Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Religion Up, Atheism Down: The Future Belongs to Christianity

It is no wonder that the Dawkins, Hitchens, New Atheist crowd is so worried these days. They are in the process of breeding themselves into extinction while religion continues to grow. Mark Tooley has the numbers:
Most secular media in the U.S. imply that the world is largely dividing between resurgent Islam and enlightened secularists, with isolated evangelicals and Catholics left on the sideline. A recent report by the International Bulletin of Missionary Research indicates otherwise, with one third of the world professing Christianity, virtually unchanged as a global percentage since 100 years ago. Christians today are estimated to number about 2.3 billion. About 1.5 billion are estimated to attend church regularly at over 5 million congregations, up from 400,000 100 years ago.

There are 1.6 billion estimated Muslims, 951 million Hindus, and 468 million Buddhists. Atheists are thought to be 137 million, a declining number. The report estimates about 80,000 new Christians every day, 79,000 new Muslims every day, and 300 fewer atheists every day. These atheists are presumably disproportionately represented in the West, while religion is thriving in the Global South, where charismatic Christianity is exploding. Over 600 million Christians, including millions of Roman Catholics, are charismatic or Pentecostal.
300 fewer atheists a day is the number that jumped out at me. Of course, this does not mean 300 a day being converted to Christ. It probably reflects the continuing decline of Europe as a percentage of world population and the fact that more atheists live in Europe than anywhere else. (For purposes of these stats, Quebec might as well be in Europe.)

You can also see why the Democratic Party is worried about the future when you see that America is just not buying the secularist, atheist, materialist line:
Where Christians live has shifted dramatically of course. Once Christian Europe is now largely secularized, while "heathen" Africa is largely now either Christian or Islamic. China is on its way to possibly becoming the nation with the most practicing Christians. And Latin America has surging Catholic and evangelical populations. Contrary to common assumptions, America remains about as religious as ever. A 2008 Baylor University survey showed the percentage of American atheists at about 4 percent, unchanged since 1944. . .

Gallup poll in 2010 showed the percentage of Americans reporting to attend church regularly (at least monthly) was 43 percent. In 1937 it was 37 percent, was slightly lower in the early 1940s, reached 49 percent during the 1950s, and settled at 42 percent in 1969, where it has remained steady for the last 40 years.
Isn't it interesting that church attendance is remaining so high in the US? The secularization thesis has been in the garbage can for a while now, but the - dare I say it? - exceptionalism of America continues to tick along.

And when is going to be time officially to retire the old-fashioned phrase "mainline Protestantism"?
A Pew survey found that about 44 percent of Americans have switched religious affiliations since childhood. Mostly they are switching away from Mainline Protestantism. Forty-five years ago, about 30 million Americans belonged to the top 7 Mainline denominations, accounting for about one sixth of Americans. Today, it's about 20 million, accounting for about one fifteenth.
Sideline? Oldline? Liberal? Whatever they are it is not "mainline." Evangelicals and Catholics should take heart. The future belongs to us and our children, not the noisy atheists.

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