Decline of Christianity

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The decline of Christianity is a widespread phenomenon that has affected developed countries and denominations in the post-World War II era, and change into a post-Christian secular multicultural society. Infant baptism has declined in the United Kingdom and United States. Thousands of churches have had to close and mainline Protestant denominations in the United States lost many members of their congregations.


Scholars have proposed that Church institutions decline in most industrialized societies, except in cases where religion serves some function in the society beyond merely regulating the relationship between individuals and God.[1]


Adherence to established forms of church-related worship is in rapid decline in Italy and Spain. Church authority on social, moral and ethical issues is not as strong as it has been in the past.[1] In 2017, the PBS News Hour reported that Seville's historic cloistered convents were suffering from Christianity's decline in Spain.

By country[edit]


In Quebec, 547 churches have been closed or converted for non-worship based uses. One church was converted into a theater that hosts Led Zeppelin cover bands, Zumba lessons and fetish parties, others have become university reading rooms, luxury condos, or fitness centers. In the 1950s 95% of Quebec's population went to mass—in the present day that number is closer to 5%.[2]No less than 562 churches in Quebec are changing, or one in five.[3]


An Irish priest has said that the church's authority was most likely undermined by the papal encyclical called Humanae Vitae that established the Church's opposition to contraception. Fr. Kevin Hegarty has reported that in the diocese of Killala there is only one priest under the age of 40. They haven't had a student for the priesthood since 2013 and have ordained only two priests over the last 17 years. He expects this decline to continue unless the Church alters its positions on female ordination, contraception and sexuality.[4]

United Kingdom[edit]

Attendance at Anglican churches had started to decline by the Edwardian era. Though missions to converts had increased relative to the Victorian age, these efforts were not as successful as had been hoped. During the early 20th century, membership in mainstream churches and attendance at Sunday schools declined, though scholars note that compiling and explaining the significance of these figures is complex. However, in the years following Queen Victoria's death, a pattern emerged that suggested long-term decline, though this wasn't realized until after the First World War.[5]

Britain has experienced a decline in infant baptisms during the post-World War II period. In 2014, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said that the UK had become a "post-Christian country". That same year only 4.3% of the population participated in a Church of England Christmas service. Justin Welby has said "there comes a point where the roof really does fall in".[6]

In 2017, a report released by St. Mary's University in Twickenham, London that Christianity was declining in Europe. The report's author concluded that Christianity "as a norm" was gone for at least the foreseeable future. According to the report 91% of people in the Czech Republic between the ages of 16 to 29 haven't declared a religious affiliation, while in the United Kingdom only 7% identify as Anglican (compared to 6% who identify as Muslim). In at least one dozen out of the 29 European countries surveyed by the researchers, the majority of young adults reported that they were not religious.[7][8]

United States[edit]

Nationwide Catholic membership has increased between 2000 and 2017, but the number of Churches has declined by nearly 11%. The ELCA has lost about 30% of its congregation and closed down 12.5% of its churches. The United Methodist church has lost 16.7% of its congregation and 10.2% of its churches. The Presbyterian Church has had the sharpest decline in church membership—between 2000 and 2015 they lost over 40% of their congregation and 15.4% of their churches.[9] Fewer infants are being baptized - nationwide, Catholic baptisms are down by nearly 34% and ELCA baptisms by over 40%.[9] The percent of Americans that are christians decline from 78% in 2007 to 70% in 2014.

Moderate and liberal denominations in the United States have been closing down churches at a rate 3 or 4 times greater than the number of new churches being consecrated. The closing of churches can be a very difficult process for clergy.[10]

According to The Christian Century a 1% rate of annual closures is quite low relative to other types of institutions. Dave Olson, who headed church planting efforts for the Evangelical Covenant Church in 2008, has said that of the approximately 3,700 churches that close each year, up to half are unsuccessful new churches.[11]

In 2006, the 119 year old First Lutheran Church of Los Angeles closed down. In August 2007 Rogers Heights Christian Church, which had a peak membership of 600, closed in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Kinderhook Methodist Church, located near the Mississippi river in a rural part of Illinois, was closed in 2008 after Easter Sunday. An episcopal church in Cincinnati was closed.[11]

In 2018, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that churches in Minnesota were being closed due to dwindling attendance. Mainline protestant churches have seen the sharpest declines in their congregations. The Catholic Church has closed 81 churches between 2000 and 2017; the Archdiocese closed 21 church in 2010 and has had to merge dozens more. In roughly the same timeframe, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in Minnesota has lost 200,000 members and closed 150 churches. The United Methodist Church, which is Minnesota's second-largest Protestant denomination, has closed 65 of its churches.[9]

Other denominations like Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and Eastern Orthodox have had slight increases in membership between 2003 and 2018. The number of adults who don't report any religious affiliation has nearly doubled in the United States.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Haynes, Jeff (2014-10-13). Religion in Global Politics. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-88667-9.
  2. ^ Bilefsky, Dan (2018-07-30). "Where Churches Have Become Temples of Cheese, Fitness and Eroticism". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  3. ^ "Falling from Grace - The Rise and Fall of the Quebec Catholic Church". Culture Witness. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  4. ^ Glenties, Conor Gallagher. "Some church teachings have 'as much validity as Danny Healy Rae's views on climate change'". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  5. ^ Green, S. J. D. (1996). "9. The forward march of the Christian churches halted? Organisational stasis and the crisis of the associational ideal in early twentieth-century religious institutions". Religion in the age of decline: Organisation and experience in industrial Yorkshire, 1870–1920. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-511-52299-4. Retrieved 2018-07-31 – via Cambridge University Press. (Subscription required (help)).
  6. ^ Peterson, Paul Silas (2017-09-22). "1. An introduction to the essays and to the phenomenon of established Christianity in the Western World". The Decline of Established Christianity in the Western World: Interpretations and Responses. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-351-39042-2.
  7. ^ "Researcher finds a dramatic decline of Christianity in Europe". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  8. ^ "Europe's Young Adults and Religion" (PDF): 12.
  9. ^ a b c "As churches close in Minnesota, a way of life fades". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2018-07-30.
  10. ^ Cafferata, Gail (June 2017). "Respect, Challenges, and Stress among Protestant Pastors Closing a Church: Structural and Identity Theory Perspectives". Pastoral Psychology. 66 (3): 311–333. doi:10.1007/s11089-016-0751-z. ISSN 0031-2789. Retrieved 2018-07-31 – via EBSCOhost. (Subscription required (help)).
  11. ^ a b Dart, John (2008-05-06). "Church-closing rate only one percent". Christian Century. 125 (9): 14–15. ISSN 0009-5281. Retrieved 2018-07-31 – via EBSCOhost. (Subscription required (help)).
  12. ^ News, A. B. C. (2018-05-10). "Protestants decline, more have no religion in a sharply shifting religious landscape". ABC News. Retrieved 2018-07-31.