Pew Finds Increase in US Atheists and Agnostics, while Christianity shows marked decline

Pew Finds Increase in US Atheists and Agnostics, while Christianity shows marked decline May 12, 2015

Secularism is rising in the US while Christianity saw a sharp and marked decline.

(Image via Charbel Akhras.CC)
(Image via Charbel Akhras.CC)

Its not just the nones, or the unaffiliated, this time. People identifying as Atheists and Agnostics, are up too!

The numbers are in:

The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center.

Here’s one big take away:

In 2007, there were 227 million adults in the United States, and a little more than 78% of them – or roughly 178 million – identified as Christians. Between 2007 and 2014, the overall size of the U.S. adult population grew by about 18 million people, to nearly 245 million.But the share of adults who identify as Christians fell to just under 71%, or approximately 173 million Americans, a net decline of about 5 million.

The other take statistic of note:

Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%.

That’s a six point increase in those that actually identify as Atheist or Agnostic. That’s a big jump.


(Image via Peter365.CC)
(Image via Peter365.CC)

The Millenials are driving the numbers. Is it not cool to be religious? Is Atheism or Secularism the newest HIPSTER THING?
Do I have to rethink my position? jk

The median age of unaffiliated adults has dropped to 36, down from 38 in 2007 and far lower than the general (adult) population’s median age of 46. By contrast, the median age of mainline Protestant adults in the new survey is 52 (up from 50 in 2007), and the median age of Catholic adults is 49 (up from 45 seven years earlier).

Not only that, but despite what ya heard, Nones have one of the highest retention rates, especially within the Millenials. So I guess we’re not seeing that many spontaneous re-conversion/conversion stories.

Its not a phase!

So Christianity is aging, and so are the people who practice it.

Don’t get too excited, because this does not signal the end of religion or Christianity. Worldwide, we know the story is different. Both Christianity and Islam are expected to dominate worldwide, outside of Europe and the US. If you’ve been paying attention to the surveys, you know the numbers have varied for the “nonreligious”. In the US from 16-33%, parts of Europe in upwards of 50%, but almost negligible in parts of Africa and the Middle East.

To be sure, the United States remains home to more Christians than any other country in the world, and a large majority of Americans – roughly seven-in-ten – continue to identify with some branch of the Christian faith. But the major new survey of more than 35,000 Americans by the Pew Research Center finds that the percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years.

Pay attention to the Sample Size

I have been very reluctant to sign off on the previous Pew Surveys, because they’ve only been a  few hundred. I’ve almost always differed to the ARIS poll, since its much larger sampling, but this number actually sways me. The needled moved!

Unfortunately, we still have to rely on surveys, since the Census, just doesn’t account for religion.
I know this is going to tick off some of our religious friends but the survey also found:

The drop in the Christian share of the population has been driven mainly by declines among mainline Protestants and Catholics. Each of those large religious traditions has shrunk by approximately three percentage points since 2007. The evangelical Protestant share of the U.S. population also has dipped, but at a slower rate.

A word about the Nones!

As the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated continue to grow, they also describe themselves in increasingly secular terms. In 2007, 25% of the “nones” called themselves atheists or agnostics; 39% identified their religion as “nothing in particular” and also said that religion is “not too” or “not at all” important in their lives; and 36% identified their religion as “nothing in particular” while nevertheless saying that religion is either “very important” or “somewhat important” in their lives. The new survey finds that the atheist and agnostic share of the “nones” has grown to 31%. Those identifying as “nothing in particular” and describing religion as unimportant in their lives continue to account for 39% of all “nones.” But the share identifying as “nothing in particular” while also affirming that religion is either “very” or “somewhat” important to them has fallen to 30% of all “nones.”

Hey Texas and the rest of the South,

Religious “nones” now constitute 19% of the adult population in the South (up from 13% in 2007)!

What about the DIVERSITY?

Well, despite the our best efforts:

The size of the historically black Protestant tradition – which includes the National Baptist Convention, the Church of God in Christ, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Progressive Baptist Convention and others – has remained relatively stable in recent years, at nearly 16 million adults. And evangelical Protestants, while declining slightly as a percentage of the U.S. public, probably have grown in absolute numbers as the overall U.S. population has continued to expand.

As expected, Latinos, are less Catholic. They now only make up a third of US Catholics.

There’s a larger diversity picture here though:

Hispanics have grown as a share of all three religious groups, but that’s to be expected as the overall US demographic shifts into being more ethnically and racially diverse. That may be one of the biggest pieces of the survey, across the board, racial and ethnic diversity – everywhere.

I’ll say it again, if we don’t address religiosity within what we refer to as the “minority”, what happens when they’re no longer the minority? The majority of the Nones- are still white and non-Hispanic.

Here’s the link to the report, if you really really want to read it, or just keep scrolling down and read my other stuff instead since you’re here. Don’t forget to subscribe.

"Cogent, well-thought, and nicely presented. Not sure what to do with it, however.The State does ..."

The Dishonest Self-Appeasement of “Not All ..."
"Why were they allowed to keep flying that flag? Well, keep in mind that when ..."

Our National Symbol: Why South Carolina ..."
"They deserved to be destroyed because they we traitors who waged war on the United ..."

Our National Symbol: Why South Carolina ..."

Browse Our Archives