Religion in America


#1

I’ve heard lots of statements about how Protestantism is growing in America while Catholicism is in the decline. I have a theory…this theory is not meant to offend or degrade anyone, just some personal observations:

I think Protestantism is “doing better” in America because it doesn’t require a major change like Catholicism does. True Catholicism requires that a person change their mind, habits, actions, etc. However, in Protestantism if you don’t like the way your church is going you can just up and move to one that fits what you believe. And since Americans are so “independent” and “self-made”, it is easier for them to accept the many varieties of Protestantism than to accept the hard truths of Catholicism.

I have two Protestant friends who have told me that basically they couldn’t be Catholic because it would require them to change the way they act. I always thought truth was what was really important.


#2

I gave my life to christ and became a protestant about a year ago. I totally changed my way of life and the way I view life. I now have a purpose to fulfill that is not the one I was heading for. I now live for what Christ wants for my life. I don’t believe it is fair to say that that is not the protestant religion. That is all I have been taught and all the bible says.


#3

Actually I saw a story the other day that said it was the other way around … for the first time in history, America is less than 50% protestant. It is protestantism that is in decline.


#4

Actually I saw a story the other day that said it was the other way around … for the first time in history, America is less than 50% protestant. It is protestantism that is in decline.

I believe I read something similar…it’s been a few weeks ago though.


#5

[quote=ONLYONECHRIST]I gave my life to christ and became a protestant about a year ago. I totally changed my way of life and the way I view life. I now have a purpose to fulfill that is not the one I was heading for. I now live for what Christ wants for my life. I don’t believe it is fair to say that that is not the protestant religion. That is all I have been taught and all the bible says.
[/quote]

I have no doubt of that, and I am not trying to say that you haven’t completely changed. Maybe I should have made a better explanation on my original post. Let’s say that your pastor gives a sermon about some aspect of faith that you just don’t agree with. As a Protestant, you can just switch to another church that agrees with your beliefs. You can’t do that as a Catholic.


#6

[quote=tkdnick]I have no doubt of that, and I am not trying to say that you haven’t completely changed. Maybe I should have made a better explanation on my original post. Let’s say that your pastor gives a sermon about some aspect of faith that you just don’t agree with. As a Protestant, you can just switch to another church that agrees with your beliefs. You can’t do that as a Catholic.
[/quote]

A very good point! Perhaps we should refer to that as “Caferteria Christianity”? :hmmm: :irish1:


#7

[quote=tkdnick]Let’s say that your pastor gives a sermon about some aspect of faith that you just don’t agree with. As a Protestant, you can just switch to another church that agrees with your beliefs. You can’t do that as a Catholic.
[/quote]

Oh really? I’ve done it many times. Apparently you haven’t attended very many different Catholic churches or gotten to know a variety of pastors. Just as we are all different and respond to different environments, some Catholic churches will fit us better than others.

I’m not saying this is the way its should be but it is the reality.


#8

[quote=tkdnick]I have no doubt of that, and I am not trying to say that you haven’t completely changed. Maybe I should have made a better explanation on my original post. Let’s say that your pastor gives a sermon about some aspect of faith that you just don’t agree with. As a Protestant, you can just switch to another church that agrees with your beliefs. You can’t do that as a Catholic.
[/quote]

I think your experience with Protestantism is a bit limited. I grew up Protestant - everyone I knew, friends, family, acquaintances, etc. who was Christian was a Protestant. Not one of them would EVER dream of changing churches because of a teaching they questioned. Precisely because their pastors lack the authority that apostolic succession gives Catholic priests, bishops, etc., there would be no reason to feel that what your pastor was saying was absolutely binding or obligatory–you could happily disagree with him and continue to be a faithful church member.

Case in point: One of my brothers belongs to Zion Church of Christ. He and his wife disagree with the church’s doctrinal acceptance of active homosexuals. But it’s THEIR CHURCH, they will never leave it to start their own thing. (incidentally, lots of Catholics who disagree with the Church’s stance on ABC have the same attitude…)

This whole starting new churches thing is pretty much limited to fundamentalist and pentecostal movements. Most self-respecting Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, etc. would laugh at the idea of going off to start their own congregation.

