"Americans are the most religious people of any developed nation, followed by Ireland and Italy. I don't think that is changing in the least. People keep reporting that America is secular, and there is more religious pluralism than before. But, 140 years after Darwin's book, only about 10 percent of Americans are secular, despite all of the science books teaching (evolution), compared to well over 90 percent who believe in God...In Europe, many people hate the church because they hate the government, which runs the church. People in the U.S. have a great contempt for the government, but they love the church...
"Religion in America may be getting more diverse, but evangelical Protestantism is still the dominant force, along with the enormous growth of the Catholic Church in this country, which I attribute to a slightly higher birth rate and to immigration. Pentecostals and charismatics, which used to be considered on the fringe, are now considered mainline."
J. Gordon Melton, director of the Institute of the Study of American Religion, Santa Barbara, Calif.:
"In the last generation, the major religions of the world came here and the projection is that over the next generation we will get the rest of them...As the Muslim community continues to grow, their vote is going to offset the Jewish community's vote and that is going to start effecting foreign policy."
The Rev. James Shopshire, professor of sociology of religion and urban ministry, Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C.:
"At the seminary where I teach, Wesley Theological Seminary, we are getting close to 60 percent women enrolled there and that has reversed over the last 30 years. Many men, especially white men, look at the priestly role as being less and less attractive and fewer...aspire for the ministry now. I do think we won't get too far into (this) century before the Roman Catholic Church will have to say women will have to be priests. I think that is going to happen."
Howard Snyder, professor of the history and theology of mission, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Ky.:
"Religious fundamentalism will continue to prosper globally, but will not become dominant except in some localized situations. Islam will continue to grow in its global impact--but I think will begin to decline in dynamic by about 2050 as it becomes more `modern' and `liberal'. Christianity in China, Korea, Brazil and perhaps some other countries will have increasingly significant global impact...There may be some reboard in some mainline denominations, but I don't think this will be dramatic....The U.S. will experience some sort of religious revival--but it is hard to say yet what shape this will take...
"I see growing global influence of Islam, and of Christianity in some resurgent form, and probably some new hybrid movement or movements, some of which will integrate various New Age themes. Liberal Protestantism has been dying for decades and will be basically defunct in 20 years. History shows that Christianity is amazingly resilient and adaptable to very different cultural contexts, so I don't think we're going to see a "Post-Christian" era--though we are now in a post-Christendom era..The main new fact of our time is that we are now in a global marketplace of world views and ideas--and it is not yet clear who will be the `winners' and `losers' in the new religious community."
The Rev. Charles Partee, professor of church history, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary:
"I don't think that the big players--the Sloane Coffins and others--realized what they had done in the thirties and forties. To stay with their liberal political friends they continued to use the Christological language, but emptied it of its cosmic claim without realizing it. What finally happened is that now, the Presbyterian leaders truly do realize that the universal claim is an embarrassment to their so-called cultured friends who are not religious."
Mark Toulouse, a American religion specialist at Texas Christian University's Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth:
"The earliest mark of Protestantism waning in American life was Will Herberg's book `Protestant, Catholic, Jew' in 1955. It was a real understanding that there was at least three basic ways of being religious in America and that they were equally acceptable...Mainline religion probably had an influence beyond its numbers before the 1950s. But mainline churches certainly have lost influence since then...
"It is happening in all denominations. People are shaping their churches to please their customers...Now, mainline churches searches are seeking to re-discover what it means to be a Christian from their particular viewpoint."
William D. Dinges, who writes on emerging religious movements and teaches at Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C.:
"...You cannot underestimate the significance of Roe v. Wade in terms of being a factor that galvanized the religious right in America...What becomes more important was where a person fell in this liberal-conservative continuum. So people in one denomination of a liberal perspective may in fact have more in common with liberals in another denomination than they would with their co-religionists...
"We are in a very important cultural transformation from the technological-industrial age to an ecologic age. This involves a very fundamental rethinking of our relationship to nature and technology. Organized religion cannot hope to maintain credibility if it does not respond in positive ways to this emerging ecologic concern. You see this in attempts to recover older tradition that were more ecologically sensitive...
