The number of Americans that identified themselves as religious fell by 8% in just five years. That’s the conclusion of the Pew Research Center, which found that more than one quarter (27%) of Americans called themselves “spiritual but not religious.”
Pew discovered that 46% of American adults were willing to admit to having no religion in a poll held earlier this year, a Pew press release indicates. That marked an 11% increase from 2012 when just 35% of Americans were willing to admit to having “no religion.”
Around 54% of Americans described themselves as “religious” in the latest survey; conducted in April, May and June 2017. Back in 2012 65% of respondents to a similar poll identified as “religious.”
America is Going Post-Christian faster than you think
Pew’s results indicate that America is becoming “post-Christian” at a faster rate than most people realize. Some highlights of Pew’s findings about America’s march to post-Christianity include:
- Generation X (persons aged 35 to 51) is losing faith faster than any other age group. Pew found that 30% of persons aged 30 to 49 identified as “spiritual but not religious. In 2012, 20% of that demographic used that self-description – making for a 10% increase.
- Baby Boomers (persons aged 52 to 72) are also losing their faith. Pew discovered that 29% of those aged 50 to 64 admitted to being “spiritual but not religious.” In 2012, 21% of the members of that group were willing to admit to being “not religious.”
- Millennials’ (persons under 35) beliefs are closer to their parents than you might think. In 2012, 20% of Millennials called themselves: “spiritual but not religious,” that percentage grew to 29% in 2017.
- In the truly confusing department, 35% of Protestants and 14% of Catholics admitted to being “spiritual but not religious.” Also confused were 18% of Protestants and 19% of Catholics that identified as “religious but not spiritual.”
- African Americans are losing their religion almost fast as whites are. Back in 2012 only 19% of blacks identified as “spiritual but not religious.” That figure grew to 26% in 2017 making for a 7% increase. The number of whites identifying with that description increased from 20% to 28% during the same period.
- African Americans are still more religious than whites. Pew found that 26% of blacks and 28% of whites identified as “spiritual but not religious” in 2017.
- Hispanics are still more religious than the rest of the population. Only 23% of Hispanics called themselves “spiritual but not religious” in 2017.
- Hispanics are losing their faith just as fast as other Americans, 16% of Latinos identified as spiritual but not religious in 2012, that number jumped to 23% in 2017 – a growth rate of 7%.
- Women are still more spiritual than men, Pew found that 29% of females (nearly one third) identified as spiritual but not religious in 2017. Only 26% of men were willing to admit that classification.
- Women are losing their faith faster than men are. An estimated 20% of ladies identified as “spiritual but religious” in 2017 that number jumped to 29% five years later. That means 9% of American women turned their backs on religion in five years. During the same years the number of men using the term grew from 18% to 26%, an 8% increase.
- The vast majority of Americans still believe in the supernatural they just reject religion. Around 75% of Americans identified themselves as “spiritual.” Only 25% of American adults denied being “spiritual.”
- The majority of Americans that call themselves “spiritual but not religious” 63% still identify with a religion.
- Over one third; around 37%, of the “spiritual but not religious” admit to having no religion.
Pew’s findings indicate a paradigm shift in American culture might be underway. If the rate of increase for “spiritual but religious” continues at the same rate; 57% of American adults, more than one third, will admit to being nonbelievers in 2022 – that’s just five years away.
More dramatically less than half of Americans; just 43%, will call themselves “religious” in 2022 if this continues. That’s the percentage we’ll arrive at if another 11% of Americans drop the religious self-description.
Did America’s Faith die and Nobody Notice?
The most striking aspect of this development has been the lack of media coverage. Only a few pundits and bloggers on the fringes of the media ecosystem took notice of this dramatic development.
The Week’s Damon Linker warned of “The dangers of the great American unchurching.” Linker pointed to the Pew Survey and a PRRI (Public Religion Research Institute) poll to justify his hypothesis.
PRRI discovered that there are now 20 states in which the “nonaffiliated” are the largest religious group. The least religious state was Vermont where 41% of residents admitted to having no religion.
“Add up the findings and assume current trends continue and we’re left with a picture of the United States as a country in which established religious traditions and institutions are in sharp decline — and therefore in which culture and politics are rapidly secularizing,” Linker wrote.
The lack of response to these polls seems to prove Linker’s hypothesis. Had such poll results been published 30 years ago they would have the lead story on every newscast. Today, most of the media ignores them, which indicates how little Americans now care about religion and spirituality it can no longer sell newspapers or drive hits to websites.
The Great Unchurching
Linker is concerned that the “great unchurching” will create a less tolerant society – in which believers will be persecuted.
“The message conservative believers hear from liberals and the left is clear: If you hold traditionally religious views, you will be treated as an unwelcome outsider in American public life,” Linker wrote.
Hopefully Linker’s wrong, unfortunately, if people like him and American Conservative doomsayer Rod Dreher are the only ones writing about this important subject their opinions will be the dominant ones. Dreher also thinks that there are deep divisions and moral rot in the church that are driving the decline.
Two pastors in college ministry reported that some young evangelicals are leaving the church because of their parents’ support for Donald J. Trump, Dreher wrote. Those young people apparently view Trump as corrupt or a fraud and evangelicals who support him as hypocrites.
One has to wonder what an unchurched America will look like. Hopefully, Dreher and Linker’s gloomy prognostications will not come true.