May 11, 2015 – Baptist News Global – Ken Camp

Conference speakers highlight statistics and trends showing that in the U.S. and around the world, faith is on the rise.

Reports about the imminent death of religion, the rise of secularization and the growth of atheism largely ignore facts or rely on faulty research, scholars from Baylor University’s Institute for Studies of Religion said during a recent conference.

Reports emphasizing the rise of “nones” and the massive flight of Millennials from organized religion greatly exaggerate — and sometimes misinterpret — hard data, said Byron Johnson, distinguished professor of the social sciences at Baylor and founding director of the Institute for Studies of Religion.

“There’s a story some people want to report — that religion is on life support — but it’s just not true,” he asserted.

Surveys that report Millennials have left the faith of their parents often really mean they have stopped attending church for a few years or identify with a nondenominational church rather than a Mainline denomination — not that they have abandoned Christianity, he said, pointing to findings from the Baylor Religion Survey.

While Mainline Protestant denominations declined 49 percent from 1960 to 2000, other religious groups — including evangelicals — registered dramatic growth, he said. Some researchers and reporters fail to consider the phenomenon of religious “switching” — moving from one Christian group to another, he said.

Johnson sees “switching” as evidence of religious health and vitality, rather than decline.

The Baylor Religion Survey — with more than 350 religion-related questions — explores the nuances and complexities of how people self-identify in terms of faith, he said.

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