Religion waxes and wanes in a culture and throughout history. It can fade away, but it can also suddenly come back again.
The American Enterprise Institute has released an important study of American religion entitled Promise and peril: The history of American religiosity and its recent decline.
It is a meta-analysis--that is, a study of studies–bringing together a wide range of disparate research and analyzing the data in terms of each other to arrive at more rigorous conclusions.
You may have noticed, for example, that there have been many studies of American religion and its possible decline that come up with different statistics. The problem is that different researchers study different aspects of the question. You can focus on how many Americans claim to have a religious affiliation. Or you can focus on how many Americans actually go to church. Or you can focus on what Americans say that they believe.
Those are three completely different questions. Many members of a church don’t attend much, or don’t believe what their church teaches. Many Americans profess Christian beliefs but don’t belong to a church. Furthermore, each of those questions rely on what individuals tell survey takers. Another line of research is digging out objective data about American religion, such as church records and evidence of cultural markers, such as “religious” baby names. Then again, church records are not always accurate and some congregations don’t even have memberships. So the whole questions of “how religious are Americans?” and “is Christianity declining in the United States?” are more complicated to answer than it might appear.
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“Many people are looking to a higher power for comfort these days. In March, the number of Google searches for prayer skyrocketed, according to a not-yet-published analysis of search results for 95 countries by an economist at the University of Copenhagen.” Learn more from the Wall Street Journal.
Dear Father, you sent your Son, who left His powerful position in heaven to be born in a lowly stable, to live life in our place, to die a death that is the recompense for this world’s sin, and to give us eternal life as a gift now and forever. May that motivate our prayers and our service to our friends and our enemies, to our brothers and sisters in the faith and our neighbors in the community, and all who are in authority to lead and to serve. Give us strength to be a people constantly in prayer, available for service, and bold in our witness of the God who is at work in the world to save. In the Name of Jesus, we pray. Amen!