What You Should Know About Pew’s New Religion Study

What You Should Know About Pew’s New Religion Study May 12, 2015

Sun Through the TreesThe Pew Research Center’s second U.S. Religious Landscape Study, released today, is well worth reading. In a report called “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” Pew contends that Christianity has dropped from 78 percent of the American population to 70 percent within the last seven years.

Some predict that the new numbers may signal a dramatic shift in American politics. Printed in USA Today:

Politicians should take note, said Mike Hout, a sociologist and demographer at New York University who is also a co-director of the General Social Survey.

“Traditionally, we thought religion was the mover and politics were the consequence,” he said. Today, it’s the opposite.

Over the same seven-years time period — between 2007 and 2014 — those unaffiliated with any religious tradition has jumped almost seven points, from 16% to almost 23%, Pew found. (Often called Nones, the unaffiliated include atheists, agnostics, deists and “nothing in particular.”) This particular spike is not quite as shocking, given that other major studies conducted in 2012 put the number of Nones in the 20% range. Still, the heathens are creeping. Hide your children!

The other net increases in religiosity occurred among Muslims (.5% increase) and Hindus (.3% increase.) So, yeah, all that Christian hate-mongering* of Muslims? Not really working.

A couple of other things that I found of particular interest in the study:

• Evangelicals are going strong. Most of Christianity’s losses were visited upon Catholicism and mainline Christianity. Evangelical Christianity stayed pretty consistent — at 25% of the total.

• Intermarriage is seriously on the rise, especially among Nones. Nearly one-in-five people surveyed who got married since 2010 were either Nones who married Christians or Christians who married Nones.

• We are all Switchy McSwitchertons up in here. Of those surveyed who were raised in a religious faith, 18% now identify with no religion. Likewise, according to the report, of the 9% raised with no religious affiliation, almost half of them now identify with some religion. BUT, the study found, among Millennials at least, Nones have the highest retention rates of any major religious category; some 53% of those raised with no religious affiliation still identified as Nones in adulthood.

• Faith is falling, even among the Nones. The percentage of Nones who brand themselves as atheist and agnostic has grown from 25% to 31%. Those who said they were unaffiliated but that religion was “very” or “somewhat” important to them fell from 36% to 30%. (Meanwhile, the unaffiliated who said religion is “not too” or “not at all” important in their lives stayed at a constant 39%.) 

• I’m old now. At one point, the study said this: Fewer than six-in-ten Millennials identify with any branch of Christianity, compared with seven-in-ten or more among older generations, including Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers. WAIT, WHAT? GEN-XERS ARE THE OLDER GENERATION?! WHEN THE FUCK DID THAT HAPPEN, AND HOW DO I MAKE IT STOP? Nobody tell Douglas Coupland, okay? He would be horrified.

*Not to be confused with atheist hate-mongering or any other type of hate-mongering. Christians are, by no means, the only ones at fault for the spread of Islamophobia in this country.

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