Yesterday, as I write this, anyhow, a friend popped up in chat and said the following. “Looking at the posting regarding the drop in church membership. I noticed that The highest rate of decline took place from 2010 – 2020. I think that many good folks said goodbye to the church because of the evangelical support for Trump. It was for many, the last straw. It would be interesting to see the statistics from 2015 – 2020. The unholy trinity of Trump, Franklin Graham, and the Falwells & Pool Boy.”
He was referring to reports, like this one from The Hill, that showed membership in a church falling below 50% for the first time, ever. This report was based on US polling data by the Gallup organization. He suggested, as you can see above, that Donald Trump and his followers, many of them evangelicals, may have had something to do with people distancing themselves from religious associations.
While Trump probably did not help in adding credibility to the respectability of religion, I don’t think this decline has a lot to do with Trump. After the Capitol coup-attempt orchestrated by Trump and his rabid followers on January 6, 2021, it makes sense that some might want to distance themselves from this madness. However, this movement away from religion is part of an ongoing trend, and where it will go is anybody’s guess at this point. For another suspect as to who, or what, might be responsible for this change, look no further than your smartphone.
Apple’s iPhone first made its appearance in 2007. By no means was it the first smartphone, but when the shiny touchscreen device appeared, ownership of smartphones, whether Android or iOS (and at the time, BlackBerry) really started to enter the public consciousness. Global sales of smartphones, like the iPhone really started to take off around 2011 or so. Somewhere between 2013 and 2014 or so, more than a billion people owned a smartphone and carried them everywhere. Look at the table below, seen on the Website, “Statista.com” for some visual insight.
This is interesting because, in addition to a device that could reach any other person with a phone on the planet, it gave them access to real time location (aka GPS) and more importantly, a high-resolution camera that could upload to the Internet. Suddenly, over just a few years, ghost sightings, apparitions by saints, miracles, UFO aliens, you name it, all but vanished from the world. It’s as though supernatural beings are afraid of digital photography, or they simply don’t exist.
Also, just to put the final nail in the coffin of said supernatural beings, I can now generate convincing illusions of things that don’t exist, superimposed on real life. For instance, I can have a Star Wars stormtrooper suddenly appear over my shoulder.
Just like that!
He’s not actually there, of course, but that’s the point. I could just as easily have made some superheroes appear, like the Hulk, or a dinosaur, or a tiger. If I can fake anything, with a minimum of effort, then supernatural beings don’t stand a chance of being taken seriously. As time goes on, and this age of AI generated magic becomes even more integrated into our daily lives, even more ‘believers’ will slowly walk away from the Church. At least, I can see the stormtrooper. God, on the other hand, like Samuel Beckett’s “Godot,” will forever remain a no-show.