There have been a number of articles recently, derived off the Pew graph below, which suggest that Christianity is declining in total members.The Pew graph: In response to this, Daniel Dennett (famous atheist) wrote this breathless piece in the Wall Street Journal alleging the waning of religion and Christianity in particular. And Yahoo Finance has a similar piece.
Don’t buy the hype. “Switching” is only half of the picture – and the smaller half at that.
- 66 million is a big number–but it is cumulative switching over 40 years. So, take that 66 million and divide by 40 to get the annual figure: 1.6 million.
- This is a projection. It’s an estimate of what could happen, not what will happen.
3. Not everyone agrees with this projection. The World Christian Database does not. Pew, they think, are undercounting the ‘hidden’ church: for example, they estimate the church in China right now at 60 million, but most people very familiar with the underground church that I know would probably come close to doubling that number. A projection in print in a major newspaper is not necessarily absolutely right just because it’s in print.
- 40 years is plenty of time to reverse the trend. It’s not unchangeable. If you don’t like the growth scenario, get involved in changing it.
5. The most important thing: switching does not take into account demographic growth. Christianity does not grow mostly by converts in, nor does it mostly lose by defections out.
Yahoo’s article says “106 million are switching out and only 40 million are coming in”–but that’s not true. People **are entering Christianity: through births to Christian homes. You have to balance 1.6 million losses per year with 45 million births in Christian homes, on average. The vast majority of people are born into Christianity and do not leave it. If all the naysayers just looked at Pew’s charts for the world, they’d have a different picture.
(Yahoo, despite its dark prognostication, does show these charts, but doesn’t note the growth, just negatively notes Islam will be “near the same population”). If Christianity is losing on balance every year, how could it have grown by 2050? Or, let’s graph it: Further, the world is becoming more religious not less, despite the desire of some: Don’t buy the media hype.
Christianity isn’t dying–far from it. We have very little to worry about in terms of agnosticism and atheism, and should be doing far more to engage with other religious groups.