I was the Mayor of Fargo for 16 years. This was while being a professor of economics and NDSU. Later I became active in the Red River Freethinkers. While I no longer live in Fargo-Moorhead the focus of my blog remains there.


What Do Smaller Christian Numbers Mean


Occasionally I read a full-throated attack on the reports of declining Christian numbers. All the numbers from surveys are about the same. Thus, when one pundit says Christian numbers are declining and another says they are not we have to look more closely at what each is saying.
We need to remember the obvious about these survey numbers. The surveys are asking people, "What is going on in your head?" To the extent respondents are willing to truthfully reveal what is in their heads the surveys are accurate. Science has not figured out how to see inside the mind of another person.
Those who claim Christian numbers reflect a strong and healthy Christian presence interpret the decline as merely a more accurate accounting of what has always been the case. That is, they say, a significant number of people who attend church have always been people who were indifferent to the faith but participated for other reasons. In past surveys they self identified with a branch of Christianity.  They now call themselves not affiliated with any denomination or faith and are called "nones". The number of devoted religious people has not fallen defenders of the faith say.
This way of calling the Christian faith robust is not incorrect. What the declining numbers tell us about the future of the faith is open to speculation.
The only aspect of Christianity, or any other religion practiced in the U.S., that is important is how it affects lives of those outside the various faiths. If people outside the faiths never have to conform to what those inside the faiths believe the two are never in conflict. Conversely, if those outside the faith are pushed to participate there is a problem.
I would propose the influence of Christians on non Christians through laws and customs is less a matter of what people say is inside their heads and more about hard numbers. This includes the sizes of major denominations and the money coming into the various coffers of the faith.
When these numbers decline instead of grow something important is changing.

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