Witches Outnumber Presbyterians in the United States?


Sounds like a poorly chosen number.

“By One Measure, Witches Outnumber Presbyterians in the United States”

No, @Patrick. Not even by the one measure claimed. Yet again “Friendly Atheist” trades accuracy for click-bait. They also recklessly depended upon secondary sources without due diligence in fact-checking. (Notice the lack of footnotes in the sources mentioned.)

Worst of all, the title of the bombastic article doesn’t at all match what is stated in the quoted source. The title claims that witches outnumber Presbyterians, yet the source only refers to a particular Presbyterian denomination, known as the Presbyterian Church (USA) and usually abbreviated PCUSA. It is a mainline liberal denomination which has been losing members for many decades now. [Even so, last I checked the PCUSA had about 1.7 million people in their churches.] The many churches and members which the liberal PCUSA has lost have generally tended to affiliate with the far more conservative and even evangelical Presbyterian denominations, such as the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA.) Indeed, when the PCUSA abandoned significant doctrines like the deity of Jesus Christ and the inerrancy of the scriptures, many would say that their steady decline was assured. Yes, mainline denominations in the USA have been shrinking for decades even while many evangelical Christian groups continue to see growth throughout the planet.

I don’t know how many Presbyterians of all denominations, fellowships, and types live in the USA but it is certainly far greater than than the total number of witches, by any measure. I’m talkin’ millions more Presbyterians than witches in the United States!

To make matters so much worse, the article treats witches and Wiccans as if they are the same thing. Not at all! Even a basic English dictionary could have helped with that one. (As I’ve said many times before: Don’t confuse etymology as the last word in lexicography.)

The article ends with the usual well-worn straw man arguments. (The author’s apparent obliviousness to LGBT stances in the PCUSA was particularly humorous but I will not go into details on that one. Yet again, actual facts totally undermine the author’s claims.)

Getting religious studies information from “Friendly Atheist” is a lot like getting one’s science from AIG.

If one of my undergrads of long ago had submitted such shoddy work for an assignment, I would not have read it past the first few paragraphs.

[POSTSCRIPT: I have neurological limitations which have led me to do much more reading than posting here. This limited remission may not last long so don’t interpret my silence as anything but day-to-day changes in my capabilities.]


The PCUSA says that they are down to 1.4 million members at the end of 2017, a loss of 67,000 members since the end of 2016. Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) - PC(USA) membership decline slows, but does not stop

Even so the article is meant to be whimsical.

That is membership. Weekly attendance is far more than just the membership. Regular attenders (and even many irregular attenders) would still call themselves Presbyterians

In the churches around here weekly attendance is less than membership. They might count members like the Catholic do which according to them I am still a Catholic :grinning: Nevertheless, you have to agree that Mainline Protestant is dying out across America.

That has been true for many years. However, that fact does nothing to temper the inaccuracy of the article’s fallacious headline.


That is mainline @Patrick. Mainline churches are going down.

PCA, however, is not going downwards, as far as I know. That is the evangelical version of Presbyterian. These denominations tend be doing better. Moreover, PCA is not the only conservative presbyterian denomination.

Also, when I say “conservative” i mean it a sociological/theological sense, not political. You would find them closer to me (even though I am not Presbyterian) than Ken Ham.

Friendly atheist posts tend to be low quality it seems.

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So there two kinds of Presbyterian’s? oy vey. Evangelical Presbyterian and Mainline Presbyterian? Dividing and dividing, I guess that’s how you get to 10,000 denominations of Christianity.

Yes, PCA is probably the best known evangelical Presbyterian affiliation. There are various other evangelical Presbyterian denominations, such as the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Bible Presbyterian Church.

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You might need to brush up on your history. In the early 1900’s most denominations split into a “liberal-mainline” and “convservative-evangelical-fundamentalist” wing. So there is a liberal and a convservative version of almost every denomination. Take a look at these four well known denominations:

Liberal: ELCA, PCUSA
Conservative: LCMS, PCA

Lutheran: ELCA, LCMS
Presbyterian: PCUSA, PCA

Which group is more important? It turns out that the LCMS and PCA have far more in common than their counterparts ELCA and PCUSA. Sociologically LCMS and PCA have a more common trajectory and values. ELCA and PCUSA, are more tightly linked to each other. So the divide Lutheran vs. Lutheran is not nearly as important as Mainline vs. Evangelical/Fundamentalist.

So there are more than two kinds of Presbyterian’s? How do you keep track of them? I guess that how were get First Presbyterian church of main street with the Second Presbyterian Church of Main Street just a few blocks down Main Street. In the town next to me, in 1.4 square miles with 6000 people in it, there are 12 Protestant Churches, plus two Catholic Churches, plus one Jehavah Witness Kingdom Hall. All are empty on Sunday’s except the church that was converted into a bar/restaurant.


This is my favorite church in Keyport. Usually on Sundays it does more business than all the other churches combined. And it pays taxes - to the local government and the state government which is needed for education in the town and state.

You keep track of it by slotting them in to Mainline vs. Evangelical. That is the primary sociological divide. Of course there is more to it than that. But that is the highest level distinction you seem to be missing.

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Not necessarily. Many denominations and fellowships share extremely similar beliefs but formed as a natural result of geographical, cultural, linguistic, ethnic, administrative, and various other identity-related and pragmatic-related reasons. For example, I know of Brethren churches of various denominations in my area which have very similar doctrines but are separate organizations because one of them formed from German immigrants who settled in the area in the early 1800’s while another formed from Czech immigrants in the late 1800’s. (As you would expect, the early generations of each conducted services solely in their native language.)


No. Not usually. The individual histories typically vary but there are good reasons why such numbered churches exist in cities across the USA. Sometimes the “Second” church was a “First” church which outgrew its building and had to buy another plot of land and build down the street to accommodate the growing numbers of worshipers. Also, many denominations and churches established pastor-to-congregant ratios reflecting how many families could be well served by a single pastor. (After sufficient growth, one pastor simply can’t visit all of the sick and console the bereaved in a growing congregation.)

There were also architectural, fiscal, and even acoustical reasons for establishing what today might be called “satellite churches”.



I did not take that Friendly Atheist post at all seriously. It seemed to me that it was intended to be whimsical.

That leaves me surprised to see you using the word “bombastic.”


This is not whimsical:

Maybe — it’s a long shot, but maybe — people who believe in the supernatural would be less inclined to search elsewhere for spiritual fulfillment if more Christians and churches cleaned up their act.

As with so many other articles at “Friendly Atheist”, many readers will quote from it as if it were factual.


It might be wise to put the title of this thread in quotation marks—so that readers will be more likely to recognize it as an assertion, not a fact.

That’s what the question mark at the end already does.