Americans are Becoming Less Christian and More ‘Spiritually Unaffiliated’, New Survey Finds

by Cassy Fiano | May 12, 2015 2:08 pm

The United States was founded as a Christian country, and for the most part, it still is. A new Pew poll says that the country is becoming less Christian, though, and more secular.

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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 U.S.; 7 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 U.S. religious life, Americans who described themselves as atheist, agnostic or of no particular faith grew from 16 percent to nearly 23 percent.

At the same time, Christians dropped from about 78 percent to just under 71 percent of the population. Protestants now comprise 46.5 percent 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.

Last year, 31 percent of ‘nones’ said they were atheist or agnostic, compared to 25 percent 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 organized to counter bias against them and keep religion out of public life through lawsuits and lobbying lawmakers.

The growth of ‘nones’ has political significance as well. People with no religion tend to vote Democratic, just as white evangelicals tend to vote Republican.

It’s interesting — the time period in which Americans seem to be losing religion aligns pretty closely with Barack Obama’s reign as president. Well, he did promise to fundamentally change the country, didn’t he?

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