The Decline and Fall of Christianity: Cultural Indicators
Liberalizing developments such as abortion, gay marriage, extramarital sex, women's rights and no-fault divorce point to a significant shift away from traditional Christian values. Unsurprisingly, the Roman Catholic church and other Christian bodies resist these trends. But this in vain. Today, 95% of American adults have had premarital sex. The culture of western societies is generally shot through with sexual content. In 2007, 60% of all American births to women 20-24 years old were outside of marriage.
Europe, the cradle of modern Christianity, has especially seen a decline in religiosity. Over one-third of all births in the European Union are to unmarried women. The majority of children are now born out of wedlock in Estonia, France, Sweden and Bulgaria.
Secular alternatives have displaced Christ in the popular consciousness. For most people of the rich world, career, nationality, race, gender, social status or political ideology are more fundamental to their lives than religion.
In 2011, Americans spent less than one hour per day, on average, on "organizational, civic and religious activities." Specifically, they spent 0.26 hours on weekdays and 0.56 hours on weekends on such activities. By contrast, 0.71 hours on weekdays are used to "purchase goods and services," and 0.82 on weekends. This compares to over 4 hours per day spent on "leisure and sports" (more than 6 hours on the weekends).
This God doesn't fit, try a new one
Americans become less religious as they get older. From childhood to adulthood, the two biggest religious groups--Protestants and Catholics-- see a decline in adherence. The unaffiliated category (which includes atheists and agnostics) sees a significant increase.
In a flexible culture marked by religious freedom, people switch religions as they see fit. Changing beliefs, feelings, life circumstances and sense of belonging determine where and what they worship. There is an emphasis on what "feels right," rather than objective standards of truth that one must accept whether they like it or not.
The consumerization of religion is a fact in the rich countries of the modern west. Japanese mix and match traditions from a variety of religions for various purposes. Many Japanese celebrate the birth of a child with a visit to a Shinto shrine, have western Christian-style weddings (complete with the exchange of rings and a white wedding gown), and conduct funerals according to Buddhist traditions.
The religion market: the customer is always blessed
In a competitive religious marketplace, religious communities need to innovate to survive and grow. They must provide pleasing experiences, or people will leave. This has resulted in a variety of interesting developments, such as the Prosperity Gospel. The Reverend Creflo Dollar offers daily Biblically-inspired text messages, for a fee of $4.99 per month.
A feel-good message emphasizing self improvement and personal development has arisen. This message often bears as much resemblance to a Tony Robbins speech as to a sermon from Jesus. Peddlers of this message are exceedingly influential, and include Joel Osteen, who runs the largest church in America at 44,000 attendance, and Rick Warren, the eighth largest. These ministries reach millions globally through the media.
From the erosion of traditional Christianity itself, to its hollowing out by secularism and humanism, the culture is a major factor in Christianity's decline.
Power of prayer
- The Decline and Fall of Christianity
- The Decline and Fall of Christianity: Political and Legal Indicators
- The Decline and Fall of Christianity: Scientific and Intellectual Indicators
- The Decline and Fall of Christianity: Religious and Belief Indicators
- Humanist's Guide to Religion: Christianity
- America: A Christian Nation?