Is the world getting more religious or more secular? Yes.

March 17, 2010

It is common lament among my evangelical friends that the world is going down the tubes fast. They point to things like the horror of abortion, declining sexual morals, drug use, and lack of church attendance. All of this is evidence that the world is trending downward. Polls support their position. Pew research forum released a study in 2008 that showed that there were as many ‘secular unaffiliated’ as the once mighty Methodist or Lutheran denominations. Other polls suggest more and more people accept premarital sex, homosexuality, and pornography as morally acceptable. So, as an evangelical looking at the US over the last half century….things seem bleak. Or do they?

There is a lot more to this story. First of all, there is a bit of cleansing going on in the American church. 50 years ago everyone said they were religious but few actually believed the biblical truths. Almost all the major protestant denominations were trending toward liberalism and the seeds of the sexual revolution had already been sown. 50 years later, the evangelicals (once a tiny minority) have exploded in the religious makeup and now represent 26% of all of Americans. This is a huge trend moving in the conservative direction. Further, there is a lot of research to suggest that the more conservative you are, the more kids you have. This has consequences for the future. The Telegraph blog recently called the Pill “secularism’s cyanide tablet”. Consider some simple math: if evangelicals (26% of the population) have 3 kids per mother and the rest only have 1.6 per mother…..there would be a majority of evangelicals in 60 years.

This doesn’t even mention the fact that the church is exploding world-wide and there are more christians today than at any point in history. Phillip Jenkins, in ‘the Next Christendom” maintains that history will consider the 20th century the ‘Christian Century’ due to the huge expansion of the church in the last 100 years.  He documents the growth of the church in the global south was staggering. He also notes how the areas that Christianity grew also happen to be areas where birth rates are staggeringly high. The type of Christianity that is growing? Very conservative protestantism (Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism).

Often you hear that Islam is the fastest growing religion but that is based on percentage growth rate. Percentage growth rate is a horrible way to measure religious affiliation because the smaller the group, the easier it is to have high growth rates. For example, a crazy cult leader who expands his cult from 2 to 4 can post a staggering growth rate of 100% (higher than Islam). Growth rate is close to useless. The best way to measure is by numerical increase and no religion adds more adherents every year than the largest religion in the world – Christianity.

Are we seeing a growth in secularism? Yes, at least in the USA. But we are also seeing a worldwide explosion of conservative Christianity.

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One Response to “Is the world getting more religious or more secular? Yes.”


  1. […] 22, 2010 In a previous post, I noted some global trends. Worldwide, Christianity is growing. Fast. Faster than any other […]


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