I went to church on Sunday. I used to go all the time. I am not sure why I stopped. Maybe it was because Sundays morphed into a day to sleep-in, have brunch with friends, and then watch sports until evening, living the “Sunday-funday” lifestyle. Regardless of why I went to church on Sunday or why I stopped going, I left thinking to myself, I want to come back again next week. It also made me think, perhaps we should all go back to church (or synagogue, or the mosque).
Fewer and fewer Americans are attending religious services, and our society is reflecting the loss of morality. “Americans’ membership in houses of worship continued to decline . . . dropping below 50% for the first time in Gallup’s eight-decade trend. In 2020, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999.” Church membership had been at 70 percent or above since the statistic started to be measured in 1937.
In addition, more and more people have not only stopped attending religious services, but have completely left religion behind, with one-fifth of all Americans embracing no religion at all.
Research has shown that every generation of adults is less religious than the generation that preceded it. “This pattern continues with Generation Z . . . in terms of identity, Generation Z is the least religious generation yet. More than one-third (34 percent) of Generation Z are religiously unaffiliated, a significantly larger proportion than among millennials (29 percent) and Generation X (25%).” Research shows that churches (all houses of worship) have to replace 32 percent of their membership each year just to stay even.
The fact that each generation is less religious than the previous generation is often attributed to the fact that fewer and fewer children are exposed to religious experiences, going to church on a regular basis or even experiences as simple as saying Grace before a meal. This renders them less religious, and the cycle repeats itself.
While correlation is certainly not causation, we can see a correlation between the breakdown of the family and decreasing religious affiliation. In the United States today, “nearly 24 million children live in a single-parent family. This total, which has been rising for half a century, covers about one in every three kids across America. A number of long-term demographic trends have fueled this increase, including: marrying later, declining marriage rates, increasing divorce rates and an uptick in babies born to single mothers.” This trend correlates with the decrease in religious affiliation.
In addition, suicide has increased in correlation with people leaving the church. “Suicide rates increased 37% between 2000-2018 and decreased 5% between 2018-2020. However, rates nearly returned to their peak in 2021.” When people lose hope and consider suicide, not having a priest, rabbi, or Iman to talk with facilitates the taking of one’s own life.
There is not just a downside to the decrease in religious affiliation, there is a loss to society. Participation in organized religion, no matter what the religion, has several benefits. People who are active in religious congregations tend to be “happier and more civically engaged than either religiously unaffiliated adults or inactive members of religious groups,” according to the Pew Research Center. These people also volunteer to a greater extent and donate more money to charities.
In addition, a recent study finds that “people who regularly attend religious services live approximately four years longer than average.”
I went to church on Sunday. I am going to go back next week. Perhaps it is time we all go back to church.