America is losing its religion

New surveys show Americans’ membership in communities of worship has declined sharply in recent years, with less than 50% of the country belonging to a church, synagogue or mosque.

Why it matters: The accelerating trend towards a more secular America represents a fundamental change in the national character, one that will have major ramifications for politics and even social cohesion.

By the numbers: Gallup poll released last week found just 47% of Americans reported belonging to a house of worship, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% as recently as 1999.

The big picture: The story of a more secular America is chiefly — though not entirely — one of generational change.

Yes, but: Generational replacement — the idea that society-wide changes in values between the young and the old can be attributed to their different circumstances growing up — doesn’t tell the entire story.

The catch: Just because conventional religious practice is on the decline doesn’t mean Americans will have no need to fill what the journalist Murtaza Hussain calls the country’s “God-shaped hole.”

What’s next: As religion decreasingly becomes something Americans practice, it may instead become another identity, subsumed into the ongoing culture wars.

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