Finally, I have to take issue with your view that Protestants don’t demand a complete change of life in accordance with faith. In my experience, because Protestantism lacks the cultural trappings of Catholicism, it’s much harder to be a lax Protestant. I mean that often, people raised Catholic remain Catholics nominally only because that’s what their family and, often, their culture is, it’s the only faith they know. While they don’t agree with most of what the Church teaches, they attend Mass a few times a year and most of their theological concepts are distinctly Catholic. Daily Bible reading, prayers and study - forget it. Conspicuously chaste dating relationships? Nope. But they still call themselves Catholic.

In contrast, most Protestants who give up their faith or lose it utterly cease to present themselves or think of themselves as Christian. In other words, if you’re going to be a Protestant Christian, you’re obviously going to be an active one. Most Protestants I know would never bother with Christianity at all if they didn’t strongly believe the the fundamental precepts of the faith and the practical demands of that faith; you don’t find a lot of people just along for the ride. Rather, the mentality seems to be that if you really belive Jesus died for your sins and wants you to live in an active relationship of love of God and neighbor, every day and week of your life must be given to that relationship. The practice of daily devotionals and weekly Bible study or Sunday school is extremely common for most Protestants.

Obviously, lax Christians exist everywhere and in all churches, and it would be both wrong and misleading to try and determine who is better than whom. As a Catholic, I of course believe that it is in the Church and by means of the sacraments that we have access to the fullness of truth and the deepest communion with God. However, I have experienced all my life that most Protestants seem to do much more to actively grow in faith with the teachings they have than many of us Catholics who have the tremendous privilege of the Eucharist, Confession, etc. We have much to learn from our separated brothers and sisters.


#9

[quote=patg]Oh really? I’ve done it many times. Apparently you haven’t attended very many different Catholic churches or gotten to know a variety of pastors. Just as we are all different and respond to different environments, some Catholic churches will fit us better than others.
[/quote]

But it was always a Catholic church. Not one Catholic, one nondenominational, and one Church of Christ.


#10

[quote=buzzcut]Actually I saw a story the other day that said it was the other way around … for the first time in history, America is less than 50% protestant. It is protestantism that is in decline.
[/quote]

So what makes up the rest?


#11

[quote=maendem]I think your experience with Protestantism is a bit limited. I grew up Protestant - everyone I knew, friends, family, acquaintances, etc. who was Christian was a Protestant. Not one of them would EVER dream of changing churches because of a teaching they questioned. Precisely because their pastors lack the authority that apostolic succession gives Catholic priests, bishops, etc., there would be no reason to feel that what your pastor was saying was absolutely binding or obligatory–you could happily disagree with him and continue to be a faithful church member.

[/quote]

Didn’t really think of the “authority” issue. That’s a good point. I wasn’t saying that Protestants will change, but that they can change. They are free to move wherever and whenever.


#12

[quote=tkdnick]So what makes up the rest?
[/quote]

Here’s something I Googled, although it doesn’t say how up to date it is. Last date on the page is 2002.

religioustolerance.org/us_rel4.htm

Denomination
Membership in thousands (add three zero’s onto the end)

Roman Catholic Church
60,191

Baptist Churches *
36,613

Non-religious *
23,000

Methodist Churches
13,533

Pentecostal Churches *
10,606

Lutheran Churches
8,350

Eastern Orthodox Churches
5,302

Islam
5,100 (estimates vary greatly)

Latter-Day Saints *
4,766 (Mormon)

Judaism
4,300

Presbyterian Churches
4,193

Episcopal Church
2,505

Reformed Churches
2,039

Churches of Christ
1,651

Atheists *
1,500

Neopagans *
1,000 (estimates vary greatly)

  • Believed to be rapidly increasing in numbers (on a percentage basis)

Subrosa


#13

[quote=tkdnick]But it was always a Catholic church. Not one Catholic, one nondenominational, and one Church of Christ.
[/quote]

I believe the condition of your heart whether in “denomination” shopping or “Priest” shopping is the same - so I do not believe there is any distinction.


#14

Here’s the survey.

www-news.uchicago.edu/releases/04/040720.protestant.shtml

In round numbers:

Protestant 50%
Catholic 25%
All other religions added together 10%
No religion at all 15%

So to challenge the thesis of this thread … protestantism is **not ** doing better. It is “no religion” that is doing better, and it is doing so at the expense of protestantism.


