Only a decade ago, it seemed horrifyingly certain that the United States was the exclusive realm of screeching old white people who defined themselves by their consumption of guns, gasoline and corn-syrup anusburgers. The president was a blue-blooded Yale (and Harvard!) man who successfully acted like a moronic Texan suburban cowboy who was always either giggling over his ability to execute retarded people or crying about Jesus. A once smart nation seemed to be operated entirely from shoddily constructed stucco megachurches on the exurban fringe of the world’s ugliest sunbelt sprawl. It was depressing, but it was also probably the peak of all that awful bullshit. The “Nones”—people who follow no organized religion—hit 46 million adults in the United States last year.
Church attendance is plummeting as the Reagan generation of old people finally started falling off their Medicare scooters and into the grave. People under 30 are quickly abandoning the shallow and bizarre American theology of Jesus as No. 1 Patriot as they realize it’s all nonsense and their prescription-drug-addicted homophobic racist parents are idiots who owe $275,000 on a $90,000 tract home a half-hour’s drive from the nearest job.
Perhaps most striking is that one-third of Americans under 30 have no religious affiliation. When comparing this with previous generations under 30, there’s a new wrinkle, says Greg Smith, a senior research at Pew. “Young people today are not only more religiously unaffiliated than their elders; they are also more religiously unaffiliated than previous generations of young people ever have been as far back as we can tell,” Smith tells NPR Morning Edition co-host David Greene. “This really is something new.”
More than half of U.S. congregations shrank during George W. Bush’s second term, and have probably plummeted since then because of continuing death and disappointment. Overall, only 20% of congregations gained people, and conservative Protestant congregations had the biggest losses. And this study only goes as far as 2008, when the presidency was handed to a wine-drinking yuppie Hawaiian atheist who unconvincingly mentions God now and then, when he gets re-elected or has to deal with another gun massacre.