Every now and then I like to check out what’s trending in the world. I often consult the findings of the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. This organization is a nonpartisan, nonprofit group that conducts surveys of all kinds and provides information on public opinion, social issues, and current trends in the U.S. and in the world. Let’s check out a few of their statistics.
Let’s start with religions of the world. According to their 2010 studies, here are the major religions of the world: Christians (31.4%), Muslim (23.2%), Unaffiliated (16.4%), Hindus (15%), Buddhists (7.1) Folk religions (5.9%), other (0.8%), and Jewish (0.2%).
Between 2007 and 2014 the Christian share of the U.S. population fell from 78.4% to 70.6%. This decline occurred across all demographic groups—all ages, both men and women, all levels of education, etc. During that same period the number of Americans who identify themselves as “religiously unaffiliated,” atheist, or agnostic jumped from 16.1% to 22.8%.
Religious intermarriage in the U.S. has been rising steadily. In 1960 it was 19%; in 2010 it rose to 39%.
About 35% of U.S. Millennials (those between ages 18-35) describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated. Just 16% of Millennials in the U.S. are Catholic while 11% are mainline Protestant.
Former Christians represent 19.2% of the U.S. adult population. About 31.7% of U.S. adults say they were raised Catholic. Among that group, 41% no longer identify with Catholicism.
On their website, the Pew Research Center lists a number of “striking findings” from 2015. I picked out several that I thought might be of interest to readers of this blog.
- Only 19% of Americans say you can trust the government always or most of the time. This is among the lowest levels in 50 years.
- The American middle class is shrinking. In 1971 it was 61% of the population. Today it is 50%.
- For the first time since 1940, more immigrants from Mexico are leaving the U.S. than coming into the U.S.
- The majority (53%) of Whites in the U.S. say the U.S. needs to make changes to give Blacks equal rights. This is up from 36% in 2009.
- Millennials (those between ages 18-35) are the largest U.S. generation. There are 75.3 million Millennials in the U.S. The next largest group are the Baby Boomers (those between ages 52-70). They number 74.9 million.
- It is predicted that in the next four decades Islam will grow faster than any other major religion in the world. It will likely surpass Christians as the largest religious group in the world by 2050. (Among the reasons for this growth: Muslims tend to be younger and they have more children than Christians.)
- By 2050 the following countries will no longer have a Christian majority: Australia, United Kingdom, France, New Zealand, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Netherlands.
- In 1965, 4% of the U.S. population were foreign born. In 2015, 14% were foreign born. In the 19th and 20th Century, immigrants came primarily from Europe. Today 51% are from Latin America and 25% are from India.
- Today 54% of the world’s population consider climate change a serious problem. Here are a few of those percentages by regions: Latin America – 74%; Africa – 61%; Europe – 54%; U.S. – 45%; China – 18%.
Why should we be aware of such statistics and trends? Because, as Christians, we believe, “Reality is God’s home address.” This means our faith is rooted in the real world. Current trends (whether encouraging, disheartening, or even frightening) must play a role in our spiritual lives. Trends can inform our prayer. They can direct our energies. They can call us to action. As we reflect on these trends, let us ask our ever-present God to renew our strength to live our faith with ever greater love, hope, and joy—in this very real world.
Take a moment or two to look back over these statistics. Do any of them jump out at you? Why?
Do you see any ramifications in these trends for Christians in general and/or Catholics in particular?
Do any of these trends call you to prayer? Do any call you to some specific action?
I reached back in time for today’s song, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” This song is a traditional American spiritual first published in 1927. Over the years it has been recorded by numerous artists. This version, by the Morman Tabernacle Choir, does not have the lyrics with it, so I’ll put them here:
He’s got the whole world in his hands…
He’s got the wind and the rain in his hands…
He’s got the sun and the moon in his hands…
He’s got you and me brother in his hands…
He’s got you and me sister in his hands…
He’s got everybody in his hands.
He’s got the whole world in his hands.
What do you think?… We’d love to hear from you…
PS: I promised to randomly give a copy of my latest book, The Lord Is My Shepherd, to someone who filled out my survey several weeks ago. That winner is Rose of Wappingers Falls, NY. Rose has been reading my blog for almost five years. She recently retired from the Archdiocese of New York after 30 years of service as a coordinator of religious education, parish secretary and bookkeeper at 5 different parishes. She said, “I am taking some time to myself and then will see where God takes me next.” Rose is a wife, a mother of two grown sons, and a proud grandmother of one grandson. I congratulate Rose and thank her again for filling out the survey!
PS: Thank you for your prayers for last Saturday’s retreat day for the associates of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Erie, PA. The 56 participants were a delight and inspiration to be with! Next Saturday I’m leading a retreat day at the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Spirituality Center in Cincinnati, OH. I ask for your prayers for all the participants–including me! Thank you!