#15

Heard about this on a Protestant radio station this morning (Klove). It came from something called the Yearbook on religion or something like that:
[font=Arial]America’s mainline churches suffered a decline in membership while Pentecostal and historic African American churches grew in numbers over the past year, according to the recently released 2005 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches[/font]

According to this year’s statistics, the Catholic Church remained the largest faith group in the U.S. with 67,259,768 members and a growth rate last year of 1.28 percent. The second largest denomination in the U.S. is still the Southern Baptist Convention with 16,439,603 members and a growth rate of 1.18 percent. The United Methodist Church is third largest with a reported membership of 8,251,175 and a growth rate of .002 percent.

Other churches that have continued to grow in 2004 are the Assemblies of God, 2,729,562 members and a growth rate of 1.57 percent; the Episcopal Church, 2,320,221 members and a growth rate of .57 percent; and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, 1,432,795 members and a growth rate of .14 percent.

According to the yearbook, the churches that lost members are: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 4,984,925 members, down 1.05 percent; the Presbyterian Church (USA), 3,241,309 members, down 4.87 percent; The Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod), 2,488,936 members, down .95 percent); American Baptist Churches in the USA, 1,433,075 members, down 3.45 percent; and the United Church of Christ, 1,296,652 members, down 2.58 percent.


#16

In my own (limited) experience, the Protestants I know are far more apt to change the way they act than the majority of Catholics I encounter on a day to day basis. The reason certain (not all) Protestant groups have experience growth is because people who are looking for God are looking for clear guidance on where to stand regarding morality. While it may be true that the Church’s teaching on these matters is very clear, I have been to many parishes along the west coast of the U. S. and I don’t hear a lot from the pulpit.

Those Protestant churches (and Catholic parishes) that are thriving are those whose pastor stands up and actually talks about sin and tells the congregation to avoid it. The U. S. bishops couldn’t even make a united stand to deny pro-abortion “Catholic” politicians Communion - a purely religious issue. We will see a resurgence in Catholicism when our bishops start to act like shepherds and make stands for the faith even if doing so means great sacrifice for the Church in the U. S.


#17

[quote=theMutant]In my own (limited) experience, the Protestants I know are far more apt to change the way they act than the majority of Catholics I encounter on a day to day basis.
[/quote]

Guess I should have made this disclaimer when I first started this thread.


#18

[quote=MasonsMommy]I believe the condition of your heart whether in “denomination” shopping or “Priest” shopping is the same - so I do not believe there is any distinction.
[/quote]

Priest shopping? It doesn’t matter what priest is pastor of your church, the church teaching remains the same.
If a priest teaches let’s say for example that birthcontrol is ok than he is heretic and not in-line with Catholic teaching. If you as a lay Catholic choose a priest because of his personal views knowing full well the it is against Churches teachings then you are a heretic too.

God does not change, He is not politically correct. He does not take opinion polls to figure out what teachings need to change in order to increase his flock.


#19

[quote=MasonsMommy]I believe the condition of your heart whether in “denomination” shopping or “Priest” shopping is the same - so I do not believe there is any distinction.
[/quote]

change denomination and the tenets of the faith/the teaching/doctrines change.

changeing the priest/parish does not change the teaching/doctrine. All is bound under one banner and one Holy Faith as promulgated by the Magisterium of the Church. The priest could be a heretic, sure, and you feel more comfortable being led by a priest who teaches otherwise than the Church’s teachings, but that doesn’t alter the basic fact.


#20

My guess is that the increase in American Catholicism is the result of hispanic immigration rather than the Church’s intrinsic ability to win people’s allegiance. I think that tkdnick’s opinion is correct: America’s independent spirit gives Catholicism a hard row to hoe.

“Americanization” is a word used in Catholic studies for the fact that American Catholics aren’t submissive the way Catholics in other countries are. As I’ve posted elsewhere on this board, I’ve seen all the Catholic students in a Catholic college classroom say that they take care of confession on their own (without a priest) before attending mass and receiving the Eucharist. Since then I’ve met other Catholics who tell me that they do the same.

That’s America for you!


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