America’s on-off relationship with divinity isn’t easy to track
Church attendance does not really work as a proxy for religiosity
If religion in America were bought and sold like a stock, now might be a good time to short it. In recent months, a number of pundits have declared that the American love affair with organized religion—and Christianity in particular—is over. Recent surveys suggest that church attendance, already faltering in the 21st century, still hasn’t recovered in the wake of the pandemic. But before we conclude that Americans are headed for a godless future, consider the longer ebb and flow of religiosity in the US. In the distant past, organized religion often lost adherents, only to rebound a generation later. And in modern times, church attendance has proven misleading, leading some otherwise-sensible observers to assume that secular thinking will triumph.