After several years of stories about Americans going to church more frequently — beginning immediately after the September 11, 2001 attacks — including stories about voters deciding on candidates based on their religion; and having listened to claims from various denominations about how their numbers are up … well, the numbers are finally in, and they’re not good news for religiosity in America, as CNN reports:

America is a less Christian nation than it was 20 years ago, and Christianity is not losing out to other religions, but primarily to a rejection of religion altogether, a survey published Monday found.

Three out of four Americans call themselves Christian, according to the American Religious Identification Survey from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1990, the figure was closer to nine out of 10 — 86 percent.

At the same time there has been an increase in the number of people expressing no religious affiliation.

While it’s good that the total population of the religious is declining in the US, there is — unfortunately — a cloud to go with this silver lining:

The survey also found that “born-again” or “evangelical” Christianity is on the rise, while the percentage who belong to “mainline” congregations such as the Episcopal or Lutheran churches has fallen.

One in three Americans consider themselves evangelical, and the number of people associated with mega-churches has skyrocketed from less than 200,000 in 1990 to more than 8 million in the latest survey.

That fully one-third of the country is evangelical Christian, is most certainly not good news at all, even if the total proportion of religious folk are dwindling. What it means is that religious partisanship and extremism are going up, with an increasing divide between fundamentalists and evangelicals on the one hand, and more liberal theists and non-believers on the other. One can reasonably expect the more vicious and fervent Christians in the US to become more rigid and vocal and less willing to accommodate others.

The survey (by Trinity College in my home state of Connecticut) has its own Web site, in case you wish to look.

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