Religious Change in Contemporary America

religion_declineCompared to even 15 years ago, fewer Americans today espouse a religious identity. In this report we examine not religious practice like church attendance or membership but rather religious identity.

Approximately one of every six Americans has no religious identity
Sixteen percent of United States adults either fail to place themselves in any denominational category (answering “none” or ”no religion”), or they describe themselves as secular, humanist, ethical-culturalist, agnostic, or atheist.

Individuals who identify with no religion are a growing population
Based on a review of survey evidence, the proportion of non-identifiers appears to have grown substantially in the last 10-12 years.

The non-religiously identified make up the third largest group in the country
The two largest groups are Catholics and Baptists. Those non-religiously identified are virtually tied with Baptists as the second largest group since the difference in estimated size between them is within “sampling error.”

Those raised in no religion are most likely to not identify with a religion
About 1 of every 9 Americans who was raised in some religion now identify with no religion; nearly three-quarters of those with no religious upbringing are current non-identifiers.

Being raised in more than one religion may lead to no religion
Those raised in multiple religious traditions are more than twice as likely to be non-identifiers as adults than those raised in a single religion.

Younger Americans are less religiously identified than older Americans
Younger adults (under 35) are most likely to be non-identifiers, and those over 65 are least likely to be. Religious identification shows a steadily increasing association with age. It is unclear whether this represents a persistent growth trend in non-identifiers, or if it reflects a snapshot in time, with younger people likely to become more affiliated with religion as they pass through customary life-cycle stages. Non-identification in the United States likely will continue to increase

This study is an excerpt from the larger report on The Decline of Religious Identity in the United States by Sid Groeneman & Gary Tobin published in 2004 via the Institute for Jewish & Community Research (http://jewishresearch.or)

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