Christian leaders have several explanations for why faith in God has hit an all-time low in the United States.
Bart Barber, pastor of First Baptist Church of Farmersville in rural East Texas and president of the Southern Baptist Convention says that more and more people in the United States have “not only no connection to faith congregations but also really no time in life to stop and contemplate anything spiritual. Even some of the people who identify themselves as Christians and say they believe in God and have accepted the gospel, for a lot of them, church and contemplation and worship have been squeezed out by the schedule in their lives.”
The Rev. Lawrence R. Rast Jr., president of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Ind., said, “People are continuing to search and continuing to think about the larger questions, but the lack of dedicated spaces and time set aside for that leads to the chaos that we see around us presently.”
Young people are the demographic that Robert Barron, bishop-designate of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester and founder of Word on Fire, worries about the most, because they have “inherited the attenuation of religious practice” that is prevalent in society.
“When I was a kid, my parents took it for granted that we’d be brought to Mass, we’d be taught the ways of prayer, we learned about the saints,” he said. “They just immersed us in that world. Well, when you don’t immerse people in that world, you say things like, ‘Oh, it’s up to you, you decide what you want to do when you’re 16.’ You lose all that. And then we’re surprised that young people are adrift and young people have lost their sense of purpose and meaning?”
Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, president of the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church, said that, in some ways, the poll is not surprising, because churches have lost multiple generations of parishioners by not nurturing young people in the faith.
“We’re missing two or three generations of people who aren’t steeped in the rhythm or the liturgy of the church,” he said. “They are not involved in the relationships in the church. They are doing other things. For me, the practice of my faith is what steeps my deepened belief in God, and if you get generations that aren’t in church practicing the rhythm of worship or practicing their faith, there’s no surprise they are now doubting whether or not God exists.”
–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice