What Has Happened to America’s Faith in God?

AP Photo/Jessie Wardarski

The church has been losing influence in American society for decades. Since the 1990s, church attendance has gradually declined. Belief in God remains high but has dropped to a new low, according to the latest Gallup poll published in June. This revelation comes at a critical point in America as it faces economic woes, debates over education, and an increasingly divided populace. Is this a time when Christianity can make a comeback in America?

The findings of a Gallup poll found that the percentage of Americans who believe in God has dropped precipitously. From the report:

Gallup first asked this question in 1944, repeating it again in 1947 and twice each in the 1950s and 1960s. In those latter four surveys, a consistent 98% said they believed in God. When Gallup asked the question nearly five decades later, in 2011, 92% of Americans said they believed in God.

A subsequent survey in 2013 found belief in God dipping below 90% to 87%, roughly where it stood in three subsequent updates between 2014 and 2017 before this year’s drop to 81%.

The majority of Americans still have faith in a higher power, but the fact that this metric continues to decline is concerning. Fox News interviewed multiple clergy members to gain some insight into this phenomenon. They identified several factors that could be contributing to the issue.

Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville in East Texas and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, pointed to time constraints as a contributor. He noted that many people have “not only no connection to faith congregation but also really no time in life to stop and contemplate anything spiritual.”

He continued: “Even some of the people who identify themselves as Christians and say they believe in God and have accepted the gospel, for a lot of them, church and contemplation and worship have been squeezed out by the schedule in their lives.”

Catholic Bishop Robert Barron said he is worried most about younger Americans who have “inherited the attenuation of religious practice” that has become ubiquitous in American society.

“When I was a kid, my parents took it for granted that we’d be brought to mass, we’d be taught the ways of prayer, we learned about the saints. They just immersed us in that world,” Barron said. “Well, when you don’t immerse people in that world, you say things like, ‘Oh, it’s up to you, you decide what you want to do when you’re 16.’ You lose all that. And then we’re surprised that young people are adrift and young people have lost their sense of purpose and meaning?”

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, president of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church, shared Barron’s concerns about the younger demographic.

“We’re missing two or three generations of people who aren’t steeped in the rhythm or the liturgy of the church. They are not involved in the relationships in the church. They are doing other things,” he told Fox News Digital. “For me, the practice of my faith is what steeps my deepened belief in God, and if you get generations that aren’t in church practicing the rhythm of worship or practicing their faith, there’s no surprise they are now doubting whether or not God exists.”

The COVID-19 pandemic also came up in the discussion, with multiple faith leaders identifying it as a significant player in this problem. “I’ve talked to a lot of young people who say, ‘You know, all through this COVID thing, I’ve come to doubt whether God exists or what my relationship with God is,” Bickerton explained, noting that he had numerous conversations with people struggling to maintain their faith during the outbreak.

“You cannot underestimate the power of relationships,” he added. “So I think isolation has bred that sense of doubt.”

External factors seemed to be the primary focal point of the conversation, but at least one of the leaders that Fox News Digital interviewed pointed the finger at the church itself for the growing lack of belief in God. Barron brought up the reality that the church is no longer “challenging” younger folks and have focused on making religion “too user-friendly.” He said, “[W]e try to make it too accommodating to the culture. No. We speak out of the ancient tradition, which has been initiating people into the mystery of life and path and meaning for millennia.”

Barron continued:

“And if we just adopt the hand-wringing stance and apologetics then we’re just caving into the culture, and young people are going to say, ‘The heck with you,’ and they’re going to find it uncompelling and uninteresting. Stop dumbing down the faith.”

It seems to me that the church is the prime culprit in this matter. Sure, lack of time is an issue for most Americans – but we make time for the things we find valuable, don’t we? Failing to keep our children steeped in church communities has certainly contributed to the decline in faith. And yes, COVID-19 gave the government an excuse to shut down church services. But again, if folks truly valued their faith and saw the church community as a worthy use of their time, none of these factors could have shaken their belief in God.

The bottom line is that the percentage of Americans who find church to be valuable is dropping.

So far, the church has not yet found an answer to this problem. But I think we can take a cue from Barron when he pointed out that church has become too “user friendly” and is bowing down to “the culture.”

Over the past few months, I’ve spoken with pastors and other Christians about this trend, and they all said the same thing: Church leaders are just not preaching the gospel. Instead, they treat church services like motivational speeches. I’ll write more about this in another piece. But if the church does not change up its approach, it will continue to lose members, and more people will abandon their faith. The situation might seem dire, but there is still time to turn this around.


Trending on RedState Videos