It’s official: Americans are losing their religion.
Data released by the General Social Survey — an ongoing study which has monitored US trends, attitudes and behaviors since 1972 — reveals that the number of Americans who identify as non-religious (aka “nones”) is now about equal to the number of Catholics (23 percent) and evangelicals (22.5 percent) in this country.
While all three groups currently make up the largest share of ideological affiliations in the US, Catholicism and evangelicalism, along with mainline Protestantism, are also facing steady declines in followers.
“The rise of the nones has been consistent for two decades and shows no signs of slowing down,” tweets Ryan P. Burge, professor at Eastern Illinois University, who analyzed the data.
Since about 2005, those who check “none” under the religious affiliation category have seen a major growth in numbers — jumping from nearly 15 percent of the population to now roughly 23 percent.
The 2018 GSS was just released and there’s some big news. Those of “no religion” (23.1%) are statistically the same size as evangelicals (22.8%). There was also a small resurgence of mainline Protestants, while Catholics are down 3% in the last four years.
As Christianity takes the passenger seat as America’s main ideological driver, this shift could be the harbinger of a sea change in voter interests in the coming years.
A 2017 Pew Research survey found that the most common reason cited for respondents’ departure from religion is “I question a lot of religious teachings” with 60 percent — perhaps thanks to the growing educated class — followed by “I don’t like [their social/political] positions” at 49 percent.
Notably, “I don’t believe in God” took 37 percent, making it only the fourth-most popular reason for identifying as non-religious.
Some might see this as a reckoning of sordid behavior by high-profile Catholic leaders, dubious religious therapies and cult-like evangelical groups. Yet the Pew survey indicates that distrust in religious leaders is the least of Americans’ concerns at 34 percent.
Even though mainline Protestants saw a marginal increase (from 10.2 percent to 10.8) in the last three years or so, the “nones” and mainliners met in 2004 at just under 15 percent, then sharply diverged.
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