If recent trends continue, atheists could surpass Christians as the majority faith in the U.S. in less three decades. A recent Pew Research poll looked at four possible ways the trend could play out, with the most likely one seeing "Nones" – as those with no religious affiliation are called – topping the number of Christians sometime around 2050.
The Pew study also shows almost two-thirds of Americans currently say they're Christians. But young Americans have been leaving the faith and turning to atheism in increasing numbers since about 1990. Dr. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist-Dallas says the country is already getting a taste of what that might do to families, culture, and politics.
"I think you're seeing the effects of it right now," the Southern Baptist pastor tells AFN. "This is a gradual decrease, but it's having profound effects on our culture. We are embracing ideas that never would've been embraced 100 years ago."
But, he says, none of this takes God by surprise. "The good news is what Pew Research is predicting was actually predicted by Jesus 2,000 years ago," says Jeffress. "[The Bible tells us] the way that leads to eternal life is narrow, and few are those who find it."
And he says trend is separating the wheat from the chaff.
"Those who are really Christians are in a minority; they're on one side," he shares. "Those who aren't are on the other side.
"But what we're losing is the mushy middle – and that's not a bad thing."
The study says events like disasters or revivals that tend to reverse the trend are not baked in to its conclusions.
Jeffress reminds Christians they need to share their faith more – but advises they not worry for the Church. "Christianity," he says, "has always flourished … not when it's the majority religion, but when it's a minority of believers who are sold out to Jesus Christ."