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Belief at historic low, despite megachurch surge

Surveys show that churchgoing and overall belief in God have declined in recent years. The trend is clear, even as in-person attendance at high-profile megachurches is on the rise.

Daniel de Visé of The Hill writes that while there is an overall decline in belief, the most notable loss has been seen in mainline Protestant denominations. Americans are either leaving organized religion or flocking to nondenominational congregations. There is also a greater partisan divide, with atheists more likely to identify with Democrats, while nondenominational Christians more likely to identify with Republicans.

de Visé continues:

Church membership, church attendance and belief in God all declined during the pandemic years, survey data suggest, accelerating decades long trends away from organized worship.

At least one-fifth of Americans today embrace no religion at all. Researchers call them “nones.”

A similar share tell pollsters they do not believe in God, an all-time high.

The lone, striking countertrend is a steep rise in nondenominational Protestants, who attend churches outside the “mainline” denominations — the once-ubiquitous Baptists, Methodists and Lutherans.

Nondenominational Protestants — “nons” — became a majority in 2021, signaling a new era of churches and clergies untethered from religious tradition.

In-person church attendance plummeted by 45 percent in the pandemic, according to an ABC News analysis. Most churches have reopened, but not all congregants have returned.

“People are not getting together much, generally speaking. Not just in church, but in the village,” said Thomas Groome, a professor in theology and religious education at Boston College. “People are staying home. They’re on their cellphones. They’re on the Internet.”

The share of Americans who belong to churches dipped below half in 2020, a historic low, according to Gallup polling.

Church membership held steady at around 70 percent of the U.S. population from the 1940s through the 1990s. Membership plummeted in the new millennium.

Read full article here.

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