“No religion too?”: Religious Non-affiliation in America
Mar 17, 2014
A study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2012 found that the number of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated is at 19.6%, the highest it has ever been. This group, referred to as the “religious nones”, is up nearly 5% from 2007. Of the current 19.6% of American adults who are unaffiliated, 6% are atheist and agnostic and the rest simply have no particular religious affiliation. However, while the “religious nones” do not identify with any formal religion, many are still religious or spiritual in some way – 68% believe in God, 58% feel a deep connection with nature and earth, 37% are “spiritual” but not “religious” and 21% pray every day. Despite this seemingly contradictory connection with religion, most of the unaffiliated are not looking to join a religious organization.
The growth of religious “nones” seems to be driven by generational displacement. Adults under 30 are the most likely to be religiously unaffiliated, with the likelihood decreasing gradually with each age group. Young adults are also less likely to be religiously unaffiliated than previous generations at similar life states. There are several theories for the rise in non-affiliation, including political backlash against perceived conservatism of religious organizations, a general decline in social engagement and communal activities, growing secularization, and even delays in marriage, with the argument that religious affiliation is higher among married people that unmarried people. Whatever the cause (or causes) the rise in religious non-affiliation does suggest that the American public has less religious commitment than it did in years past, although America is still much more religious than many other advanced industrial democracies. This growth does have implications beyond religious ones: as the unaffiliated tend to be heavily democratic and liberal in ideology, they are an increasingly important segment of the electorate. Since the report’s release, conversations about what this means for the future of religion in America have been taking place both within and outside of religious organizations.
Written by: Abisola Jegede, Intern at DAP and Undergraduate Student at Washington University in St. Louis
Note: The statements expressed in this blog are the opinion of the individual blog author, and does not necessarily represent the views of Diversity Awareness Partnership.