A new Gallup poll documenting a dramatic drop in Americans’ faith in God raises serious concerns about the spiritual condition of our country (although we hardly needed a poll to tell us that). As summarized by Life Site News, “The numbers have gone from 98% professed believers 50 years ago to 81% in 2022.” At the same time, the results of the survey are enlightening and even contain a ray of hope.
As for the data itself, “Gallup first asked this question in 1944, repeating it again in 1947 and twice each in the 1950s and 1960s. In those latter four surveys, a consistent 98% said they believed in God. When Gallup asked the question nearly five decades later, in 2011, 92% of Americans said they believed in God. A subsequent survey in 2013 found belief in God dipping below 90% to 87%, roughly where it stood in three subsequent updates between 2014 and 2017 before this year’s drop to 81%.”
How do we explain this significant drop?
In a recent article titled, “Why Are So Many Christians Leaving the Faith?” (which will also be the title of a forthcoming book), I listed a number of reasons why many Christians are now identifying as “nones” (meaning they have no religious affiliation) or “dones” (meaning they are “done” with the faith).
Among the factors discussed were scandals in the church; the politicizing of the gospel; the success of LGBTQ+ propaganda; the widespread dissemination of atheistic attacks on God and the Bible; the pervasive availability of sinful temptation and distraction; and superficial preaching from our pulpits. Another factor is lack of personal experience with God.
Since most Americans profess the Christian faith (however shallow that profession may be) and many are leaving the churches, this sharp decline in faith is not surprising.
But let’s dig deeper.
Gallup reports, “The groups with the largest declines are also the groups that are currently least likely to believe in God, including liberals (62%), young adults (68%) and Democrats (72%). Belief in God is highest among political conservatives (94%) and Republicans (92%), reflecting that religiosity is a major determinant of political divisions in the U.S.”
What do you know!
No wonder their platform is so aggressively pro-abortion and pro-LGBTQ+ extremism. No wonder inclusion of simply the mention of “God” in the platform was a subject of debate even 10 years ago.
As for the Republicans and/or conservatives, while we certainly have our share of issues and blemishes, it is clear that a biblically-based faith informs our morals. Perhaps our bigger issue is hypocrisy rather than being on the right side of the culture wars?
But here’s where things get interesting.
Among non-Hispanic white people, the numbers of those who identified as religious dropped from 85 percent in 2013-2017 to 79 percent in 2022. Among people of color, the drop was from 92 to 88 percent meaning that people of color today still tend to be people of faith more than their non-Hispanic white counterparts.
Yet these same people, especially Black Americans, tend to vote Democrat as well, usually overwhelmingly. How do we explain this?
To repeat what a good number of black American Christian colleagues have shared with me, they do not like the moral values of the Democratic Party (especially with regard to abortion and same-sex “marriage”). But they feel they have no voice in the Republican Party, which, in their view, remains tone deaf to many of their key concerns.
To the extent that this is true, the door could be wide open for Republican leaders to reach out afresh and engage in a real, serious, thoughtful, humble dialogue with black American leaders. Perhaps they can find more common ground based on shared faith values.
The poll also indicated that college graduates were less likely to believe in God than those without a college degree, dropping from 83 percent in 2013-2017 to 78 percent in 2022 and from 89 percent in 2013-2017 to 84 percent in 2022, respectively.
The differences are not dramatic, but do they indicate that the more you learn and the smarter you are, the less you will be inclined to believe in God?
Of course not. Instead, these differences could simply point to the anti-God, anti-Christian mentality that is pervasive in many leading colleges and universities in America. (I documented this in my book: The Silencing of the Lambs.) Young people who study at these institutions often lose their faith.
The silver lining in the Gallup poll is that, compared to other countries, Americans are still very religious. That’s why, despite our failures and sins and worldliness and hypocrisy, we have continued to fight for the life of the unborn, along with other important moral causes. According to the 2004 book Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History by James A. Monroe, “despite the clear separation of church and state – religion lies at the heart of American politics.”
In 2012, the University of Chicago released a report on “Beliefs about God across Time and Countries.”
In America, the percentage of those who said, “I know God really exists and I have no doubts about it” was 60.6 percent. That put us in fifth place behind Poland (62.0 percent, likely reflecting its Catholic background), Israel (65.5 percent; this would be because of the growing number of ultra-Orthodox and Orthodox Jews), Chile (79.4 percent, also with a strong Catholic and growing evangelical base), and the Philippines (83.6 percent; also with a strong traditional Catholic heritage).
Lowest on the list was Japan (at 4.3 percent), then East Germany (7.8 percent), Sweden (10.2 percent), the Czech Republic (11.1 percent), Denmark (13.0 percent), Norway (14.8 percent), France (15.5 percent), and Great Britain (16.8 percent).
In that light, the fact that 81 percent of Americans still claim to have some kind of faith in God – however nebulous that may be – and that over 60 percent expressed certainty in their faith in 2012, indicates that religious faith remains important for the vast majority of Americans.
The fact that so many are losing their faith means that something has gone wrong along the way, especially with young Americans (aged 18-29) who declined in faith on the Gallup poll from 78 percent in 2013-17 to 68 percent today. At the same time, more and more young people are believing in other things, such as witchcraft and astrology.
My personal conviction is that if we can bring the message of the real God in the real power of the real Spirit, there is a massive audience to be reached and won in the days ahead.
The fact that the glass is getting emptier means there is more room for others to dive in.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. He holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University and has served as a professor at a number of seminaries and is the author of 40 books. Connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.
The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.