Writing for the interfaith journal First Things, Mark Movsesian of the St. John’s University Center for Law and Religion (who belongs on your source list) joins those who say the U.S. is experiencing “a decline in religious affiliation among people whose identification was weak to begin with.” As with politics, he proposes, “the middle seems to be dropping out in favor of the extremes on either end.”
Examining the post-2000 mystery, reporters could theorize that priestly molesting scandals undercut Catholic involvement – but they were a continual embarrassment the prior 15 years. Liberals may have been alienated by Protestant churches enmeshed in conservative politicking – but that was the case for two decades before 2000. Many younger Americans reject old-fashioned sexual morality, but churches that upheld that belief fared better than “mainline” Protestants who’ve liberalized since 2000.
So what gives? The Guy proposes that reporters look for underlying societal factors. Americans have eroding faith in all institutions (among which religion is the ultimate institution). And what about the lure of weekend leisure, entertainment and athletics over against attending worship? Perhaps most powerful is the way social-media addiction undercuts face-to-face involvements. How are your area volunteer fire departments or Kiwanis clubs faring?