Reese explains that mainline denominations (many of whom I link to on the right) are much less significant now than in the 1960. In 1960, 26 of 179 million Americans were members of mainline churches. In 2000, 21 of 280 million Americans were. That is a reduction in membership of 20%, but more importantly, the membership represents only 7.4% of the population instead of 14.4%.
I think this is troubling because I believe that mainline denominations offer a place for thinking Christians. Certainly many congregations from mainline denominations do not do so. But in general, I believe these denominations do. So, I’m sad to see them shrinking for reasons other than the fact that I am a member of one such denomination.
Even a bigger deal for me, is how much less religious America is today. Reese looks at two measures of religiousness, raised with a religion & currently affiliated with a religion, for three groups: 80-90 yr olds, 40-50 yr olds, & 27-31 yr olds. 97% of 80-90 yr olds were raised with a religion back in the 1910’s and 96% still affiliate. For the 40-50 yr olds 96% were raised with religion but only 89% affiliate now. The young adults raised with religion is 87%, with 27% of them already saying they have no religious preference.