Last week, a General Social Survey was released, announcing that as of 2014, 7.5 million Americans have “abandoned” their religion.
Below are the survey’s findings, cited here, in a nutshell:
- Nearly a quarter of all Americans claim no religion at all
- Thirty-five percent of Americans report that they do not attend church (an all-time high)
- Seventeen percent of Americans claim they never pray (also an all-time high)
Obviously, this isn’t a “win” for the religious community; the numbers make that abundantly clear.
But it’s not altogether a loss, either. In fact, we prefer to think of this discovery as a much needed wake-up call—a summons, really, that those of us still wholly dedicated to our faith would be amiss to either misinterpret or ignore.
And we’re grateful for it.
Which is why we choose not to accept the term “abandoned,” although it’s been closely tied to the survey’s results. Why? Because this is not a final verdict.
Now, more than ever, Americans are overwhelmed—with information, change and the expectation that we keep pace on either end. Americans are not necessarily “abandoning” religion; Americans are distracted, experimenting and reorganizing. Modernity has made the world larger and more accessible, and it’s commanding our attention.
But there’s still a place for religion in a world that continues to feel a little bit bigger with each day. Sure, 17 percent of Americans claim they never pray. However, let’s not forget that on the flip side, this number suggests 83 percent of Americans still do, and 83 percent ain’t bad.
Clearly, Americans are still responding to an urge to connect with something greater than themselves, even if that call comes in spurts. Our challenge is to embrace and grow this 83 percent, to nurture their spirituality so that they are better positioned to draw strength and positivity from it.
The church may represent the cornerstone of our community, but attendance rates cannot and should not be called upon to measure the influence of any one religion. Americans are still upholding their faith in prayer, even though their absence may be felt within the church—a community in which living according to the Gospel is encouraged.
By choosing to look at the glass as half full (or 83 percent full, to be specific), we can all do our part to turn the tides to strengthen our community. Simply show love, be love and remain a steadfast example of what it means to follow Christ wholeheartedly.