LUBBOCK, Texas – Christianity has been the majority religion in not only Lubbock, but the United States. However, research from Pew Research Center shows that the Christian population is currently declining and on track to make up less than half the U.S population.
The research revealed that 50 years ago Christianity made up 90% of the population, but in 2020 that number declined to 64% with expectations of it to continue declining.
“The people who are leaving tend to be Millennials, Generation Z, and younger,” said Jeremy Hegi, History of Christianity Assistant Professor at Lubbock Christian University.
People have started to lean towards atheism and agnosticism which is projected to become the majority in the year 2070.
In research revealed by the Lubbock Compact, individuals that identify with agnostic and atheist beliefs have grown over 8 percent from 1990 to 2010, while the Evangelical Christian population has dropped by 12 percent.
“The reasons they’re leaving, there’s a lot. One of them is a frustration with institutions. In general, we’re seeing these changes in the job market. In the economy, people are kind of moving away from organizations that tell them what to do, to more individualistic ways of doing things and we see this with religion, as well,” said Hegi.
Attendance in religious service has also dropped within the millennial demographic, but while Christianity is dwindling, Americans still remain spiritual.
“One of the interesting things about contemporary American religion in general, is we kind of have a buffet-approach to religion. We look at what’s out there, what works for us, so we kind of go through the line and we add it to our plate,” said Hegi.
Hegi believes the proper question is not “Is christianity dying?” but instead, “Is christianity changing? And what does that look like in the future?”
Different blends of spiritualism have been growing among the younger generation.
“I think there’s more of an emphasis on Pentecostal charismatic versions of Christianity. And the way that version of Christianity works is that its boundaries tend to be more porous. So before, there’s an idea, that’s, that was like, you’re either Roman Catholic, or your church of Christ, or you’re Baptist or this. Whereas now with this kind of newer, charismatic form of Christianity, I can be a charismatic, Catholic, or Pentecostal Baptist, or something like that. So we’re seeing much more of an emphasis on the Spirit led Christianity,” said Hegi.
Tracey Benefield grew up as a Christian but now identifies as an Atheist.
“We mostly went to Methodist churches. I have several pastors in my family, but as a kid, I had a few negative experiences with religion and with the church. When I went to college, I took a philosophy class and I studied all of the arguments for and against religion and I just decided, I felt like it was more likely than not that there was no supreme being, and so that’s when I became an atheist,” said Benefield.
Benefield is a part of the Atheist Community of Lubbock, a nonprofit that provides homeless outreach events and secular resources for its community.
Benefield says her members share similar stories of converting to Atheism, “A lot of the people that we have are part of the LGBTQ community. And a lot of people from that particular community feel very ostracized and have a lot of trauma have leaving the church or coming out as gay or being part of the queer community. And so because of that trauma, a lot of people have migrated to either atheism or agnosticism.
Hegi also believes newer traditions from the global south will come forward as christianity changes, “We’re gonna go through some big internal changes, it’s going to be multicultural, it’s going to be multi ethnic, Americans remain very spiritual and very religious. They’re looking for those connections, but they’re looking for them outside of older institutional ways of doing them.”
For more information on the Pew Research study of a decline in Christianity click here.
For more information on The Atheist Community of Lubbock click here.