Unaffiliated But Not Agnostic– The Number of Americans Outside of Organized Religion Continues to Swell


The New York Times reported today on the latest Pew Research Center demographic survey on religion in America

Highlights from the report–

* Over 16 percent of American adults say they are not part of any organized faith, which makes the unaffiliated the country’s fourth largest "religious group."

* In the 1980s, the General Social Survey by the National Opinion Research Center indicated that from 5 percent to 8 percent of the population described itself as unaffiliated with a particular religion.

* In the Pew survey 7.3 percent of the adult population said they were unaffiliated with a faith as children. That segment increases to 16.1 percent of the population in adulthood, the survey found.

* The unaffiliated are largely under 50 and male. "Nearly one-in-five men say they have no formal religious affiliation, compared with roughly 13 percent of women," the survey said.

*Protestantism has been declining, from two thirds of the U.S. population in the ’70’s to about 51% today– with evangelicals accounting for a slim majority of Protestants.

*Catholics have remained steady at 25% of the population, but the influx of Catholic Latin Americans into the U.S. is largely responsible for what looks like stability in this group.

*Affiliated Jews have declined slightly to 1.7% from 1.9%

So what does this mean?  The New York Times article quotes a Pew researcher who concludes that these religious affiliation changes do not mean that Americans are becoming less religious: "Contrary to assumptions that most of the unaffiliated are atheists or agnostics, most described their religion "as nothing in particular."  I’m sure that the new-new atheists will conclude differently. 

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