Essay: Why the future of Christianity in the USA is bright

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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]

Pew Research survey data indicates that the percentage of atheists in the United States has remained at 4% from 2015 to July 2019.[2]

In June 2016, American Interest reported: "First of all, religious belief is still very powerful and widespread, and there is nothing inevitable about its decline. In fact, the proportion of people who say they believe in God actually ticked modestly upward, from 86 percent to 89 percent, since Gallup last asked the question in 2014.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5]

Steve Turley 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.[6]

In 2012, Kaufmann wrote:

In the United States, they manage 1.5, considerably lower than the national 2.1. This disadvantage is not enough to prevent religious decline in much of Europe and America today, but secularism must run to stand still. Since the history of religious decline in Europe suggests that secularization rates tend to drop over time, this portends the end of secularization. Projections I recently published with Skirbekk and Goujon in the journal Sociology of Religion show secularism losing momentum and beginning to decline in both Europe and America by 2050, largely because of low fertility and religious immigration.[7]

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

In Europe secularization stalled. The same is starting to happen in the USA. Europe is hitting a wall of committed Christians and will continue to do so[edit]

In 2021, the Christian Post declared:

A new survey reveals that the share of Americans who identify as religiously unaffiliated has declined slightly. However, more Americans still describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated than affiliate with any particular religious tradition.

The Washington, D.C.-based Public Religion Research Institute released its first-ever Census of American Religion Thursday, which provided detailed information about the religious demographics of the United States.

The survey was part of PRRI’s 2020 American Values Atlas, based on phone interviews with 50,334 Americans throughout 2020.

A statement from the research firm alleges that the Census of American Religion “provides the most detailed estimates of American religious affiliation since the U.S. Census Bureau last collected religious data in 1957.” Data was compiled based on more than 400,000 responses to PRRI’s American Values Atlas dating back to 2013.

One of the biggest takeaways from the survey is that “the Rise of the ‘Nones’” has slowed.[8]

European secularization has stalled. Europe is hitting a wall of committed Christians and will continue to do so[edit]

See also: Religious immigrants to Europe resistant to secularization

In December 2018, The Times indicated: "The number of atheists in Britain has fallen in the past year, according to a survey suggesting that more people are attending church, albeit irregularly."[9]

The Guardian published an article in 2017 entitled Nearly 50% are of no religion – but has UK hit ‘peak secular’? which declared:

But, Bullivant told the Observer that the “growth of no religion may have stalled”. After consistent decline, in the past few years the proportion of nones appears to have stabilised. “Younger people tend to be more non-religious, so you’d expect it to keep going – but it hasn’t. The steady growth of non-Christian religions is a contributing factor, but I wonder if everyone who is going to give up their Anglican affiliation has done so by now? We’ve seen a vast shedding of nominal Christianity, and perhaps it’s now down to its hardcore.[10]

In April 2010, Eric Kaufmann, who is an agnostic, declared "the rate of secularisation has flattened to zero in most of Protestant Europe and France."[11] Kaufmann also declared that secularism "appears exhausted and lacking in confidence".[12]

Conservative Protestants have relatively high fertility rates.[13] (Picture: Protestant church pulpit in Europe)

Concerning the future of evangelical Protestantism in Europe, in a paper entitled Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century, Kaufmann wrote:

What of European Christianity? The conventional wisdom holds it to be in free fall, especially in Western Europe. (Bruce 2002) This is undoubtedly correct for Catholic Europe, while Protestant Europe already has low levels of religious practice. Yet closer scrutiny reveals an increasingly lively and demographically growing Christian remnant. Several studies have examined the connection between religiosity - whether defined as attendance, belief or affiliation - and fertility in Europe. Most find a statistically significant effect even when controlling for age, education, income, marital status and other factors...

Moving to the wider spectrum of European Christianity, we find that fertility is indeed much higher among European women who are religious...

Today, most of those who remain religious in Europe wear their beliefs lightly, but conservative Christianity is hardly a spent force. Data on conservative Christians is difficult to come by since many new churches keep few official records. Reports from the World Christian Database, which meticulously tracks reports from church bodies, indicates that 4.1 percent of Europeans (including Russians) were evangelical Christians in 2005. This figure rises to 4.9 percent in northern, western and southern Europe. Most religious conservatives are charismatics, working within mainstream denominations like Catholicism or Lutheranism to ‘renew’ the faith along more conservative lines. There is also an important minority of Pentecostals, who account for .5% of Europe’s population. Together, charismatics and Pentecostals account for close to 5 % of Europe’s population. The proportion of conservative Christians has been rising, however: some estimate that the trajectory of conservative Christian growth has outpaced that of Islam in Europe. (Jenkins 2007: 75).

In many European countries, the proportion of conservative Christians is close to the number who are recorded as attending church weekly. This would suggest an increasingly devout Christian remnant is emerging in western Europe which is more resistant to secularization. This shows up in France, Britain and Scandinavia (less Finland), the most secular countries where we have 1981, 1990 and 2000 EVS and 2004 ESS data on religiosity...

