday of the year because, according to a Pew study, the only religious group in the U.S. that is growing is the religiously unaffiliated.
A major new report from The Brookings Institute which will go into more detail about why will be released later this week.
The study will show that, ‘young Americans today are less affiliated religiously than any previous youth cohort in history.’
The Public Religion Research Institute also has found that 35 percent of Americans under age 30 are unaffiliated.
It also states that one-in-five 18 to 29 year olds say that religion is not important in their lives, compared to only 10 percent of those 50 and older who say that.’
The Brookings report will site two main contributing factors, ‘the decline in formal religious affiliation, particularly among the young, and the bad rap religion has gotten as a result of the culture wars and the prominence of conservative religious figures.’
In other words, young people, Millennials, are over it.
The study shows that they have ‘only known a world in which religion and the right are intertwined. Young people associate religion with intolerance and homophobia, and therefore they do not see themselves, or wish to be seen, as religious.’
Although Protestants are taking a hit, Catholics are taking a bigger one.
Today thirty-one percent of Americans were raised in the Catholic faith, yet fewer than twenty-four percent describe themselves as Catholic.
The loss would have been even greater if not for immigrants, mostly from Spanish speaking countries who identify as Catholic.
Many believe that number may turn around for Catholics if the new pope, Pope Francis, continues his focus on social justice and inclusion.
However, protestant churches are having a tough time too convincing their flocks to come back to pews.
According to the Daily Beast the competition is so fierce that on Easter Sunday some mega-churches were handing out flat-screen TVs, iPads, Starbucks gift cards and even using TV show themes like The Walking Dead and zombies to lure new members, especially young ones.
There is nothing to show that any of this works.
In 1992 a Gallup poll showed that seventy percent of the respondents said they were members of a church or synagogue; in 2013 it was fifty-nine percent.
While I wouldn’t count church out just yet, it is obvious that for whatever reasons more and more people are either turning away from organized religion or are watching services from home on TV or the internet.
The biggest mega-church of them all could soon be what a rapidly growing number of people have playfully and quite accurately nicknamed, Bedside Baptist.
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