The United States is Becoming a Much More Secular Nation as Younger Americans Reject the Faith
Americans are becoming less religious and the trend has accelerated rapidly over the last several decades. The Pew Research organization published a study in December showing that the number of religious “nones” continues to grow. "Nones" are individuals who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular,” and they now make up about 30% of the population, up 6% from five years ago and 10 points higher than a decade ago. Self-identified Christians make up 63% of the U.S. population, down from 75% a decade ago.
A Gallup Poll released last year captured the decline with a slightly different set of survey questions. Instead of simply asking people whether they identified as Christian, Gallup inquired about church membership.
Gallup: "Americans' membership in houses of worship continued to decline last year, dropping below 50% for the first time in Gallup's eight-decade trend. In 2020, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999."
However, there is reason to believe that the Pew and Gallup surveys only capture part of the decline. The Barna Research Institute looked at data collected in 96,171 surveys over more than 20 years to draw some conclusions about the state of religion in America. They found that only about 25% of Americans today are "Practicing Christians," defined as those for whom faith is very important in their lives and attend church regularly.
Barna.com: "The first and perhaps most significant change we’ll explore is that practicing Christians are now a much smaller segment of the entire population. In 2000, 45 percent of all those sampled qualified as practicing Christians. That share has consistently declined over the last 19 years. Now, just one in four Americans (25%) is a practicing Christian. In essence, the share of practicing Christians has nearly dropped in half since 2000."
And, the trend away from religion is especially pronounced among the young.
Pew Research: "More than eight-in-ten members of the Silent Generation (those born between 1928 and 1945) describe themselves as Christians (84%), as do three-quarters of Baby Boomers (76%). In stark contrast, only half of Millennials (49%) describe themselves as Christians; four-in-ten are religious “nones,” and one-in-ten Millennials identify with non-Christian faiths."
And, in recent surveys of older members of Generation Z [those 18 YO and up], 45% self identify as atheists, agnostics, or nothing in particular. Only 35% identify as Catholic or Protestant. So, as members of the highly religious silent generation pass away and are replaced by members of Generation Z, expect the overall secularization of America to continue unabated.
The obvious question is why. Why are so many Americans, especially younger Americans, abandoning religion? There are numerous theories and we will discuss many of them in our next article.
By: Don Lam & Curated Content