A new report finds that for the first time those claiming "no religion" outnumber both Catholics and evangelicals in the United States. A prominent pastor and Fox News contributor has some ideas why that's come to pass.
The data at the root of that finding originated in the long-running General Social Survey, a biennial project run by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. Political scientist and Baptist pastor Ryan Burge crunched the numbers from the latest GSS and finds 23.1 percent of Americans are so-called "Nones" – that is, those who check the box "None" when identifying their religious affiliation. Catholics came in at 23 percent even, and evangelicals were at 22.5 percent.
Because of the margin of error, the three groups remain in a statistical tie – but Burge estimates "Nones" will be the largest group outright in four to six years.
Dr. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Dallas says 50 years ago Americans felt like they needed to claim a religious faith to be considered a good person, even if they never practiced it.
"I think what you're having is people actually feeling comfortable expressing what they believe and what they don't believe – and I think that's a good thing," the pastor tells OneNewsNow. "I don't think people ought to pretend."
Jeffress contends that a lot of the migration away from faith is coming from mainline denominations.
"A lot of the people who became 'Nones' … were coming from mainline denominations," he states. "People have decided that If what I hear in the increasingly liberal pulpits is nothing different than what I'd hear on CNN, why bother to get up and go to church anyway?"
But the Southern Baptist pastor sees a silver lining: "Christianity has always flourished when it was the minority rather than the majority viewpoint. So I think this is an increasing challenge as well as an opportunity for the church to be that salt and light."
Burge is currently an instructor of political science at Eastern Illinois University and pastor of First Baptist Church of Mt. Vernon, Illinois.