Religious Trends

After the meeting on November 10th to help define the future of this congregation, I was asked to share this information with everyone in our newsletter. —Peg Beison  —While doing some research, I ran across some interesting facts and trends concerning religion in the United States.

~Scott Thumma, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research, predicts in the next twenty years there will be half as many congregations as there are now.

~Churchgoers are getting older. The median age for mainline Protestant denominations is 50. For Catholics it is 49.

~There are fewer young people to take the place of older people who are passing from church congre-gations all over America. Generation Z (ages 18 to 29) has established itself as the most non-Christian in U.S. history. In 1986, 10 percent of young adults called themselves “none” on a survey of religious preferences. In 2016 that number was 39 percent.

~About 40 percent of young adults said they sometimes have doubts about the existence of God, and more young adults report knowing an atheist than knowing an evangelical Christian.

~Mainline denominations began collapsing in the 1960s and the trend continues.

~In 2017, only 43 percent of the U.S. population was white Christian, down from 80 percent four decades ago. The Southern Baptists alone have lost over a million members in the last decade. So many Catholics have left that one-tenth of Americans are ex-Catholics.

~Gays renounce religion at double the rate of “straights.” Almost half say their religion is “none.”

~Only about 20 percent of Americans now attend church regularly.

~One poll estimates that 34% of Americans call themselves atheist, agnostic or nothing in particular. That’s more than the number of people calling themselves Protestants (33 percent) or Catholic (21 percent). That means that the largest “religious group” in America today is “none!”

These national trends make it harder and harder for any church to survive. We are not alone in facing a declining number of congregants and diminishing money in the collection plate. However, here are some other interesting facts.

~Researchers have discovered most churchgoers aren’t in church because of their beliefs. They’re there for the community. (This coincides with the results of an informal survey taken on November 10 among our members—community was chosen as our most important value.)

~We have been told for years that churchgoers rank higher in life satisfaction than non churchgoers. When sociologists dug a little deeper, however, they found that churchgoers with at least ten close friends in the church had more than double the life satisfaction of someone sitting next to them who had no close friends there.

This may help explain why some of the most successful churches in the country are slipping sideways out of their denominational labels. They don’t have crosses in their sanctuaries. They have compasses, lamps and globes. They have discovered that beliefs are not the most important thing in

a successful church. Community is the key.

I think our loving, supporting community is why we have been here for 150 years. I believe we can provide that unique community for another 150 years.

I believe Unitarian Universalism should have wide appeal in the future. The United States is becoming more secular, more humanistic. And human beings will always need community. We need friends. I don’t know about you, but the people I would most like to be my friends are exactly the kind of people who would accept our seven UU Principles as the guiding star for their life’s purpose. It’s hard to accept those principles and still be a bad person!

We are going through a rough patch. . .just like thousands of other small churches in America. But, I believe, we are uniquely poised in Jackson County to fill a void, to provide a home to the growing number of “nones.” No matter how many religious beliefs we reject, we cannot reject our own humanity. We will always need community, friendship, a circle of loving people.

I urge us to support each other, to pull together to find new, creative ways to solve our problems.