The decline in Americans identifying as Christian could prove to be “good news,” a podcasting priest told Fox News.
“There is something that is potentially hopeful,” Father Mike Schmitz told Fox News. “Because maybe for the first time in generations we know where people are.”
In 1990, 90% of American adults raised with Christians still identified in this way while still in their 30s, compared to just 65% in 2020, according to a September poll by the Pew Research Center. Similarly, 31% of people over 30 who were raised Christian identified themselves as non-denominational in 2020, compared to just 8% in 1990.
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“If people honestly say, ‘Here’s what I really believe in,’ then as a church we can be honest and say, ‘Okay, I can speak to that,'” Schmitz said. The Roman Catholic priest from Minnesota rose to prominence in 2021 with the release of his podcast, The Bible in a Year, which has consistently topped Apple’s religion and spirituality charts.
Pew predicted that if the decline continues, Christianity could become a minority religion by 2045. Nonetheless, Schmitz hopes that youth today still believe in religious principles, even if they are less likely to identify with any particular organized religion.
“I wonder if people aren’t finally being honest,” Schmitz told Fox News. “They end up saying, ‘My parents ticked the box — I’m Lutheran, I’m Evangelical, I’m Catholic — but they didn’t do anything about it.'”
“They say, ‘I believe in the same kind of God, but I’m not going to check the box,'” he continued.
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Schmitz’s position comes from personal experience. Although he grew up in a Catholic family, Schmitz disliked the church until he suddenly became terminally ill shortly after graduating from high school. He had a spiritual awakening after a priest offered to hear his confession.
Despite the decline in Christianity, more than 81% of American adults believe in God, though that’s an all-time low, a Gallup poll showed in June. In 2020, more than half said religion can still solve most or all of today’s problems.
Schmitz believes that more and more young people believe in what is known as “moralistic therapeutic deism,” a set of commonly held spiritual beliefs that involve belief in a distant god who wants people to be good and wants good people to go to heaven . He fears that an increasingly secular population will lead to a less moral and consequently less free society.
“One of the great messages of Christianity, especially for this incredible country of the United States, is that we have been blessed with freedom,” Schmitz said. “We have also taken responsibility for freedom.”
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He believes a less religious population will mean more chaos, leading to calls for more government intervention.
“The government can only do so much to keep its citizens morally upright,” Schmitz said.
“Religion is not supposed to keep people in line, it’s supposed to give them freedom,” he added. “But not the freedom to do what I want, but the freedom to do what I should.”
Click here to watch the full interview with Schmitz.