Should religion, including Christianity, continue to decline as shown in a recent analysis by the Pew Research Center, leading to an increase in the population with no religion, Americans may not just lose their faith but their health, too, according to a father-daughter research team.
Brian Grim, who is president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, and his daughter, Melissa Grim, who is a senior research fellow and project director at the foundation, published a study in 2016 showing how religion contributes some $1.2 trillion annually to the socio-economic value of the American economy.
They followed up that study with another in 2019 published in the Journal of Religion and Health that valued the work of nearly 130,000 congregation-based substance abuse recovery support programs in the U.S. at up to $316.6 billion.
“We find that these faith-based volunteer support groups contribute up to $316.6 billion in savings to the U.S. economy every year at no cost to taxpayers,” the researchers recalled in a brief published by the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation on Saturday.
“While negative experiences with religion (e.g., clergy sex abuse and other horrendous examples) have been a contributory factor to substance abuse among some victims, given that more than 84% of scientific studies show that faith is a positive factor in addiction prevention or recovery and a risk in less than 2% of the studies reviewed, we conclude that the value of faith-oriented approaches to substance abuse prevention and recovery is indisputable,” they noted. “And, by extension, we also conclude that the decline in religious affiliation in the USA is not only a concern for religious organizations but constitutes a national health concern.”
The recent Pew analysis projected religious composition in the U.S. under multiple switching scenarios for the first time, as part of the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project which analyzes religious change and its impact on societies around the world.
In the study, Pew highlights four hypothetical scenarios out of several possibilities to demonstrate how the U.S. religious landscape might change over the next half century. The impact of younger Christian adults abandoning their faith without limitation was modeled in one of those scenarios.
While the other three scenarios reflect varying degrees of religious disaffiliation, “they all show Christians continuing to shrink as a share of the U.S. population, even under the counterfactual assumption that all switching came to a complete stop in 2020.” The ranks of the unaffiliated, however, are projected to grow under all four scenarios.
“Of course, it is possible that events outside the study’s model — such as war, economic depression, climate crisis, changing immigration patterns or religious innovations — could reverse current religious switching trends, leading to a revival of Christianity in the United States,” the researchers noted. “But there are no current switching patterns in the U.S. that can be factored into the mathematical models to project such a result.”