• The pandemic and other factors have led to dire forecasts about churches, not the least being the Episcopal Church. Writing in the blog Religion in Public (July 15), Ryan Burge notes that the Episcopal Church’s long decline in attendance seemed to have leveled off at about 550,000 shortly before the pandemic. Since then, however, the church has been hit hard by a more intense wave of church dropouts, with average attendance dipping by about 60,000 between 2019 and 2020, a decrease of almost 12 percent in a single year. This means that the church has dropped by one-third between 2000 and 2020. Accompanying this drop in attendance, there was a noticeable reduction in offerings and pledges between 2019 and 2020, indicating that donations are not keeping pace with inflation. Other indicators, including marriages, baptisms, burials, and confirmations, are also in serious free fall. While it could be argued that these declines were natural given the church shutdowns in 2020, Burge finds that right before the pandemic, in 2019, there were only 17,713 baptisms—a nearly 50 percent decline from 2013, when Episcopal dioceses had conducted 33,000 baptisms. Before the pandemic, the church had already lost 30 percent of confirmations. More ominously, in 2019, there were more burials than baptisms and weddings. Burge cautions that the figures to be released for 2022 may well rebound to 2019 levels, and it will be important to find out which activities will come back the fastest or slowest.


  • Although media and scholars increasingly refer to the U.S. as becoming a secularized country, recent surveys of the non-affiliated or “nones” reveal less rejection of religion and more nuance as to spiritual and even religious beliefs. In a study published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion (18:7), Jeff Levin, Matt Bradshaw, Byron Johnson, and Rodney Stark point out that while there obviously have been a growing number of Americans claiming no religious affiliation in most surveys, it is not clear that this has meant rapidly growing non-belief. The researchers reviewed five recent population surveys: the 2018 General Social Survey (GSS), 2017 Values and Beliefs of the American Public survey, 2012 Portrait of American Life Study, 2020 World Values Survey, and the 2018 Chapman University Survey of American Fears. They highlight the GSS findings on atheists and agnostics, where significant percentages were found to have attended religious services at least once a month (6.42 percent of atheists and 27.4 percent of agnostics), prayed at least once a week (12.84 percent of atheists and 58.07 percent of agnostics), and believed in life after death (19.23 percent of atheists and 75 percent of agnostics).The other surveys confirmed these findings to some degree, also showing that a segment of atheists and agnostics meditated, reported that religion and spirituality were important, and believed in miracles. If atheists and agnostics report some religious and spiritual beliefs and activities, then the broad group of “nones” includes even more diversity of beliefs. The researchers argue that media and intellectual elites have fastened on to the idea of religious decline because they tend to identify with mainline Protestantism and apply the long-term declines in this segment of American religion to religion in general. Levin, Bradshaw, Johnson, and Stark conclude that while it may indeed be the case that religiosity is declining, the jury is still out on whether the rise of the nones is a conclusive sign of such a decline.(Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion,


  • While almost 10 million Australians reported having no religion in the census of 2021, and there were one million fewer Christians than in the 2016 census, a new analysis finds that Christianity remains the most common religion in the country (43.9 percent), with non-denominational Christians and Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Christians slightly on the rise. The detailed analysis released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (July 4) finds that migration continues to contribute to shaping Australia’s religious profile: 29.1 percent of migrants who arrived since the previous census were Christian, while 39.9 percent were affiliated with other religions and 28.6 percent claimed no religious affiliation. Although a small group, a striking example of the role of migration in religious change is the religion with the highest proportional growth since the last census—Yezidis fleeing persecution in the Middle East, who benefitted from Australia’s Humanitarian Program focusing on that population. The number of Yezidis in Australia increased from 63 people in 2016 to 4,123 in 2021.It is also thanks to immigration from Southeast Asia and South America that the decrease of Catholicism has been slowed (although the church still lost 215,000 people). On the other hand (as indicated in the June issue of RW), Anglicanism is declining at a fast pace. “From 2016 to 2021, Anglican affiliation had the largest drop in number of all religious denominations—from 3.1 million to 2.5 million people. This was a decrease of nearly one in five Anglicans, from 13.3 percent to 9.8 percent of the population.” The Uniting Church, Presbyterian and Reformed, and Lutheran denominations have also been declining, as well as Pentecostals (although more modestly, with a loss of 4,700 people). As mentioned, Eastern Christian churches have all been increasing, with the Greek Orthodox being the largest of them and accounting for 1.5 percent of Australians in 2021. The decrease in Christian affiliation has been most marked among young adults (18–25 years). The bureau notes that most of the responses in the broad category, “Secular Beliefs and Other Spiritual Beliefs and No Religious Affiliation,” were in the sub-category “No religion,” with about 9.77 million responses. Only 37,800 people chose atheism, 31,680 selected agnosticism, and 2,190 opted for humanism, suggesting that the prospects for a growth of “organized non-religion” look rather low.(Religious affiliation in Australia: Exploration of the changes in reported religion in the 2021 Census,


  • More than 200 religious buildings have been damaged or completely destroyed in Ukraine since Russia invaded the country, according to a report in Bitter Winter (July 18). This count was conducted as part of a project called “Religion on Fire,” launched by the Workshop for the Academic Study of Religions and supported by the Congress of National Communities of Ukraine. The project is aimed at recording and documenting war crimes committed by Russian troops that involve destroying or damaging religious buildings and kidnapping or killing religious leaders in Ukraine. Among the damaged buildings are Christian churches and prayer houses, synagogues and Holocaust memorials (in particular, the Babyn Yar memorial complex in Kyiv), mosques, and buildings of various religious minorities. Many religious buildings have come under fire several times. Ruslan Khalikov writes that most of the damaged or destroyed religious buildings belong to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) of the Moscow Patriarchate, with about 110 damaged buildings. “That is, even belonging to Russian Orthodoxy cannot guarantee the inviolability of either the church building or the community.”Although there are currently no official investigation results in most of the cases, Khalikov writes that “we can reasonably claim that some of the attacks on religious buildings were deliberate due to published testimonies of eyewitnesses who have seen that a specific religious building has been targeted with large-caliber machine guns or other weapons.” The fact that a church was shot at with a machine gun, especially at close range, also indicates that the church was the target. Khalikov concludes that Russia’s aggression against Ukraine aims, among other things, at establishing an “authoritarian, exclusivist approach to religious freedom, which is prevailing in the Russian Federation…This approach is completely different from the religious pluralism existing in Ukraine, which might be lost if Ukrainian territory finds itself, at least temporarily, under Russian occupation.”

    Source: Ukrinform.

    (Bitter Winter,