The True Cost of the Churchgoing Bust

Mac Johnson
Mac Johnson
2 months ago
16 posts

Many Americans seem to have found no alternative method to build a sense of community.

By Derek Thompson

The Atlantic magazine April 3, 2024

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"...Maybe religion, for all of its faults, works a bit like a retaining wall to hold back the destabilizing pressure of American hyper-individualism, which threatens to swell and spill over in its absence..."

Some key points:

  • Suddenly, in the 1990s, the ranks of nonbelievers surged.  An estimated 40 million people — one in eight Americans — stopped going to church in the past 25 years, making it the “largest concentrated change in church attendance in American history,” according to the religion writer Jake Meador.
  • Did the decline of religion cut some people off from a crucial gateway to civic engagement, or is religion just one part of a broader retreat from associations and memberships in America.  “It’s hard to know what the causal story is here,” Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at NYU, told me.
  • And America didn’t simply lose its religion without finding a communal replacement.  Just as America’s churches were depopulated, Americans developed a new relationship with a technology that, in many ways, is the diabolical opposite of a religious ritual:  the smartphone.