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US religious leaders explain why belief in God has hit lowest-ever, saying COVID has made it worse

A new Gallup poll shows Americans’ belief in God has reached an all-time low.

And four Christian faith leaders said a variety of factors, including young people filling their lives with things other than God and fears of coronavirus lockdowns, have contributed to the decline.

The poll found that 81% of Americans believe in God, down six points from 2017 and the lowest percentage Gallup has ever recorded. The largest drop in belief across age groups was a 10% drop in 18-29 year olds who say they believe in God.

Bart Barber, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Farmersville in rural East Texas and president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told Fox News Digital that more and more people in the United States “not only don’t have a connection to the faith community, they really don’t have time for it stopping life and contemplating everything spiritual.”

“Even some of the people who profess to be Christians and say they believe in God and have accepted the gospel, for many of them church, contemplation and worship have been pushed aside by the schedule of their lives,” Barber explained.

Rev. Lawrence R. Rast Jr., president of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and a former Lutheran pastor, told Fox News Digital, “People keep searching and thinking about the bigger questions, but they lack dedicated ones Spaces and time set aside for this result in the chaos we currently see around us.”

Young people are the demographic of which Catholic Bishop Robert Barron, bishop-elect of the Diocese of Winona-Rochester and founder of Word on Fire, “worries most” about because they “have inherited the weakening of religious practice” that is common in the United States is widespread in society.

The poll found that the largest drop in belief across age groups was a 10% drop in 18-29 year olds who say they believe in God.
The poll found that the largest drop in belief across age groups was a 10% drop in 18-29 year olds who say they believe in God.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

“When I was a child, my parents took it for granted that we would be taken to Mass, taught the ways of prayer, and learned about the saints. They just immersed us in that world,” Barron recalled. “Well, when you don’t immerse people in that world, you say things like, ‘Oh, it’s up to you, you decide what you want to do when you’re 16.’ You lose all of that. And then we’re surprised that young people are drifting and young people have lost their sense of purpose?”

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, told Fox News Digital that the survey is in some ways unsurprising given churches have lost several generations of parishioners by not “encouraging” young people . Believe.

“We are missing two or three generations of people who have not been immersed in the rhythm or the liturgy of the Church. They are not involved in Church relationships. They do other things,” Bickerton said. “To me, exercising my faith is what pierces my deepened faith in God, and when generations who are not in the church are practicing the rhythm of worship or practicing their faith, it is no surprise that they are now doubting God or does not exist.”

The lack of relationship building and practice of church traditions, which has contributed to the decline in belief in God, has been greatly exacerbated by the coronavirus lockdowns in the United States, faith leaders said.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of young people who are saying, ‘You know, throughout this COVID thing, I’ve come to doubt whether God exists or what my relationship with God is,'” Bickerton said, adding that people care about him approached with questions about the struggle for faith is an “everyday occurrence”.

“You can’t underestimate the power of relationships,” added Bickerton. “So I think the isolation has bred that sense of doubt.”

Barber opened up about a situation during the COVID lockdowns that “moved the needle” for him, when a grandmother in his community urged him to reopen the sanctuary because her son was struggling with depression following the loss of his father and without spiritually and emotionally in a “bad place” was access to worship.

“COVID, when you throw that in, people are even more isolated and people are also being removed from the church,” Barber said. “COVID has accelerated these things that were trends before.”

A study conducted by conservative think tank Just Facts concluded that stress and anxiety caused by coronavirus lockdowns destroy seven times more years of life than are saved by lockdowns, and several studies have shown that alcoholism, drug use and suicides during have increased noticeably during the pandemic.

“You see it at almost every level when there is no way to engage with the community or when there is a targeted rejection of community engagement. Whatever form that takes, people are trying to fill that gap in one way or another,” Rast said. “So higher rates of self-harm, higher rates of suicide, real mental wellbeing issues that people are facing and how are you dealing with that? Well, a lot of the time people self-medicate, so we’ve seen a real increase in that as well.”

Christian church leaders said a variety of factors, including young people filling their lives with things other than God and fear, are behind the decline.
Christian church leaders said a variety of factors, including young people filling their lives with things other than God and fear, are reasons for the decline.
Getty Images

Barron said the pandemic has had a “huge impact” including “a very negative impact on young people” he has seen “up close”.

“The religious practice, prayer, going to mass, going to church, when that fades, the beliefs will fade,” Barron said. “They need to be embodied, they need to be practiced.”

Several faith leaders speaking to Fox News Digital blamed the churches themselves for the declining belief in God in the United States.

Barron told Fox News Digital that the churches deserve some blame for stopping “challenging” young people.

“We’re trying to make religion user-friendly,” Barron said. “We’re trying to make it too accommodating to the culture. no We speak from the old tradition that has been initiating people into the mystery of life and the path and meaning for thousands of years.

“And if we just wring our hands and apologize, then we’re just giving in to the culture and young people will say, ‘The hell with you,’ and they’ll find it compelling and uninteresting. Stop dumbing down faith.”

While the Gallup poll of church leaders gives cause for concern, some faith leaders expressed optimism about the future.
While the Gallup poll of church leaders gives cause for concern, some faith leaders expressed optimism about the future.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Rast told Fox News Digital he believes various scandals in churches across the country have contributed to people straying from their faith.

“I think that’s given permission for a number of people to say to themselves, ‘If this is what the church is about, if this is what Christianity is about, if this is the result of believing in God is, then who needs it?'”

Bickerton said young people at church are disillusioned because they haven’t seen what they hear at church on Sunday that is practiced on Monday.

“I think replacing God with other things is definitely, but I also think the church is to blame on this point because the younger generation is pretty vocal in saying they’re sick of what they hear on Sundays , that’s not what they’re seeing on Monday from the people sitting in the pew,” Bickerton explained.

“The life of our faith is not just a journey of worship, it is an encounter in the world. And the younger generation wants to see how faith is lived in culture. And when it’s not, when there’s contradictions from the people in the church. It raises great doubts in them about, ‘Does that belief really matter?’”

While the Gallup poll raises concerns among church leaders, some of the faith leaders who spoke to Fox News Digital expressed optimism about the future, including Rast. He pointed out that the percentage of people who believe in God in the United States is still higher than in polls in European countries.

“In the long run, what’s really remarkable is that even the most recent Gallup poll shows that just over 80% of Americans believe in God, compared to the rest of Western culture that’s really a remarkable number.”

Barber explained that his optimism about the future stemmed from his study of history and his belief that atheism does not provide the answers that abandoners are looking for.

“There have been many times in the history of Western civilization when societies have become disillusioned with the idea of ​​religion in general, or Christianity in particular, and have turned away from the idea of ​​God or from practicing any belief seen in their parents or Grandparents by choosing to choose something different for themselves,” Barber said.

“But I’m heartened by the fact that after times like this, time and time again in history’s cycles, people are disillusioned with life without God because there are deep questions in life that atheism just won’t address. don’t give good answers.

“So I remain optimistic,” Barber added. “I’m a long-term optimist and a short-term realist about the situation in terms of people and their belief in America right now.”

https://nypost.com/2022/07/03/us-religious-leaders-explain-why-faith-in-god-hit-lowest-level-ever-say-covid-made-it-worse/ US religious leaders explain why belief in God has hit lowest-ever, saying COVID has made it worse

JACLYN DIAZ

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