Today in the city Gallup 25.06.2018

The Guardian view on irreligion in the US: a rising tide | Editorial

Growing numbers of Americans no longer say they belong to any church. This could profoundly change politics and cultureFor the first time, the number of Americans saying that the Bible is composed of “fables” by human beings has overtaken the number who say it is the literal truth. The preponderant belief, held by about half the country, is still that the Bible is “inspired by God” but not to be taken literally. Although that figure has hardly varied over 50 years, the rise of scepticism and the decline of determined credulity marks an important shift in American culture. It takes effort, as well as ignorance, to read the Bible as if it could be literally true, and the world less than 10,000 years old. Somehow this effort has come to seem less and less worthwhile over the last 20 years, in which the number of unaffiliated adults has doubled to 18% according to Gallup’s figures. These underplay the generational change: among young Americans Christianity is eroding very rapidly. More than a third of those born after 1981 now say they have no religion. In 1957, the figure for all ages was 1%. That is lower than the corresponding British figure, but the direction of travel is the same.The idea that the US formed a unique and lasting exception to the general secularisation of the west has been part of the conventional wisdom for a very long time. Last year, research by Professor David Voas pointed out that this has been untrue for at least 50 years. The process that hollowed out Christianity in Europe has been at work in the US too, although running decades behind. This has little to do with theology. Despite the claim that conservative churches flourish while liberal ones shrivel, conservative churches have shrunk too. In the US, the so-called evangelical churches now preach a form of nationalist and materialist Christianity where the flag is displayed far more prominently than the cross, and the preacher’s private jet is taken as a mark of God’s favour. Parents, and perhaps especially mothers, have not been passing on Christianity to their children, and especially their daughters. This has been going on ever since the second world war, slowly at first, accelerating gradually from the 60s, and now at speeds almost visible to the naked eye. The Trump presidency, and the election that produced it, have tended to make the process more salient and more powerful. Continue reading...

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