The Decline of Mainline Protestant Churches: The Slippery Slope of Liberalism

Liberal Protestant Churches in the United States are in significant decline. They are hemorrhaging members. Fundamentalist Protestant Churches on the other hand are holding their own or even growing. Why?

Conservative Christians will say that this phenomenon is due to liberals abandoning the historic teachings of Jesus and his apostles. God is punishing them! I call it the Slippery Slope Phenomenon.

At one point in time several centuries ago, all Christian Churches held to the inerrancy of the Bible. Whatever the Bible said about doctrine, morality, and social norms in the first century AD was still valid today. Women should be subordinate to men. Only men should serve as priests or pastors. Divorce was a terrible sin. Homosexuality was unthinkable let alone compatible with the teachings of Jesus.

At some point in the nineteenth century, highly educated, upper and upper-middle class post-enlightenment Protestant academics began to question the appropriateness of modern educated people believing in the reality of ancient supernatural tales and holding to the morality of the people who (invented?) those ancient supernatural tales. Mainline Protestant theologians and clergy began to abandon biblical inerrancy. Biblical inerrancy was seen as fundamentalist ignorance. Fundamentalists were seen as ignorant, knuckle-dragging country bumpkins. Educated Christians know better: The Bible must be reinterpreted through a modern lens.

But superstitions, especially fear-based superstitions like Christianity, work best when the masses believe they are 100% literally true. Once you inform the masses that their supernatural belief system is not entirely literally true; that some parts are literally true but other parts are not; that to know the difference one must spend years and years of study in a divinity school; the masses start to wise up…and leave the Church. Or they go to a church where the reality of their superstitions is reinforced.

Liberal Christianity is dying. Not because the intent of liberals was bad, but because superstitions and enlightened thought are incompatible.

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End of post.

14 thoughts on “The Decline of Mainline Protestant Churches: The Slippery Slope of Liberalism

  1. Fear-based? Christianity? That’s about as informed as the idea that pedophilia is a wholesome and viably acceptable practice…oh, wait. Pedophiles are beginning to be defended by the perverse crowd, so many that’s a bad example…

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Hi, Gary. No. Punishment is not what it’s about. What the Bible teaches is where the sin is placed. Those who choose to try and pay for their own sins will spend an eternity trying to do so. Those who place their faith in Yahshuah will receive release from the penalty of their sin since He paid for them for those who trust in Him.

        Now, yes, there are some who choose to not believe that, and that is what it is. We all have the freedom to choose which path to take. God doesn’t cast anyone into Hell. It’s a choice, and a very simple one.

        As I recall, you want evidence. You want to see God to believe in Him. On the other side of that is a Sovereign who has already shown Himself to the world, and they still chose to not believe, so His appearing to you would likely make no difference. If it would, then He has chosen to not want people to follow Him only because He demonstrated Himself to them. He wants people who look upon what He has provided as evidence all around us, which destroys the “blind faith” dodge. Those who will not believe on the basis of what He has shown to us all, they fail to understand that God has established that we must follow Him on His terms, not the subjective terms men may lay down as their gauntlet.

        You also seem to have gravitated over to that other narrative where the guy instructed you all to avoid arguments against naturalistic origins. Very convenient indeed. That makes the conversation all one-sided, which is no conversation at all, so that too was a dead end on the basis of irrationality. So, dare we speak of blind faith, that’s indeed blind faith to think that nothing created everything, and that nothing has the ability to create the vast complexities of life, thought, ethics, symbiosis, et al.

        So, the unwillingness to address the origins and beginnings of all things pushes into the realm of impossibility us having a rational conversation about it all by trying to jump into the middle or end, and make sense of anything. In the field of science, we seek the origins for an understanding of what is. Origins is a vital part of understanding the whole.

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        1. Thank you for your reply to my question.

          “God doesn’t cast anyone into Hell. It’s a choice, and a very simple one.”

          But who is it that will “cast” me into Hell? Will I willingly jump into Hell by my own choice? I don’t think so. Someone is going to have to push me. Who will that be?

          “the unwillingness to address the origins and beginnings of all things pushes into the realm of impossibility us having a rational conversation about it all by trying to jump into the middle or end, and make sense of anything.’

          I don’t know if you are aware of this but recently I converted to deism. I believe there was a creator. I just don’t believe the creator was your god, Yahweh/Jesus the Christ, or the Muslim god, or the Mormon god, or the Hindu god, etc.. So, we can skip the argument about origins and beginnings and go directly to the evidence for the existence of your god and his torture chamber, Hell. Do you have any good evidence for these entities?

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        2. Question: How would a court of law (and the court of public opinion) respond to the following hypothetical situation:

          One day I tell my wife: “Honey, I love you more than anything in the world. But if you ever reject me and leave me, I will tie you up and throw you into a pit of fire to be burned alive. I won’t want to do it. It will break my heart. But it will be your fault, not mine. You made the choice to be burned alive.”

          No one with a reasonable, rational mind is going to accept the argument that it was my wife’s choice and fault to be burned alive. So Christians need to stop and think when they use the same irrational logic to justify their god, Jesus, casting non-believers into a lake of fire. Jesus the Christ is the one making the choice to commit a horrible crime, not the non-believer.

          (Thankfully, Jesus the resurrected Christ does not exist, so no one needs to worry about this scenario.)

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  2. I’ve been watching a fair number of the videos this guy makes about the histories of denominations while I’m on the treadmill at the gym. He is pretty fair and balanced, and just deals with the data without preaching or condemning. He even made a video explaining why he doesn’t take sides – because there are already a bunch of people doing that..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Further to my previous comment, I sent the guy a message asking if he could do a video on the numbers of Evangelical conservative colleges and scholars vs the number of liberal and non affiliated secular religious studies depts and scholars but I never heard back. Probably too tall an order – not enough available data. Sure would be nice to know, though, given each side always claims the majority of scholars are on their side.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Simple question: If liberal religious denominations are dying because they don’t induce fear, why didn’t they die decades ago? Why is it that this is suddenly happening today when liberal Christian denominations have been around for ages?

    In my opinion there are a lot of sociological aspects to fundamentalism, and what they reinforce (mainly ignorance through indoctrination), that has made it easier for them to withstand the onslaught of an ever increasingly secularized society. Leave a liberal denomination and most of your friends and family non-religious anyways, and won’t stop being your friend because you stopped attending services. OTOH, leave a fundamentalist church, which tends to be much more cult like, reinforcing that you should only associate with other “good Christians”, and the cost to secularizing can be much stronger.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. “Simple question: If liberal religious denominations are dying because they don’t induce fear, why didn’t they die decades ago?”

      They have been in decline since the 60’s according to the author of this video.

      If people are told they no longer need to fear eternal punishment, it is much easier to sleep in on Sunday morning. Once that becomes a habit, and you also stop taking your children to church on Sunday morning, the cycle of people adopting the religious beliefs and practices of their parents is broken.

      I believe you are right. Fundamentalist Christianity is a cult.

      Liked by 1 person

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