Americans are leaving church and most aren’t coming back: report

In Matthew 11:29 of the Bible, Jesus calls for all those who “labor and are heavy laden” to come to Him for rest, a rest that the Church has promised new converts for centuries. A new report released Thursday by the American Enterprise Institute shows, however, that despite the proven benefits of belonging to a faith community, Americans are increasingly leaving organized religion with each subsequent generation and the majority aren’t coming back.

In the report, Generation Z and the future of faith in America, Daniel A. Cox, senior fellow in polling and public opinion at the American Enterprise Institute, who also serves as director of the Survey Center on American Life, paints a complicated and diminished view of religion in American life.

Much of the disaffection for religion today is largely driven by people who were once religious. There is a growing population of the religiously unaffiliated whose once religious parents raised them without religion.

“Young adults today have had entirely different religious and social experiences than previous generations did. The parents of millennials and Generation Z did less to encourage regular participation in formal worship services and model religious behaviors in their children than had previous generations,” Cox wrote. “Many childhood religious activities that were once common, such as saying grace, have become more of the exception than the norm.”

In line with the wisdom of Proverbs 22:6 which says, “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” Cox noted that “for as long as we have been able to measure religious commitments, childhood religious experiences have strongly predicted adult religiosity.”

With more parents raising their children with weak or no bond to a faith community, it’s a lot more difficult for them to be converted in adulthood.

“If someone had robust religious experiences growing up, they are likely to maintain those beliefs and practices into adulthood. Without robust religious experiences to draw on, Americans feel less connected to the traditions and beliefs of their parents’ faith,” Cox explained.

For nearly 30 years, notes Cox, research shows the share of Americans who identify as religious has consistently declined with each new generation.

“This pattern continues with Generation Z demonstrating less attachment to religion than the millennial generation did,” he said.

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