A recent study released this week has caused all kinds of elation among atheists and others who see the data in this study as “good news.” The study, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape” conducted by the Pew Research Center claims that Christianity is on the decline while the “nones” or those who do not identify with any religion are on the rise.
Immediately, many atheists such as the “Friendly Atheist” have interpreted the study as an increase in atheism and secularism. This is not the case at all. Those classified as “non-affiliated” are a combination of those who are indifferent (believe in God but do not participate in any denomination), agnostics, atheists and so forth. The study only shows an increase of 3.1% from a n sample of 35,000 survey participants. That being said, a sample of 35,000 survey participants are NOT representative of the entire population of the United States which has over 300 million citizens. What atheists seem to have trouble understanding is that this survey ONLY reflects the trends within the n or sample size of 35,000. According to the study, 300 people were questioned via the telephone in each State. This data was then compared with other polls and statistics.
The study also claims that the “nones” outnumber Catholics; however, this is also disputable as appendix c clearly states:
“But there is less of a consensus about trends in American Catholicism. Some surveys, including the one featured in this report, indicate that the Catholic share of the population is declining, while others suggest it is relatively stable or may have declined and then ticked back up in recent years.”
This shows that there is a discrepancy with the data the Pew Research Center collected and other data available. Therefore, we must remain skeptical of their claims that Catholicism is on the decline and that the “nones” outnumber them. Moreover, the data from the Pew Research Center reflects data from 2014 and years in the past. We have celebrated the Easter Triduum and the Catholic Church in America and the world saw an increase in new members. These were not recorded in this study from the Pew Research Center. The Pew study also clearly states that this is just one of many more reports to come. Ironically, a study released in April of 2015 by the Pew Research Center showed that atheism is on the decline and would be nearly wiped out by 2050 mainly due to lack of reproduction (see: Atheism Is Dying).
In the study released this week, only 3.1% out of 35,000 surveyed identified as atheists. 3.1% of 35k = 1,085. This is not a significant increase. Atheism is not on the rise. What the study does state is that based on previous data, it seems that those who identify as “non-affiliated” have slightly increased. If we apply this alleged 3.1% increase of atheists to the general American population of 300 million, this would show that there are 9,300,000 million atheists in America. However, note that the 3.1% increase is based SOLELY on the 35,000 surveyed, not the general population, so in fact, there are not 9,300,000 million atheists.
Speaking of which, here come the Nones (no religious affiliation) http://t.co/6KbFzxgcix More of us than Catholics! pic.twitter.com/uBdMENJdbu
— Michael Shermer (@michaelshermer) May 13, 2015
CNN: Millennials leaving church in droves, study finds http://t.co/9AMOb7VWpB with commentary from CFI’s @paulfidalgo pic.twitter.com/AQxV6IizWm
— Center for Inquiry (@center4inquiry) May 12, 2015
While it is not news that some people have stopped attending Church, this does not mean that they automatically become atheists. Some just stop going, but still believe in and pray to God. There are many factors for this cessation of participation in a parish. With today’s demands in regards to work, school, raising families and so forth, unfortunately, Church-time suffers. Many times Catholics at parishes where I have worked at wanted to participate in meetings and other events but had to work or care for their children. Furthermore, the Pew study does not take into account lapsed Catholics who often show up for Mass only on holy days such as Christmas and Easter. Many even show up only for Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday just to receive the ashes and palms (see: A & P Catholics).
Also, according to the numbers in the Pew Study, the Evangelical branch of Protestantism is still strong and increasing. Other main branches of Protestantism which planted itself in America from Europe during the age of exploration are seeing a sharp decline but this is mainly due to the abandonment of their Christian roots. They have set aside Sacred Scripture and Christian tradition which they have gotten from the Catholic Church and have adopted liberal ideas such as abortion, contraception and so-called same sex marriage. The popular “arcbhishop” Desmond Tutti even said that he would prefer going to hell than a heaven that condemned homosexuality as a sin. Other Protestant religious leaders have allowed women clergy and have even denied the existence of Satan (see: Anglican Synod). Since these denominations have lost their roots to Christianity, then they have ceased to be Christian which in turn has turned off many of their members. Many of them have even petitioned Pope Benedict XVI which persuaded him to create ordinariates to welcome these Anglicans back to Rome while retaining some of their Anglicanism rites. That being said, people want truth. Truth that changes “with the times” was never truth to begin with.
In closing, this Pew study only shows increases and declines based on a n or sample size of 35,000, not the general American population of 300 million. We must take it as such. While religion often loses members, this has always been the case and there are a variety of reasons for this which will not be addressed here but in future posts. Exaggerated claims by atheists and atheist bloggers that Christianity is on the verge of obliteration in America are unfounded and shows the mathematical illiteracy of these individuals who do not understand basic statistics.
Here are more articles critiquing this Pew study: