New Gallup poll’s scary numbers: social conservatism in decline

Changes in religious affiliation
Changes in religious affiliation

A while ago, some numbers came out showing that mainline Protestant denominations were in decline, while Roman Catholicism was in steep decline. Evangelicals had a slight decline.

Here’s the ultra-leftist Washington Post on the findings:

Christianity is on the decline in America, not just among younger generations or in certain regions of the country but across race, gender, education and geographic barriers. The percentage of adults who describe themselves as Christians dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years to about 71 percent, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.

“It’s remarkably widespread,” said Alan Cooperman, director of religion research for the Pew Research Center. “The country is becoming less religious as a whole, and it’s happening across the board.”

At the same time, the share of those who are not affiliated with a religion has jumped from 16 percent to about 23 percent in the same time period. The trend follows a pattern found earlier in the American Religious Identification Survey, which found that in 1990, 86 percent of American adults identified as Christians, compared with 76 percent in 2008.

I have an idea why this is happening and here it is: Christian leaders have nothing to say about the issues being debated in the mainstream culture. And once people get involved in the trendy sinful behaviors that are so widespread right now, it’s no wonder they dump Christianity. I’m sure it will surprise no one to say that I think that Christian leaders ought to be focusing more on issues like abortion, marriage, science, economics, foreign policy, climate change, etc. from a Christian perspective – since young people are leaving Christianity precisely on those grounds.

For example, shouldn’t we have something to say about premarital sex?

Relatively extensive evidence has established that more religious adolescents tend to delay first sexual intercourse. In a paper that Sara Vasilenko and I published last year, we wanted to examine whether this association, usually assumed to be in this direction (from religiosity to sexual behavior), was actually bidirectional. We used the 100 participants from the University Life Study who transitioned to first intercourse between their first and seven semester in college. Our findings demonstrated that 12 months after transitioning to first intercourse, students attended religious services less frequently and viewed religion as less important than they had prior to first intercourse. Eventually, religiosity returned to levels that would be predicted by developmental trends prior to intercourse.

Maybe somebody ought to be explaining to them how premarital sex affects the stability and quality of their future marriage, using secular evidence from social science studies? But we’re not doing that. We’re stuck with assuming the Bible is true, preaching the gospel every Sunday, and studiously avoiding trying to demonstrate what the Bible teaches with real-world evidence that can be used in the real world!

Maybe we should have something to say about marriage and divorce?

In 1994 the Swiss carried out an extra survey that the researchers for our masters in Europe (I write from England) were happy to record. The question was asked to determine whether a person’s religion carried through to the next generation, and if so, why, or if not, why not. The result is dynamite. There is one critical factor. It is overwhelming, and it is this: It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children.

If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.

If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church.

Have you ever heard a sermon on the policies that cause families to break up? I mean a sermon on anti-marriage forces like welfare programs (which make husbands unnecessary for having children), no-fault divorce (easy divorce if the woman is “unhappy”), etc? Many soft-hearted, empty-headed Christians vote for policies that actually undermine marriage because they sound nice, and we have been taught that being nice and being liked is more important than having true beliefs that are supported by evidence. In general, the church is not helping us to make the connections, either. There are many challenges to marriage. How many have you heard discussed from the pulpit in church? If we don’t start to discuss these, then we can expect Christianity to decline – and with it, our influence.

When Christianity declines, morality declines with it. Here are the latest numbers from Gallup:

Gallup: changing opinions on moral values
Gallup: changing opinions on moral values


The substantial increase in Americans’ views that gay and lesbian relations are morally acceptable coincide with a record-high level of support for same-sex marriage and views that being gay or lesbian is something a person is born with, rather than due to one’s upbringing or environment.

The public is now more accepting of sexual relations outside of marriage in general than at any point in the history of tracking these measures, including a 16-percentage-point increase in those saying that having a baby outside of marriage is morally acceptable, and a 15-point increase in the acceptability of sex between an unmarried man and woman. Clear majorities of Americans now say both are acceptable.

Acceptance of divorce and human embryo medical research are also up 12 points each since 2001 and 2002, respectively.

Polygamy and cloning humans have also seen significant upshifts in moral acceptability — but even with these increases, the public largely perceives them as morally wrong, with only 16% and 15% of Americans, respectively, considering them morally acceptable.

This is becoming a concern for me. We will not be able to impact the culture until we start to win arguments on the issues that cause Christians to step away from the faith. And that is especially true for young people, who, owing to their undeveloped brains and lack of experience in real life, are more easily swayed by the cultural elites, especially at the university.

8 thoughts on “New Gallup poll’s scary numbers: social conservatism in decline”

  1. I agree with everything you’ve said about the need for church leadership to stand up for the truth and about the decline of morality and our perceptions of it.

    But also in the back of my mind I know those statistics are full of hyperbole and politics. They, whoever they is, want us to believe that Christianity is on the decline. Many people however have unpacked those polls and shown them to be highly flawed. If you only go back a few years you may encounter some fluctuation, but go back 100 years and what you find is actually a tenfold increase in the number of people identifying as Christian, both in the US and worldwide.

    But yes, our march towards complete moral collapse seems to be progressing.


  2. I think the other half of the equation is that clergy is openly preaching (and living) errors. As just one example, nearly all Christian denominations (even the ones who officially declare it a sin) have openly gay clergy – preaching openly pro-gay messages.


      1. If only that were true. Notice that, in the article below, attendance dropped dramatically with his announcement. And that’s just one error, there are many others.

        NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RNS) Pastor Stan Mitchell’s announcement that his evangelical GracePointe Church would fully affirm gay members met with a standing ovation from some, stunned silence from others, but everybody prayed together quietly at the end of it.

        A month and a half later, Mitchell routinely receives emails inviting him to kill himself, often including the assurance they were sent in love from other Christians. Half of his 12-member board has left, along with half the average offering and about a third of the weekly attendance — once at 800 to 1,000 people.


  3. It really is quite incredible. The New A-theists put up a silly billboard that says you can be good without God, and the overwhelming majority of Christians have no response whatsoever to these sophomore level bumper sticker “arguments.” “Oh, I guess they are right, so I will stop going to church on Sunday and behaving like a pagan on Monday through Saturday – now I have 7 full days for ME instead of only 6!”

    One interesting thing from your poll: suicide is generally not acceptable but doctor-assisted suicide is! What gives there?!? It’s only OK to “off” yourself if someone else helps?!?


  4. I think that the root of the problem is the overemphasis on “love,” over against sound doctrine. All I ever hear about in Church is how loving God is. Rarely does anyone ever mention his wrath. A god without wrath is a god that you don’t have to fear or obey. Teaching that Christianity is reducible *only* to love essentially prevents the Church from making any arguments against sexual immorality because love is emotion-based and not reason-based. I think that Pastors need to drive home the message that God does NOT love everyone. Rather, he loves those who are willing to repent of their sins, accept Christ as their Savior, be baptized, and live according to Christ’s commandments.


    1. I think there is a LOT to be said for your hypothesis: and the “love” that is advanced in many churches is a worldly love – affirming the other person’s beliefs and behaviors regardless of objective moral standards. It is not Biblical love: a commitment to want what is best for the other person – even if it means telling them what they do not want to hear.


  5. The three main reasons why people abandon faith in God: 1) the problem of evil, 2) evolution, and 3) sexual immorality


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