Declining Religiosity Is a Problem for America. But It’s Not Inevitable

Noting the quickening decline of religious faith and practice in the U.S., Karl Zinsmeister warns of dire social consequences and urges creative philanthropic solutions:

Even the non-religious should worry about this shift, because society benefits from religiously inspired humanitarian behavior. Those with a religious affiliation give several times as much money to charity as other Americans. The ratio of Americans doing volunteer work in a typical week is 45 percent among weekly churchgoers and 27 percent among non-churchgoers. Decades of research have shown that a greater proportion of religious people get involved in community groups. They have stronger links with their neighbors and are more engaged with their families. . . .

Religious participation also has salutary effects on personal behavior. One classic study found that black males living in inner-city poverty tracts were far less likely to engage in crime and drug use if they attended church and likelier to succeed in school and the workforce. The religious are less poor and less suicidal; they have stronger families. . . .

Concerned citizens should take some cues from the charter-school movement. [For instance, donors could make] investments to beef up the best seminaries, plus fresh approaches like night classes and video instruction that can reach unconventional candidates for the ministry—such as those with job and family responsibilities. . . .

And just as with charters, American civil-society leaders could boost religious behavior by making investments in facilities. Many of the grand, visually inspiring cathedrals and synagogues in the cores of U.S. cities are now occupied by vestigial congregations. . . . Private efforts offering purchase or renovation funds to enable a reallocation of [such houses of worship] from waning religious communities to growing ones would be a boost to social well-being in cities.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at City Journal

More about: American Religion, American society, Civil society

Understanding the Background of the White House Ruling on Anti-Semitism and the Civil Rights Act

Dec. 13 2019

On Wednesday, the president signed an executive order allowing federal officials to extend the protections of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to Jews. (The order, promptly condemned for classifying Jews as a separate nationality, did nothing of the sort.) In 2010, Kenneth Marcus called for precisely such a ruling in the pages of Commentary, citing in particular the Department of Education’s lax response to a series of incidents at the University of California at Irvine, where, among much elase, Jewish property was vandalized and Jewish students were pelted with rocks, called “dirty Jew” and other epithets, and were told, “Jewish students are the plague of mankind.”

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month


Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Commentary

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, U.S. Politics