Joshua Gill | Religion Reporter
Self-identified practitioners of witchcraft in the U.S. outnumber Presbyterian Christians, thanks in part to Millennials embrace of New Age spirituality.
The declining congregation of the U.S. Presbyterian Church has, as of 2017, fallen below the rapidly growing number of people in the U.S. who practice some form of New Age spirituality, which includes neo-Paganism, Wicca, Native American religions and Eastern mysticism, according to data from the Pew Research Center and the PCUSA.
New Age practitioners comprised 0.4 percent of the U.S. population in 2014, numbering up to 1.5 million people, with a projection for continued growth, while active members of the PCUSA numbered approximately 1.4 million in 2017 with a projection of continued decline. (RELATED: Renowned Exorcist Holds Mass To Combat Coven Of Witches Hexing Kavanaugh)
The explosion in the number of U.S. practitioners of witchcraft is due largely to mainstream acceptance of those practices and their aesthetics. So popular is New Age spirituality in the U.S. that chains like Urban Outfitters and the cosmetics store Sephora have tried to profit from the trend, marketing Witch Starter Kits, smudge sticks, healing crystals and tarot cards. The tools of witchcraft have even found their way onto the shelves of more mainstream stores like Walmart.
Witchcraft has also found robust support on social media, especially on Instagram, with profiles like The Hood Witch offering “everyday magic for the modern mystic,” which has 372,000 followers, and more than 2 million posts with the hashtag Witches of Instagram.
These witchcraft-oriented products are mainly marketed to Millennials, many of whom reject organized religion in favor of more individualistic spirituality, fueled by what University of Virginia Associate Religious Studies Professor Matthew Hedstrom calls “religious products.”
“The millennial approach to spirituality seems to be about choosing and consuming different religious products — meditation, or prayer, or yoga, or a belief in heaven — rather than belonging to an organized congregation,” according to UVA Today.
Trends toward New Age spirituality in the U.S. have also intersected with progressive politics, with groups of witches around the country gathering at various times to cast curses on conservative political opponents, like Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and President Donald Trump. The alliance between progressive politics and followers of New Age spirituality is not necessarily surprising, given their common rejection of traditional moral and philosophical authority and their appeal to groups who feel they have been marginalized. New Age spirituality has garnered a notable following among ardent feminists, the LGBTQ community, and even militant groups like Antifa.
The same trends that drive Millennials and younger generations toward New Age spirituality also contribute to the rapid decline of mainline Protestantism in the U.S. As more members of the Millennial and younger generations disaffiliate with organized religion, and more members of older generations die out, the congregations of mainline protestant churches die out all the more quickly despite their efforts to pander to progressive trends with the acceptance of gender fluidity, the rejection of male authority, and the embrace of homosexual marriages.
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