It’s not news that Christianity has been in decline for some time in America and Europe, so it might seem comforting that a Gallup survey released over this summer found that 81 percent of U.S. adults still believe in God. The bad news is that this number represents the lowest percentage ever reported in that survey:
Up until 2011, over 90 percent said they believed in God, but the number has continued to drop, now down eight points from the 89 percent who expressed belief in God in 2016. The previous low was set in 2014, when 86 percent said they believed in God.
When Gallup asked the same question in 1953, 1954, 1965, and 1967, 98 percent said they believed in God.
Ninety-eight percent. As recently as 55 years ago.
And the decline is most precipitous in young people. A Survey Center on American Life report from March of this year found that “over one-third of Generation Z, 34 percent, consider themselves unaffiliated from religious groups. That figure decreases to 29 percent among millennials, 25 percent among Generation X, 18 percent among Baby Boomers, and nine percent of the Silent Generation.”
The decline is also steepest, perhaps unsurprisingly, among those on the political left. The Survey Center report noted that 57 percent of them were members of a church or other type of religious organization in 1998. By 2021, that figure had dropped to 35 percent. That’s a 22 percent drop in as many years. A December 2021 analysis from Gallup found that one-quarter of the political left indicated that religion is “not very important” in their world.
It’s not very important anymore across “the Pond,” either, where Christianity is in such accelerating decline that last month it was reported that Christians are now, for the first time, a minority in England and Wales. Only 46.2% of the population described themselves as Christian in the 2021 census, down from 59.3% a decade earlier. More than 37% claimed no religious affiliation at all, up from 25% in only ten years.
Christianity is not only diminishing demographically in England, but also culturally and legally. A soldier-turned-evangelist there named John Dunn was charged two years ago with using “threatening or abusive words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby.” Apparently Dunn told two lesbians he encountered on the street that the Bible says “homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
In court recently, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) argued that such language “has the potential to cause harassment, alarm or distress.” Indeed, the CPS went so far as to assert, “There are references in the bible which are simply no longer appropriate in modern society and which would be deemed offensive if stated in public.” [Emphasis added]
David Smyth, head of the Evangelical Alliance in NI, said in response:
The CPS holds a really important role in the public life and administration of criminal justice in England and Wales. However it is not their role to govern what is ‘appropriate’ or ‘offensive’. These comments are unwise and concerning, revealing a lack of understanding and faith literacy. We hope and pray that this does not result in a chilling effect on Christians sharing the Bible and their faith in public.
But it will have that effect, and that is the intent of the CPS and of other secular authorities in the oh-so-multicultural UK: to suppress expressions of Christian faith and to marginalize the Christian community. Try to imagine the British authorities taking a similar line with the Koran.
In a further shockingly Orwellian bit of news from the UK, video recently emerged in which Birmingham police are seen interrogating and eventually arresting a pro-life activist who was silently praying alone across the street from a U.K. abortion clinic. Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, director of the U.K. March for Life, was standing in an area Birmingham authorities call a “censorship zone” near the BPAS Robert Clinic when police approached her after an onlooker complained she might be praying outside the abortion facility. Fox News notes:
The clip shows the woman silently standing on a curb across from an abortion clinic as British law enforcement officers approach her. One asks why she is standing there and responds that she’s there because of the abortion clinic. She denies that she is part of any protest.
The officer then asks, “Are you praying?” to which she responds, “I might be praying in my head.” The officer then asks her if she’d be willing to go to the station for questioning about her actions. “If I’ve got a choice, then no,” she responds, after which the officer states, “You’re under arrest” and claims she’s charged with “suspicion of failing to comply with Public Spaces Protection Order.”
Wrap your head around this if you can: a lone woman was standing across the street from an abortion clinic praying in her head – harassing no one, obstructing nothing, not even counseling anyone. Someone suspected that Miss Vaughan-Spruce might be praying – Horrors! – and felt threatened or outraged enough to alert the police. Instead of telling the busybody snitch that praying silently at a distance is not a crime, and then going about their rounds looking for actual criminals, the officers confronted, searched, and interrogated Miss Vaughan-Spruce. Then, when she refused to be hauled down to the station for further harassment, they arrested her.
Social media lit up in protest over the video. Anglican priest Rev. Calvin Robinson tweeted, “This is terrifying. What have we become?!” Pro-life advocate Emily Rarick wrote on Twitter, “This is absolute madness. How can someone be arrested for praying?” Conservative pundit Lauren Chen tweeted, “People are literally being arrested for thought crimes in the UK. Free speech is NOT a western value, it’s a uniquely American one.”
For now, perhaps. But how long before law enforcement here in America begins investigating and prosecuting Christians for similar thought crimes?
The aforementioned statistics and incidents are ominous signs for the civilization that used to be called Christendom. As I have written elsewhere,
The word “religion” comes from the Latin ligare, “to bind” or “tie together.” Faith in God is the force that binds a community, a society, a nation, a civilization together. When we dissolve that bond – in other words, when we believe that we, and not God, are “each other’s answers” – society will disintegrate too, into meaninglessness and fear, lawlessness and chaos, and an empty sexual libertinism masquerading as personal freedom. When a culture rejects the humility and sense of greater purpose that faith sows in us, and degenerates into hedonism and aimlessness, its end is near.
As Christianity fades in numbers of believers, and in cultural power and significance, and as Christians themselves become more and more marginalized if not actually persecuted, who and what will bind us together?