Good news: Most Americans reject the claim that the United States is a “Christian nation.”
According to a new report issued by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), most Americans don’t believe the U.S. is a Christian nation.
PRRI reports on the survey data:
Most Americans do not believe the U.S. is a Christian nation. Only about one-third (35 percent) say that the U.S. is a Christian nation today, while 14 percent say that the U.S. has never been a Christian nation. Nearly half (45 percent) of the public believes that it once was a Christian nation but is not anymore. However, among Americans who believe the U.S. is no longer a Christian nation, most (61 percent) say this change is a bad thing.
Put another way, the data shows:
… nearly six in ten Americans think America was a Christian nation in the past but is not one now (45 percent) or have never thought the U.S. was a Christian nation (14 percent). Only about one-third (35 percent) of Americans still believe America is and has always been a Christian nation—a notable drop from 2010, when 42 percent said the same.
Thus, while a majority agree that the United States is not a Christian nation, some labor under the false idea that at one point in time the United States was a Christian nation.
Also regrettable is the fact that some Americans believe that the United States not being a Christian nation is a bad thing.
Of particular significance, the survey results show a dramatic break along generational lines, with younger and older Americans disagreeing sharply over the importance of being a Christian to what it is to be an American:
While roughly two-thirds (66 percent) of seniors (age 65 and older) say that being a Christian is an important part of being American, only about one-third (35 percent) of young adults (age 18 to 29) agree. More than three-quarters (77 percent) of seniors say believing in God is an important part of the American identity, while young people are closely divided: 52 percent say that believing in God is an important part of being American, while 45 percent say that it is not.
We see a stark shift across the generations when it comes to defining what makes someone truly American. Young adults are roughly half as likely as seniors to say that being Christian is an important part of the American identity. Young adults are also much less likely to believe the U.S. is a Christian nation, an idea largely embraced by older Americans.
On the whole, the survey results are good news, and indicate that the idea that the United States is a Christian nation is losing appeal, despite the best efforts of conservative Christians determined to rewrite American history.
Yet the results also show there is much work to do. Too many Americans believe that being a Christian, or believing in God, is an important part of the American identity. However, the secular values upon which this nation was founded indicate otherwise.
Of course in an ideal world there would be no connection between religious superstition and what it is to be an American.