"There is a huge cohort of aging baby boomers in this country. As baby boomers get older and older and closer to that final reckoning, I kind of suspect that will keep spirituality on the front burner. Somehow or other, that is going to work to provoke or stimulate an interest in religion or spirituality."
Chester Gillis, theologian at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.:
"Many people identify themselves as spiritual as opposed to religious...They've not given up on the quest for the divine. They have found it in other places, such as (the) New Age (movement). There's a good deal of spirituality about, as much as ever, even if there's a decline in church membership in some venues...
"Christianity will still be the dominant religion in coming years, no question. But I do think the rise of Islam will be a very significant voice, and increasingly so."
Thomas Tweed, professor of religion, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:
"We're moving toward a situation where everyone's a minority. Interfaith relations are no longer optimal. It now becomes inevitable. It's a way of doing business in the public arena... "In a century of bombs, holocausts, and ecological disasters, many people change their inherited faiths. That seeking has led to an anti-institutional mood of Watergate and the Vietnam War. There's an emphasis on personal autonomy and creating a faith...With such significant diversity, people will have to put their religious beliefs aside for any kind of harmony."
. "In 1900 the educational and media establishments would have been favorable toward Christianity; in 2000, they are hostile to Christianity. That is...why we have these controversies all the time. The people who run those institutions are not in harmony with the country...
"Christianity can compete with Islam, using arguments and persuasion, in the open marketplace of ideas or just say `We all believe in the same God.'"
Hal Taussig, coordinator of the doctoral program in early Christian studies, Union Theological Seminary, New York:
"The complex consciousness that's now emerging goes beyond the old fundamentalist-modernist split...so the postmodern recognition of multiple perspectives relativizes the impact and importance of the analytical tradition...Inasmuch as my neighbor is a Muslim from Pakistan, it's not nearly as easy for me to assert that Christianity has all of the truth; I see those neighbors living a life of integrity and faith...
"(Traditional religiosity) is now appreciated for its rootedness. It's a way people can say, `This is who we are in this particular sociocultural setting. It has an integrity in that setting.' But we are careful not to imply that it's the only one."
D.R. Williams, assistant professor of patristics and historical theology at Loyola University, Chicago:
"Before we can responsibly go into the future, we must go back. The formation of a distinct Christian identity in years to come will not be successful unless we deliberately reestablish the link to those resources that provide us with the defining `center' of Christian belief and practice...
"My concern is that free-church Protestant(ism) is so prone to fragmentation because there is no centricity to it. Current evangelical Protestantism is but a mere shadow of what the Protestant Reformation was all about. The key focus of the (evangelical) faith is the Bible, the individual Christian and a community of faith which works not from any historic legacy."
David Roozen, co-director of the Center for Social and Religious Research, Hartford Seminary:
"Experience has become a new point of authority. People say, `If I can feel it, if I can touch it, then it must be true...The shift also helps explain why Holiness and Pentecostal Churches, which were at the margins and nearly invisible in the first half of the century, have done so well and have moved into the middle class. It helps explain why the more liturgical denominations-- the Lutherans, Episcopalians and Catholics--have had a more stable membership than the United Church of Christ...The big question is whether the old-line groups that have been heavily invested in cognitive approaches to religion can make the transition. It will be interesting to see...
"I would say that the fortunes of religion will follow the same route as race relations. If the United States can figure out a good way to affirm racial and ethnic difference in a constructive and unified way, I think that will bode well for religion. If, however, racial difference continue as a point of conflict in society, I think religion will continue to struggle in terms of having a unified impact on society."
William J. McKinney, president of the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif.:
"Today what are you describing when you are talking about religion, it isn't so clear anymore...We will continue to see the spread of radical pluralism."
Francis MacNutt, a former Dominican priest and founder of Christian Healing Ministries Jacksonville, Fla.:
"Things were pretty institutional up until this century, not just the Catholic Church but also the Protestant churches. What's opening up in all these traditions in different ways is the lay people are being energized."
Luke Keefer, professor of church history, Ashland Theological Seminary, Ashland, Ohio:
"Nobody saw two world wars and a great depression coming down and yet those things shaped the soul of the American people. Events that will shape religion in the 21st century are largely unknown and unanticipated...The groups that are most likely to make an impact in the 21st century are those that have a doctrinal identity and history and an openness in terms of atmosphere and methodology."