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December 28, 2009Research

Gallup on the Decreasing Numbers of Self-Identified Christians in America

Interesting numbers coming out of Gallup.com this Christmas season, pointing out that while the United States continues to be dominated by people who align themselves with some form of "Christianity" (it's almost 8 out of 10), the number of self-identified Christians has been decreasing for five decades. In 1948, 91% of Americans identified with a Christian faith. In 1989, 82% of Americans identified as Christian. Ten years ago, it was 84%. This year, it's down to 78% of all American adults who identify with a Christian faith. Many are choosing not to identity with any particular religion. But as the Frank Newport explains in his Gallup.com article,

The fact that fewer Americans say they have a religious identity does not necessarily mean there has been a decrease in overall religiosity in America. It is possible that some proportion of those who don't identify with a specific religion are still personally or spiritually religious.

And, be sure to read the January issue of Christianity Today for my article, "Chicken Little Was Wrong," on good verse bad religious statistics. (It is not available online.)

The full article is 2000 words, but this part speaks to the fact that about 3/4 Americans identify as Christians-- and that number is declining. Here is the excerpt:

If three out of four Americans call themselves Christians, we're all in big trouble - because three out of four Americans don't live like Christians. Christianity becomes confused when everyone is a Christian but no one is following Christ...

There is little doubt in my mind that the cultural expression of Christianity in America is declining. True, Christianity is losing its "home field advantage" in North America. At the same time, however, some trends tell us we are seeing the growth of a more robust Christian faith and commitment.

The story of American Christianity today, in my view, is that we are seeing the abandonment of nominal Christianity by some but the retention of a robust, authentic Christian faith by many.

Head on over the Gallup.com and read the article, and come back here to discuss.

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