Loss of Confidence

In my last entry I talked about the rapid rise of the “nones”—people who express no religious affiliation.

Another fascinating trend is the unsteady and slow decline in the confidence Americans have in organized religion. Take a look at the chart below. It shows the trend over the last 40 years. This chart is taken from an article in on the Gallup Poll website:

Seen in combination with the rise of young people who have been turned off by organized religion and with the loss of members in both Mainline and Catholic churches, it paints a picture of a rapidly changing culture.

At one level, one can hardly be surprised at the decline of confidence in organized religion. We have seen the scandals of sexual abuse ignored by the Catholic Church and the scandals of televangelists.

If “Church” were a brand, we would conclude that the brand was in trouble. Increasingly people associate religion with tawdry behavior and with hypocrisy.

Yet there is another picture as well. Congregations that are vital and authentic are thriving and growing. All kinds of “spiritual” exploration and fellowship is also happening outside the walls of churches.

This is a volatile and vulnerable time for all religious groups. It is also a time rich with possibility. I am absolutely convinced that we Unitarian Universalists have more potential than others. We have a message of openness and tolerance. We work for compassion and justice in the world. We offer a spiritual home that nurtures growth and safe exploration. Our challenge is to seize this opportunity.

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