I have been analyzing trends related to the rise and decline of Christian faith for some time. My own apologetics ministry has roughly coincided with the dramatic drop in the number of Christians since 1990 and the astonishing ascent of the religiously unaffiliated in the same time (as of this writing, almost 25-30% of adults now say they have no religion, and an increasing share of these call themselves atheists).
About a year ago, I decided it was time to gather up my research and start drawing some conclusions from it. Not long after that, I was asked to give some presentations on apologetics at a pastor’s conference. The two ideas came together over the summer of 2016 as I delved more deeply into understanding why there appears to be a precise moment in time when the trend began (about 1992; see chart below). I realized I needed to write up a report calling attention to this trend and offering my own explanation for it.
I did not finish the report in time to distribute at the pastor’s conference, although I basically made the case that is in the report. I also made the case in a series of presentations at St. John’s Lutheran Church in West Bend, WI, but the actual report was not yet finished. Many people told me that my proposed explanation lined up very well with their own experiences. A draft of the report was read by Dr. Ryan MacPherson, a scholar who is knee-deep in data related to these issues who indicated that my findings are consistent with his own.
A summary of conclusion of the report:
The transmission of the faith from one generation to the next is intimately tied to one’s family life.This is borne out in the Scriptures and it is also borne out in sociological research. People growing up in broken homes are less likely to be receptive to the Gospel of Christ. The truth of Christianity, even when presented powerfully and persuasively, will struggle to overcome attitudes that are established while one is growing up. The highest quality Christian education is no match for the absence of godly parenting. The influence of the father, in particular, is decisive.
The reason the rise of the ‘religious nones’ begins so dramatically in the 1990s is because it is right about that time that the children born during the ‘sexual revolution’ of the 1960s and 1970s are themselves finally coming of age. The take away: any attempts to deal with this issue without making ‘family ministry’ the controlling context for those attempts will fail. Meanwhile, it must be understood that many of the factors that undermined happy, healthy, intact families during the ‘sexual revolution’ are still very much with us today. Christians must get their own house in order, or else, in America at least, there won’t be much ‘house’ left within a generation.
This report is hereby submitted.
Anthony Horvath, PhD
Because I consider this information to be very important, I am making the report available via download. Permission to re-distribute it is hereby granted. Bulk discounts on the print edition are available, as well. However, if you consider it so important that you want to share it widely, I hope you will also recognize how important it is to support the ministries of Athanatos Christian Ministries. Please take a moment to make a donation–not so much to pay for the download and the costs of producing such a report, but to help equip us to continue to carry out our work. This work includes calling attention to the findings included in this report! Click here to view donation options.
Download the report: FaithUnderFireReportAnthonyHorvath
The video below is ‘part 3’ in my series delivered at West Bend, where, having wrapped up my case in the previous two parts, am offering recommendations on how they ought to proceed. To have me present for your church or organization, email me at email@example.com.
The ‘rise of the religious nones’ chart, mentioned above (and addressed in the report)