Interesting framing: American faith beliefs and practices down “despite a megachurch surge”

Here is a summary of recent data on religiosity in the United States:

Photo by Luis Quintero on Pexels.com

Church membership, church attendance and belief in God all declined during the pandemic years, survey data suggest, accelerating decadeslong trends away from organized worship.   

At least one-fifth of Americans today embrace no religion at all. Researchers call them “nones.”  

A similar share tell pollsters they do not believe in God, an all-time high.

The lone, striking countertrend is a steep rise in nondenominational Protestants, who attend churches outside the “mainline” denominations — the once-ubiquitous Baptists, Methodists and Lutherans.

The story is set up this way: religion is on the decline and the only phenomena standing out are megachurches. This is an interesting set of evidence to put together. Do religion and megachurches go together or cause each other? Here are just a few ways they might be related:

  1. Religion is down and megachurches are up. (This is what the article suggests in the headline and later in the story.)
  2. Religion is down and megachurches are a last gasp of religion.
  3. Religion is down and megachurches helped contribute to this decline.
  4. Religion is down. And megachurches are not related to this overall pattern.

Which of these options is most accurate? What is the causal link between overall American religiosity and the presence of sizable religious congregations?

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