Old Church

New research shows Christianity in America is declining, while the number of those unaffiliated with religion is increasing.

Over the past seven years, the United States has become a less Christian country, according to the Religious Landscape Study, the latest such study conducted by the Pew Research Center. Meanwhile, the rise in nones, the religiously unaffiliated has continued in America.

Christianity is far and away still the most populous of the religious denominations at approximately 70%, but this is down from about 78% in 2007, when Pew did its first study.

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What is probably most striking about the findings is that the shrinking numbers are not confined to any particular denomination or demographic. The study reveals that declines are present among women and men, among whites, blacks and Latinos, and among college graduates and people with a high school diploma.

However, the largest declines occurred in younger Americans who increasingly leave behind religious institutions and identify with nones. For example, the percentage of millennials born between 1981 and 1989 who did not affiliate with a particular religion grew from 25% in 2007 to 34% in 2014, the Washington Post reports.

The Washington Post analysis of the report also reveals something quite telling: nones or non-affiliated Americans (23%) now outnumber American Catholics (21%) and mainline Protestants (15%). Moreover, the Washington Post also found that the non-affiliated group has become less religious and hence, more secular.  In 2007, 25% of the nones reported themselves to be atheist or agnostic.  That number jumped to 31% in 2014.

Other highlights from the report:

  • White Americans (24%) are more likely to say they are not affiliated with any particular religion than Hispanic Americans (20%) and black Americans (18%).
  • The median age of adults who identify as nones dropped from 38 in 2007 to 36 in 2014 (in a population where the median age of the adult population is 46. The median age of mainline Protestants is up to 52 (from 50 in 2007) and of Catholics is up to 49 (from 45 in 2007).
  • The Black Protestant Tradition has remained steady in number at just under 16 million in both 2007 and 2014.
  • The USA Today quoted Alan Cooperman, Pew Research Center’s director of religion research, as explaining “there are more than four former Christians for every one convert to Christianity.”
  • As far as reasons for the overall decline in Christian religious affiliation, the report offers a theory of generational decline and also points to a surprising trend in older Americans who are disavowing organized religion.  Pew’s research was done between June and September of 2014.
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