Essay: Predictions on the Future of Christianity/religion in the USA: Eric Kaufmann vs. Pew Research

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On July 24, 2019, due to religious immigration to the United States and the higher fertility rate of religious people, Eric Kaufmann wrote in an article entitled Why Is Secularization Likely to Stall in America by 2050? A Response to Laurie DeRose: "Overall, the picture suggests that the U.S. will continue to secularize in the coming decades. However, a combination of religious immigration, immigrant religious retention, slowing religious decline due to a rising prevalence of believers among the affiliated, and higher native religious birth rates will result in a plateauing of secularizing trends by mid-century." [1]

To read the entire article, please read: Why Is Secularization Likely to Stall in America by 2050? A Response to Laurie DeRose by Eric Kaufmann

Steve Turley, commenting on Kaufmann's work wrote:

According to a recent a demographic study by University of London Professor Eric Kaufmann, there is a significant demographic deficit between secularists and conservative religionists. For example, in the U.S., while self-identified secular women averaged only 1.5 children per couple in 2002, conservative evangelical women averaged 2 to 3 children per couple, which amounts to a 28 percent fertility advantage. Now Kaufmann notices that this demographic deficit has dramatic effects over time. In a population evenly divided, these numbers indicate that conservative evangelicals would increase from 50 to 62.5 percent of the population in a single generation. In two generations, their number would increase to 73.5 percent, and over the course of 200 years, they would represent 99.4 percent.

Kaufmann noticed further that the more religiously conservative, the more children. For example, the Amish double in population every twenty years, and are projected to number over a million in the U.S. and Canada in just a few decades. We're seeing a similar trend among Mormons, who have averaged a 40 percent growth per decade, which means that by the end of the century, there will be as many as 300 million Mormons in the world, or six percent of the world's population. And note: Mormons vote overwhelmingly Republican.

Now in stark contrast to all of this, Kaufmann's data projects that secularists consistently exemplify a low fertility rate of around 1.5 percent per couple, which is significantly below the replacement level of 2.1 percent. And so he sees a steady decline of secular populations after 2030 or 2050 to potentially no more than a mere 14 to 15 percent of the American population. He notices that similar projections apply to Europe as well.[2]

On the other hand, Pew Research gives some more pessimistic scenarios in the 2022 article: Modeling the Future of Religion in America.

4 additional points supporting Eric Kaufmann's view of the future of Christianity in the USA

1. Jewish columnist Dennis Prager has stated that a causal factor of atheism is the "secular indoctrination of a generation."[3] Prager stated that "From elementary school through graduate school, only one way of looking at the world – the secular – is presented. The typical individual in the Western world receives as secular an indoctrination as the typical European received a religious one in the Middle Ages."[4] Despite atheistic indoctrination in public schools in the United States, the United States remains very religious (see: Views on atheists). See: Atheist indoctrination

In 2013, a study found that academia was less likely to hire evangelical Christians due to discriminatory attitudes.[5] See also: Atheism and intolerance

In recent years, especially during the pandemic, there has been a large increase in parents who are homeschooling and sending their children to religious schools/colleges/universities. Also, many liberal/leftist colleges are closing. In addition, less students are going to college. The website reported in 2022 that 50 colleges have closed or merged in the last 5 years.[6]

For more information please see:

2. Pew Research wrote in their above cited article Modeling the Future of Religion in America: "Of course, it is possible that events outside the study’s model – such as war, economic depression, climate crisis, changing immigration patterns or religious innovations – could reverse current religious switching trends, leading to a revival of Christianity in the United States. But there are no current switching patterns in the U.S. that can be factored into the mathematical models to project such a result. (Bolding added for emphasis)".[7]

There are now mainstream commentators on the United States economy who are indicating the USA faces the possibility of an economic depression.

For example, the 2022 article JPMorgan CEO Warns U.S. Is Headed Toward Something Worse Than a Recession indicates:

But recently, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon had some scary things to say about the economy. And it's a warning worth noting.

Although Dimon acknowledges that the U.S. economy is strong right now, he's still convinced conditions are apt to deteriorate. He also said there's a 20% to 30% chance of facing "something worse" than a recession in the near term.

Now, in economic terms, when we think about what's worse than a recession, we tend to imagine a full-blown depression -- a really prolonged period of economic decline. But to be clear, Dimon isn't saying he's convinced we're headed in that direction. Rather, he thinks it's a possibility people should gear up for.[8]

Vox Day, who predicted the Recession of 2008 and authored the book The Return of the Great Depression, believes an economic depression will happen in the USA and that it will be larger in magnitude and longer in duration than the Great Depression of the 1930s.[9]

Excerpt from the academic paper entitled The Changing Face of Global Christianity by Dr. Todd Johnson & Sandra S. Kim:

As Latourette’s Great Century was coming to a close, churches outside of Europe and the Americas that took root in the 19th century grew rapidly in the 20th century. Africa, in particular, led this transformation growing from only 10 million Christians in 1900 to 360 million by AD 2000. Given current trends, there could be over 600 million Christians in Africa by 2025. Shortly after 1980, Christians in the South outnumbered those in the North for the first time in 1,000 years. In 1900 over 80% of all Christians lived in Europe and Northern America, however, by 2005 this proportion had fallen to under 40% and will likely fall below 30% before 2050. Projections for the future show that the Christian churches of the Global South (Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania) will likely continue to acquire an increasing percentage of global Christianity...

