And, no, it's not the recession, either. Or not primarily.
It's two things.
One is the aging of baby boomers. As they retire, they cut back on giving of all sorts.
The second is, below the upper end of the baby boom, the ongoing decline in emotional and psychological investment in authoritative institutions of all sorts.
“When the foundation falls, when the base isn’t there, then you have problems,” said Elbert T. Chester, an accountant in Queens who has more than 60 churches along the Eastern Seaboard as clients. “And we haven’t even seen the worst of it.”
Don't expect this to change. Baby boomers aren't getting any younger, and the tail end of boomers, Gen Xers and younger yet, aren't gaining in enthusiasm for organized religion or even semi-organized spirituality.
Add in the Catholic priests' sexual abuse, more and more Protestant ministers getting flagged for the same, more and more ministers from conservative backgrounds getting exposed as gays (and perverted ones within their repressed sexuality), and you have even more reason for the trend to continue.