Wed | Sep 26, 2018

Study: Americans becoming less Christian, more secular

Published:Friday | May 15, 2015 | 12:05 AM


The number of Americans who don't affiliate with a particular religion has grown to 56 million in recent years, making the faith group researchers call "nones" the second-largest in total numbers behind evangelicals, according to a Pew Research Center study released Tuesday.

Christianity is still the dominant faith by far in the United States (US); seven in 10 Americans identify with the tradition. However, the ranks of Christians have declined as the segment of people with no religion has grown, the survey says.

Between 2007 and 2014, when Pew conducted two major surveys of US religious life, Americans who described themselves as atheist, agnostic or of no particular faith grew from 16 per cent to nearly 23 per cent. At the same time, Christians dropped from about 78 per cent to just under 71 per cent of the population. Protestants now comprise 46.5 per cent of what was once a predominantly Protestant country.

Researchers have long debated whether people with no religion should be defined as secular since the category includes those who believe in God or consider themselves "spiritual". But the new Pew study found increasing signs of secularism.


substantive changes


Last year, 31 per cent of "nones" said they were atheist or agnostic, compared to 25 per cent in 2007, and the percentage who said religion was important to them dropped.

Greg Smith, Pew's associate research director, said the findings "point to substantive changes" among the religiously unaffiliated, not just a shift in how people describe themselves. Secular groups have become increasingly organised to counter bias against them and keep religion out of public life through lawsuits and lobbying lawmakers.