The Freedom from Religion Foundation and the ACLU must be high-fiving each other.
In a development that can’t be heartening to the millions of America’s faithful, new survey data shows the percentage of Americans who profess no religious belief is actually higher those who are part of the country’s largest faith traditions. The trends might not be looking good right now, but there’s a reason to hope.
According to the General Social Survey, which has been tracking American social trends since 1972, Americans who claim no religion — or “nones” — now outnumber Roman Catholics and evangelicals.
“’Nones’ have been on the march for a long time now,” Ryan P. Burge, a professor at Eastern Illinois University, told the National Catholic Reporter.
“It’s been a constant, steady increase for 20 years now. If the trend line kept up, we knew this was going to happen.”
According to the NCR, the percentage of American “nones” is now 23.1, up from 21.6 percent in 2016. That’s only slightly ahead of Catholics, at 23 percent, and evangelicals, which were 22.5, down from 23.9 percent in 2016. The percentage is so small, considering the millions of individuals involved, it’s probably statistically insignificant. The NCR calls the results “statistically tied.”
NCR cited exit polls from the 2016 elections that white evangelicals made up 26 percent of the voters even if their share of the voting population wasn’t that large.
“Evangelicals punch way above their weight,” Burge said told NCR. “They turn out a bunch at the ballot box. That’s largely a function of the fact that they’re white and they’re old.”
That’s one way to put it. One could also look at it like they’re patriotic, committed, intelligent and aware that — as Americans — they’re part of the rich history of a nation that’s truly exceptional in world history. In other words, they’re pretty much the opposite of the millennial America that is embodied by progressives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her fellow Democrat freshmen representatives.
So let’s just stipulate that a future where the American electorate is made up of a lot fewer people like the voters who pushed Donald Trump over the top early on Nov. 9, 2016, and a lot more fans of AOC is likely to be a trying one for the country overall. But this has been coming for a long time. The General Social Survey numbers are almost to be expected if several factors are taken into account.
First and foremost, public schools have for decades been in the hands of an education establishment and leftist teachers unions that scorn traditional morality.
Secondly, our nation is saturated with an entertainment culture that celebrates individual narcissism and immorality while mocking virtually every expression of religious belief.
Finally, America’s political culture is such that one of its two major political parties has been virtually a religion-free zone.
Combine these factors with the lawfare practiced by the likes of the ACLU and the cranky atheists of the Freedom from Religion Foundation — which target even the most innocent endearing expressions of religious faith in public life – and it’s a wonder that numbers like this didn’t show up ages ago.
And as Michael Knowles pointed out at The Daily Wire, it’s probably no coincidence that the country is experiencing a level of social ills that it hasn’t seen before.
“As religiosity has declined, social ills have abounded. Nearly one in five American adults suffers from anxiety disorders, which now constitute the most common mental illness in the country,” Knowles wrote.
“One in six Americans takes antidepressant drugs, a 65% surge over just 15 years. The problem is particularly acute among younger Americans. While depression diagnoses have increased 33% since 2013, that number is up 47% among Millennials and 63% among teenagers. Coincidentally, suicide rates among American teenagers have increased by 70% since 2006. American life expectancy declined again last year, as Americans continue to drug and kill themselves at record rates.”
Does anyone think it’s just a coincidence that that happens when religious faith is failing? (And does anyone think it’s a coincidence that all of this happening less than 60 years after the Supreme Court ruled that prayer in public schools was unconstitutional. Three generations of Americans have grown up in the world that helped create.) Now, no one can believe the members of the American Civil Liberties Union wake up in the morning wondering how they can contribute to more American suicides than they did yesterday. And no one thinks the Freedom from Religion wackos in Wisconsin are consciously setting out to increase the mental and spiritual health of their fellow citizens. (Though at Christmas time, it can be hard to tell.) And one might even be able to give the benefit of the doubt to the American education establishment (though Hollywood and the teachers unions will never deserve it).
But even the most willfully obtuse, deliberately blind individual member of the cultural elite has to see the wreckage that’s being strewn across society by the large-scale abandonment of faith. And that might be a reason for hope.
The numbers might not be looking good at the moment, but it’s the job of conservatives to try to turn that trend around. The election of President Donald Trump was a start in that process — and the developments it made possible, like the gradual return of sanity to the United States court system, will help.
But this is the long fight — the longest fight there is — and conservatives have to be willing to get into it. If they are in the fight — heart and soul — a setback or two in the numbers of the faithful are largely irrelevant in the long run. Conservatives have taken on long odds before and won — the news out of the White House every day proves it. They can do it again.
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