A movement of the irreligious

I can just imagine how the headlines would read if the evangelical church was found to be growing by 40 % from generation to generation.

Claiming the world for Jesus in this generation!

Actually, Evangelical headlines already read like that and they’re losing ground at the rate of 20-30% per generation, according to this infographic from Public Religion Research Institute which has been making the rounds on the internet since it came out yesterday.

I’m not inclined to think of this as a picture of how the church has failed, as some have said, or about how we need better methods to reach younger generations, as I can imagine many of my former colleagues saying. This is not a surface level problem. No amount of window dressing can fix it. This fissure goes all the way down.

Even if the church could somehow disentangle itself from capitalism, nationalism, white supremacy, homophobia, Islamophobia and other fear responses to pluralism (which is extremely unlikely), I still don’t think there is a way to turn this around. It’s too late. Christians of color are holding their ground for the moment. Mormons are managing to hold their ground. But even from my age cohort (30-49) to the next one, the ‘unaffiliated’ have increased by 41%. That qualifies as a movement, I think, and part of the reason my year-long exploration has struck such a chord with so many people.

(ht: Hemant Mehta)

About Ryan Bell

For 19 years Ryan Bell was a pastor, most recently the senior pastor of the Hollywood Seventh-day Adventist Church. In March 2013 he resigned his position due to theological and practical differences. As an adjunct professor he has taught subjects ranging from intercultural communication to bioethics.
Currently he is a researcher, writer and speaker on the topic of religion and irreligion in America. In January 2014, Ryan began a yearlong journey exploring the limits of theism and the atheist landscape in the United States and blogs about that experience here at Year Without God.