Another daily reality for Southern Christians is poverty. Much of the global South deals with serious issues of poverty and a lack of access to proper health care. Countries that have been hardest hit by AIDS, such as Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Swaziland, are also countries where Christianity is flourishing. Without access to the necessary medical care, accounts of healing and exorcism found in the Bible are taken more seriously. The work of the Holy Spirit exhibited in the ministry of signs and miracles of healing and deliverance from demonic powers has exploded in the ministry of Pentecostal/Charismatic churches in the global South. David Smith describes these churches as “overwhelmingly charismatic and conservative in character, reading the New Testament in ways that seem puzzlingly literal to their friends in the North,” and as “largely made up of poor people who in many cases live on the very edge of existence.” Thus the growth of Christianity in poorer regions implies not only an alternative reading of the Bible, but a different experience of the Bible.[10]

Christianity Today's article Evangelical churches are booming in Brazil's poorest communities states:

Evangelical churches are booming in traditionally Catholic Brazil, particularly among the country's most deprived communities.

In Brazil's favelas, low-income slum settlements lacking access to resources such as healthcare, sanitation, transportation and property registration, the Church has become a vital support.

'The government doesn't help us so God is the only option for the poor,' Pastor Antonio, 37, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Antonio, like many poor young men, was raised in the favela and drawn to the drug trade before finding God and becoming a minister. He says the Church provides hope and support for deprived Brazilians who have little else in their lives.

'There are a lot of problems here in the favela. Poverty, a lack of work, crime, mental health issues - the church helps with these things.'

Evangelical churches are growing, experts say, in part because they provide essential services such as education, security and economic development.[11]

Paul Adams wrote in his article The Rise of Evangelicalism in Mexico:

But with a country shadowed by the underground totalitarianism of the Mexican Drug Cartel and other drug-related violence which has killed over 50,000 people over the past five years, the visit was a bittersweet one. The Pope commiserated with those ravaged by this issue, urging the country to “fight this evil” while asserting to Mexico’s youth to step away from the recreational drug subculture.

...And look no further than the small town of Zongozotla, Puebla as the poster child for this religious shift. Public Radio International recently visited the town of roughly 5,000 people, finding Catholics being outnumbered by the Evangelicals. In contrast to the rampant violence and vices that circulate through Puebla, the town had a peaceful ambiance to it.

Local pastor Horacio Lopez asserted, “Our descendants say before the evangelicals arrived the town was in a miserable state.” The town has generally prohibited the selling of alcohol for religious reasons, and has found itself in a much more sobering and content mood....

Mexico has found itself becoming more poor, frustrated, and scared while it continues to show no signs of economical or political improvement. With its government inadequately supporting the social structure, the people are beginning to look elsewhere for salvation.[12]

3. The Biden Administration has practiced a policy of lax border enforcement on the Mexican border of the USA.

Current religious demography scholarship suggest that the relatively low fertility of secular Americans and the religiosity of the immigrant inflow provide a countervailing force that will cause the secularization process within the total population to plateau before 2043. This represents an important theoretical point in that demography permits society to become more religious even as individuals tend to become less religious over time.[13]

In their 2010 journal article entitled, Secularism, Fundamentalism or Catholicism? The Religious Composition of the United States to 2043 published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, Eric Kaufmann, Vegard Skirbekk and Anne Goujon wrote:

We find considerable stability of religious groups over time, but there are some important shifts. Hispanic Catholics experience the strongest growth rates to 2043. Immigration, high fertility, and a young age structure will enable this group to expand from 10 to 18 percent of the American population between 2003 and 2043, despite a net loss of communicants to secularism and Protestantism. This will power the growth of Catholics as a whole, who will surpass Protestants by mid century within the nation’s youngest age groups. This represents a historic moment for a country settled by anti-Catholic Puritans, whose Revolution was motivated in part by a desire to spread dissenting Protestantism and whose populationon the eve of revolution was 98 percent Protestant (Huntington 2004; Kaufmann 2004). Another important development concerns the growth of the Muslim population and decline of the Jews. High Muslim fertility and a young Muslim age structure contrasts with low Jewish childbearing levels and a mature Jewish age structure. Barring an unforeseen shift in the religious composition and size of the immigrant flow, Muslims will surpass Jews in the population by 2023 and in the electorate by 2028. This could have profound effects on the course of American foreign policy. Within the non-Hispanic white population, we expect to see continued Liberal Protestant decline due to low fertility and a net loss in exchanges with other groups. White Catholics will also lose due to a net outflow of converts. Fundamentalist and Moderate Protestant denominations will hold their own within the white population, but will decline overall as the white share of the population falls.

The finding that Protestant fundamentalism may decline in relative terms over the medium term contrasts with a prevailing view that envisions the continued growth of “strong religion” (Stark and Iannaccone 1994a). This is the result of an older age structure, which increases loss through mortality, and immigration, which reduces the size of all predominantly white denominations — all of which are poorly represented in the immigration flow. Fundamentalists’ relatively high fertility and net surplus from the religious marketplace is not sufficient to counteract the effects of immigration. Obviously, this could change if significant immigration begins to arrive from more Pentecostalist source countries such as Guatemala or parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Our work also sheds light on the religious restructuring paradigm, though we do not find a clear victor between secularism and fundamentalism. The secular population will grow substantially in the decades ahead because it has a young age structure and more people leave religion than enter it. The sharpest gains for secularism will be within the white population, where seculars will surpass fundamentalists by 2030. On the other hand, there are important demographic limits to secularism, demonstrating the power of religious demography. The relatively low fertility of secular Americans and the religiosity of the immigrant inflow provide a countervailing force that will cause the secularization process within the total population to plateau before 2043. This represents an important theoretical point in that demography permits society to become more religious even as individuals tend to become less religious over time.[14]

According to British author Edward Dutton, religious people are more likely to migrate (there are various reasons postulated, but it remains unclear why this is so).[15] See also: Religion and migration

For more information, please see: Growth of evangelicalism in the world and in the United States and American culture war, demographics and expected tipping point after 2020

4. The atheist movement died in the United States and the Western World. See: Decline of the atheist movement

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