Americas

The New (Evangelical) Mainline

American evangelicalism is displacing the old mainline. How do we keep from suffering the same fate?

The American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS), recently released by Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar at Trinity College, has captured some bold headlines. And no wonder: The share of people classified as "Nones" (who claim atheism, agnosticism, or have no stated religious preference) has nearly doubled since the survey began, from 8.2 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2008. Mainline churches continue their precipitous decline; for example, Methodists have fallen from 8 percent to 5 percent over that same span. Even the share of Americans who call themselves Baptist is down.

Such trends prompted Newsweek magazine to proclaim on its cover, Edward Gibbon-like, "The Decline and Fall of Christian America." In the April 13 issue, available right before Easter, editor Jon Meacham opined, "While we remain a nation decisively shaped by religious faith, our politics and our culture are, in the main, less influenced by movements and arguments of an explicitly Christian character than they were ...

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