As worshipers packed churches on Easter Sunday, Rodman Armas crowded into the American Airlines Arena with his 6-year-old son, Anthony, to cheer for the Miami Heat as its NBA playoff series began.
“Going to church is not a big deal for us. We pray in our home,” Mr. Armas said.
As the lives of many Americans today fill up with sporting events, kids’ activities and answering email, studies suggest we’re squeezing in religion how and when it’s convenient — if at all.
“People are very busy, but it’s a matter of what they prioritize,” said the Rev. Tim Lozier, pastor of Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Jacksonville, Fla.
Study after study tells us that Americans are less religious than we used to be. Recently, a survey of 804 children by the Bible Society found young people had little understanding of the true meaning of Easter, or of the Bible itself. The research triggered the Bible Society to launch a “Pass It On” campaign, challenging parents to help keep the Bible alive for future generations by telling stories each night over the Easter period.
Yet a survey by the American Bible Society found a huge drop in the number of adults reading the Bible, most citing a lack of time.
For many of worshipers, Easter Sunday was a rare appearance. The percentage of Americans who say they “seldom” or “never” attend religious services has risen in the past decade — to 29 percent from 25 percent a decade ago, according to Pew Research Center surveys.
Pew also has identified a movement toward Americans leaving religion in droves. One-fifth of all Americans — a significant number from anyone’s perspective — claim no affiliation when asked to state their religious preference. The number of people without religious affiliation has doubled in the past two decades. This is particularly true of millennials, our young generation and the nation’s future parents.
Some blame the Internet for Americans losing religion. Allen Downey, a computer scientist at the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts, says the increase in Internet usage since 1990 has a significant correlation with the drop in religion.
Others point to factors such as the rise of working mothers, the increase of organized activities and homework, the 24/7 culture and the struggle for work/life balance.
Meanwhile, some religious institutions are trying to evolve — offering young adult services on Saturday nights, live streaming of services on the Internet, integration with social media and contemporary worship music.
“People are not too busy for religion if organized religion adapts to the way in which people are living their modern lives,” said Eric Stillman, president of the Jewish Federation of Broward County, Fla. “They don’t want the obligations that come with membership. They want to pick and choose what’s convenient and to do so in way similar to going to restaurant and ordering a la carte.”
Rev. Lozier says people no longer feel compelled to build their personal schedules around attending religious services. They no longer feel “expected” to go to church on Sundays, nor compelled to go for a sense of community. Still, his Jacksonville church has a congregation of 700 families, many of them minorities, whom he continually coaxes to participate: “Even in our day to day busy-ness, we need God at some level.”
Cindy Krischer Goodman is CEO of BalanceGal LLC, a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life. She can be reached at email@example.com.Florida - Miami Heat - NBA Southeast Division - NBA Eastern Conference - Jacksonville