Currently there are more evangelical Christians than Muslims in Europe. (Jenkins 2007: 75) In Eastern Europe, as outside the western world, Pentecostalism is a sociological and not a demographic phenomenon. In Western Europe, by contrast, demography is central to evangelicalism’s growth, especially in urban areas. Alas, immigration brings two foreign imports, Islam and Christianity, to secular Europe.[14]

For more information, please see: Religious immigrants to Europe resistant to secularization

The trends that are happening worldwide inevitably in an age of globalization are going to affect the USA. The future of Christianity and religion[edit]

See also: Future of Christianity

The prominent historian Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch, professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University, indicates that he believes Christianity faces a "bright future" worldwide (See also: Global Christianity).

According to MacCulloch, "Christianity, the world's largest religion, is rapidly expanding – by all indications, its future is very bright."[15]

Professor Eric Kaufmann told a secular audience in Australia: "The trends that are happening worldwide inevitably in an age of globalization are going to affect us."[16]

The prominent historian Sir Diarmaid MacCulloch, professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University, indicates that he believes Christianity faces a "bright future" worldwide (See also: Global Christianity).

According to MacCulloch, "Christianity, the world's largest religion, is rapidly expanding – by all indications, its future is very bright."[17]

In 2012, the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (GCTS) reported that every day there are 83,000 more people professing to be Christians per day, 800 less atheists per day, 1,100 less non-religious (agnostic) people per day.[18][19]

Phillip Jenkins published the book The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity.

Chuck Colson, citing the work of Jenkins, writes:

As Penn State professor Philip Jenkins writes in The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, predictions like Huntingtons betray an ignorance of the explosive growth of Christianity outside of the West.

For instance, in 1900, there were approximately 10 million Christians in Africa. By 2000, there were 360 million. By 2025, conservative estimates see that number rising to 633 million. Those same estimates put the number of Christians in Latin America in 2025 at 640 million and in Asia at 460 million.

According to Jenkins, the percentage of the worlds population that is, at least by name, Christian will be roughly the same in 2050 as it was in 1900. By the middle of this century, there will be three billion Christians in the world -- one and a half times the number of Muslims. In fact, by 2050 there will be nearly as many Pentecostal Christians in the world as there are Muslims today.[20]

On December 23, 2012, Kaufmann wrote:

I argue that 97% of the world's population growth is taking place in the developing world, where 95% of people are religious.

On the other hand, the secular West and East Asia has very low fertility and a rapidly aging population... In the coming decades, the developed world's demand for workers to pay its pensions and work in its service sector will soar alongside the booming supply of young people in the third world. Ergo, we can expect significant immigration to the secular West which will import religious revival on the back of ethnic change. In addition, those with religious beliefs tend to have higher birth rates than the secular population, with fundamentalists having far larger families. The epicentre of these trends will be in immigration gateway cities like New York (a third white), Amsterdam (half Dutch), Los Angeles (28% white), and London, 45% white British.[21] [22]

User: Conservative's essays[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Why Is Secularization Likely to Stall in America by 2050? A Response to Laurie DeRose by Eric Kaufmann July 24, 2019
  2. In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace, Pew Research
  3. Atheism is Rising, But…, American Interest
  4. Secularism, Fundamentalism or Catholicism? The Religious Composition of the United States to 2043, Journal for the Sientific Study of Religion, vol. 49, no. 2 (June) 2010, Vegard Skirbekk and Anne Goujon,
  5. Secularism, Fundamentalism or Catholicism? The Religious Composition of the United States to 2043, Journal for the Sientific Study of Religion, vol. 49, no. 2 (June) 2010, Eric Kaufmann, Vegard Skirbekk and Anne Goujon,
  6. Feminist Futility: Why the Women's March Promises a Conservative Future by Steve Turley, Christian Post
  7. The Future Will Be More Religious and Conservative Than You Think by Eric Kaufmann, American Enterprise Institute
  8. Rise of the 'nones,' decline of 'white Christian America' slows in US, new survey shows, Christian Post, 2021
  9. Atheism is down as UK gets spiritual, The Times, December 2018
  10. Nearly 50% are of no religion – but has UK hit ‘peak secular’?, The Guardian, 2017
  11. Shall the religious inherit the earth? by Eric Kaufmann
  12. Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century by Eric Kaufmann, Belfer Center, Harvard University/Birkbeck College, University of London
  13. Religious immigrants will alter the religious landscape of Europe
  14. Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?: Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century by Eric Kaufmann
  15. Historian predicts 'bright future' for Christianity
  16. Shall the religious inherit the earth - Festival of Dangerous Ideas - Eric Kaufmann
  17. Historian predicts 'bright future' for Christianity
  18. Globally the worldviews of atheism and non-religious (agnostic) are declining while global Christianity is exploding in adherents
  19. Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary - Status of Global Missions
  20. How Christianity is Growing Around the World by Chuck Colson
  21. London: A Rising Island of Religion in a Secular Sea by Eric Kaufmann, Huffington Post, 2012
  22. 97% of the world's population growth is taking place in the developing world, where 95% of people are religious, Tuesday, April 30, 2013