top of page

Believers IMPACT Series: The Rise of the Religious 'Nones' in the Black Religious Experience?

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

In 1980, Donald Grey Barnhouse released a book entitled The Invisible War, a biblical exploration of the colossal conflict between good and evil which takes place in the spiritual and mental realm of believer’s life. Barnhouse’s book accentuates the writing of St. Paul to the Ephesus congregation,

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” Ephesians 6:12

Things have not changed much for Christian believers since Barnhouse’s seminal study. On the cusp of a new millennium, faith is dwindling, belief in something, anything, is on life support. Probe the religious foundation of ten different people as to what they cherish as “belief”, and you will get ten different responses.

This is nothing new. The Bible warns of a falling away from the faith on the heels of the advance of secularism.

Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons. 1 Timothy 4:1

This phenomenon is acutely felt among black Christians, though it has managed to slip under the radar of public consciousness and conversation. But as cultural attitudes shift, book ended by the global pandemic and the precipitous rise in inflation, black religious faith is facing perhaps its most daunting period in American history.

While African Americans have historically outranked other demographics in religious practice, attendance and belief, evidence is mounting that this could be changing – and for the worse!

According to polls, black America is becoming increasingly if not deliberately less religious at a time in our peculiar American experience in which we need faith now more than ever. And while there may be a multitude of factors which help to explain this trend, a more subtle hint lies beneath: the slow and steady climb of African Americans who are disassociating from a religious foundation.

We are witnessing the rise of the nones – the percentage of black Americans who cite “none” as a religious category or who claim no religious affiliation.

Consider these recent statistics:

  • The proportion of Black adults who say church involvement is overall “desirable” is on the decline, from 90 percent in 1996 (71% “very” + 19% “somewhat”) to just 74 percent today (44% “very” + 30% “somewhat”).

  • Another poll shows that 34.9% of blacks identified as “nones” in 2020 – up from 19.5% in 2008 (Cooperative Election Study).

  • 30% of all Black Americans claim the descriptor “spiritual not religious”. And to add to all of this, consider that when most of the African Americans who are leaving religion behind, they are not necessarily clinging to agnostic or atheist perspectives, as African Americans represent just 4-6% of these categories respectively. Now, it is easy to suggest that the above statistics and others do not really portend any monumental spiritual crisis or that said statistics merely represent a drop in the proverbial bucket. That is, until you consider what’s being revealed at the core of our faith at its crisis point and how those tremors portend a greater disturbance. For example,

  • Overall, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious psychological distress compared to the rest of Americans ~Pew Research

  • In California alone, the rate of suicide for Black teens has doubled since 2014 after a years-long lowering compared to White and Asian teens.

  • Emerging from the global pandemic places far more financial, mental, and psychological stress on African Americans compared to other ethnic groups, especially when five common stressors of occupation, finances, relationships, racial bias, and violence are added to the mix. ~National Library of Medicine

This we know for certain: the battle for belief is a battle for the mind. It is our way of thinking, our mental dictate, that determines our whether we remain faithful to God. Paul writes,

But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3

It is not the advance in mental “illness” as much as it is the dearth of mental toughness as we struggle to adjust “mentally” in a physical environment. We are witnessing an assault on the senses and this assault is resulting in a steady yet troubling rise in spiritual casualties.

So, what to do? Or, in the immortal words of Dr. King, where do we go from here? How does this impact us? What does it mean for the future of black faith and religious experience?

I will address this in a future article.

Pastor W. Eric Croomes Ministries Faith Influencer. Executive Director: The Charley and Dorothy Croomes Foundation. Creator of the Watch Your Life Series. I speak about the excellency of His name in all the earth and how that transforms our reality. articleshashtag#wellnesshashtag#stronglifehashtag#lifestronghashtag#fitnesshashtag#empowermenthashtag#goallthewayuphashtag#bodymindspirit

13 views0 comments


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page