". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


Poll Finds Religion’s Influence Declining: ‘Great Opportunity for Christians’ to Be Salt and Light

March 20, 2024

A recent Pew Research Center poll revealed that “8 in 10 Americans say religion is losing influence in public life.” On its own, this information isn’t startling. The world has watched as the LGBT crowd tries to overthrow our medical, academic, and other public institutions. We currently have a presidential administration pushing both LGBT narratives and abortion as some of their top priorities. Far too many Americans are siding with terrorists in Gaza rather than our historical ally Israel. Biological sex, virginity, and science are within the list of topics becoming increasingly subjective. Truth, which is what religion is supposed to convey, seems to carry little value to many in this current climate, and biblical mandates are violated continuously.

And so, when “80% of U.S. adults say religion’s role in American life is shrinking,” the highest percentage Pew has recorded, it makes some sense. But what does come as a surprise, especially when considering the current events, is that a majority (57%) of the 12,693 U.S. adults surveyed “believe religion plays a positive role in public life” and are displeased with its diminishing prominence.

Even more interestingly, it’s not only “religious Americans” who feel this way. “Rather,” the Pew report noted, “many religious and nonreligious Americans say they feel that their religious beliefs put them at odds with mainstream culture, with the people around them and with the other side of the political spectrum.” The poll considered various worldviews including Christian, Jewish, political, agnostic, and atheist. The report added, “Overall, there are widespread signs of unease with religion’s trajectory in American life.”

It doesn’t seem to add up, right? I mean, the Left piles on panic that the craze of “Christian nationalism” is an “extremist threat” to America. Society at large seems far more interested in governing themselves than having any supreme being fulfill that role. So, why is it that the majority of the Americans surveyed seem disappointed that religion is less prevalent than it’s been before? David Closson, director of the Center for Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council, shared his insight with The Washington Stand.

He highlighted a book by Alvin Schmidt called, “Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization,” and he said, “One of the things I appreciate about Schmidt’s book is that he argues that Christians have affected positive change in the world.”

Closson continued, “Even though we live in a post-Christian world that is quickly becoming biblically and historically illiterate, there are enough people who recognize the good that Christianity has contributed to.” He added that the arguments Schmidt raised in his book are that Christianity opposes things like “infanticide, child abandonment,” and other areas that hurt society. But Christianity also advocates “for the dignity of women, founded the first hospitals, opened the first universities and colleges, brought honor to work, worked for the abolition of slavery, and produced major contributions to art and architecture, music and literature.”

When taking these factors into consideration, Closson emphasized, “Even people who don’t know the intricacies of Christian doctrine recognize that the message of Christianity, which is one of grace, faith, mercy, reconciliation, and restoration, is one that is overall good for society and good for the nation.”

But the problem we face now, and part of what made the Pew results initially striking, is that “less and less people will appreciate the impact that Christianity has had,” Closson said. “We’re living at a turning point right now … where I imagine when they take this poll a decade from now, the numbers will be decreased.” Yet at the same time, this survey revealed that, as of right now, “enough people think about church, Christianity, and the Bible, and they think that’s a good thing.” In a sense, he added, “They lament the loss of that, even if they don’t really know what they’re lamenting.”

Closson also noted that the 2021 survey FRC did with George Barna, senior research fellow for the Center for Biblical Worldview, found that while 6% of Americans have a legitimate biblical worldview, 51% thought they did. As Closson pointed out, this “shows there’s a huge difference between perception and reality.” And ultimately, “The Pew Research is picking up on the fact that people generally still ascribe good intentions and good impact to Christianity, even if they reject certain Christian doctrines.”

There’s more we could speculate when digging into the survey’s results, but Closson wanted to ensure it came back to how these findings should affect the church. “As a Christian,” he said, “I read a poll like this, and I’m encouraged because [it shows] the Christians who have come before me have left a lasting legacy of good that is recognized.”

He continued, “I’m humbled when I think about the generations of Christians who have taken Jesus’s words seriously to share the good news and to teach and disciple all that He commanded.” And when analyzing these results, Closson stated that we see “an opportunity for us to continue to apply the gospel to issues of cultural concern in our own day.”

As Closson detailed, part of how we do that is “when people are confused, worried, or fearful about any given issue, we as Christians can remind people that God’s Word speaks to that issue. That’s what previous generations of Christians have done.” He concluded, “We need to recognize that probably darker days are in our future, but there’s still great opportunity for Christians today” to be salt and light, and to positively influence future generations.

Sarah Holliday is a reporter at The Washington Stand.