My conviction that the Internet is malign influence on culture runs so deep that anytime I see an ominous trend in a poll that began in the late 1990s or shortly after, I think, “Has to be the Internet.”
And maybe there’s something to that in this case. The Internet is a machine that lets people organize themselves efficiently into subcultures and “identities.” It stands to reason that the more they invest in those new identities, the less they invest in older ones.
Just ban the Internet (except this site, of course). It’ll solve 80 percent of the country’s problems, even if it doesn’t solve this particular one.
Two developments are driving it, says Gallup. One is that a meaningful number of people who still identify with a particular faith have dropped off in their attendance at services. The other is that an even more meaningful number no longer identify with any faith at all, from eight percent 20 years ago to 21 percent now. Much has been written about the fact that that group skews Democratic. And in fact, Democrats turn out to be the demographic with the single biggest drop-off in church membership in Gallup’s survey between 1998 and last year. They went from 71 percent then to 46 percent now.
Less than a majority of Dems still belong to a church.
But they’re not solely responsible for the national trend. Literally every group Gallup looked at declined by more than 10 points in church membership over the past two decades. (Protestants were the sole exception, having declined by nine.) Even senior citizens are down 11. Although the age group with the biggest shift, as you can guess, are young adults. Those born between 1981 and 1996 — the most Internet-savvy and probably the most Internet-focused of the age demographics tested — went from 51 percent church membership in 2008-10 to just 36 percent now. Coincidentally, that was also the age in which smartphones became ubiquitous. More time online means less time in church?
Needless to say, as older, more religious people die off and are replaced as a share of the population by younger, less religious ones, the entire country shifts towards lower church membership. And I do mean the entire country, not just liberals. Quote: “[T]he influence of generation is apparent, in that church membership is lower in each younger generation of conservatives than in each older generation — 51% of conservative millennials, 64% of conservative Gen Xers, 70% of conservative baby boomers and 71% of conservative traditionalists in 2018-2020 belong to a church.” Reading righty media in the Trump era, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the younger vanguard of nationalist conservatives (integralists, so-called “rad trads”) is more religious than their squishier RINO elders, which in turn means younger righties generally might be more religious. Not so. Or at least, not if measured by church membership.
Exit question: Which group would you guess is more likely to be a member of a church, college grads or those without a college degree? The elite leftist view of religion is that it’s the “opiate of the masses,” something the poor bitterly cling to in order to provide hope amid desolation. But Gallup says those who are more educated are also more likely to belong to a church. That wasn’t always the case — 20 years ago the percentages were nearly identical. But now it’s 54 percent of college grads versus just 47 percent of those without a college education. Hmmm.