Famed evangelist Billy Graham has shared his thoughts on the rise of secularism seen across the world and warned we may be living in the "last days" as people continue to reject God.
The 98-year-old Baptist pastor weighed in on the issue in response to a question sent to him by a reader. She asks: "I read about an opinion poll the other day that seems to indicate more and more people are drifting away from religion and no longer have any faith in God. Why do you think this is happening?"
Graham first admits that such polls are unfortunately correct: "We are living in an increasingly secular and non-religious society, and many people today never think about God or make Him a part of their lives," he says.
There are several reasons behind this growing secularism, the Baptist pastor explains, the first being that "we have failed to pass on our faith in Christ to the next generation."
"Furthermore, not only have we failed to explain the Gospel to them and urge them to commit their lives to Christ, but we have not demonstrated Christ's love by the way we live," he says. "We have forgotten Jesus' words: 'You are the light of the world. ... Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven' (Matthew 5:14, 16)."
There are a number of other reasons for the decrease in religion, Graham says, including growing materialism, a preoccupation with pleasure, pressures from a secular media, the lessening of family ties, and growing immorality.
He says that the "endless list" of reasons reminds him of "the Bible's picture of the last days: 'People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful ... lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God' (2 Timothy 3:2,4)."
While this is certainly discouraging, Graham reminds readers that God is still at work today, and in many parts of the world, people are coming to Christ in unprecedented numbers.
"Only Christ can satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart, and only he can change our lives and give us hope for the future," he concludes. "Is this happening to you?"
A 2015 poll jointly conducted by NBC and The Wall Street Journal found that 21 percent of Americans feel that religion is losing importance in their lives, and a Gallup poll from the same year found that one in five American adults has no formal religious identification. An earlier study conducted by the Pew Research Center similarly found an alarming dip in American religiosity and a sharp rise among the religiously unaffiliated, or "nones."
Billy Graham's daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, previously warned that God may be purposefully hiding himself in preparation for a coming judgment on the nation.
"Our nation is in a mess. Why? Could it be because America is losing God's blessing? His favor. Could our sin be provoking His judgment? Judgment that is not necessarily in the form of a nuclear dirty bomb, or another ISIS attack, or an economic collapse. But a Romans 1 judgment as God backs out of our national life and turns us over to ourselves," she wrote on her website.
She referenced the Old Testament story in which God destroyed the nation of Judah because it continued to become more disobedient and more "wicked," choosing immorality and idolatry.
"God warns a nation that judgment is coming. He doesn't want any to perish. But if a nation does not heed His warnings, He unleashes His anger and there is nothing - no one - who can prevent it. If God would judge His own beloved nation of Judah, why would we think America could escape?" Lotz asked.
"So ... if we are coming under the judgment of God - if He is giving us over to ourselves, removing His blessing, protection, and favor - the solution will not be found in politics or the economy or the military or technology," she continued.
"The solution will be found on our knees as we humble ourselves, pray, seek God's face, and repent of our sin. Then plead for Him to return to us as we return to Him."
Billy Graham's son, Franklin Graham, similarly suggested that if the United States does not return to God, it soon may face its demise - just the Babylonian empire did nearly 2,500 years ago.
"What's the writing on the wall for America? As a nation we are found lacking because of sin and disobedience to God's Holy Word. We have not honored Him. If we don't turn back to God, I fear that our end will be near," he wrote.
Last month, Greg Laurie, senior pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, California, told The Gospel Herald that amid growing secularism, every Christian should pray America soon experiences a spiritual awakening.
"We should all be praying that God sends a great spiritual awakening," he said. "We need to pray 2nd Chronicles 7:14 over our nation: 'If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.'"
He reiterated, "We all need to be pray in America for a spiritual awakening, because we desperately need one right now."