Why America’s ‘Nones’ Left Religion Behind

(By Michael Lipka, Pew Research Center). Perhaps the most striking trend in American religion in recent years has been the growing percentage of adults who do not identify with a religious group. And the vast majority of these religious “ nones ” (78%) say they were raised as a member of a particular religion before shedding their religious identity in adulthood.

As part of a new survey connected to our broader Religious Landscape Study, we asked these people to explain, in their own words, why they no longer identify with a religious group. This resulted in hundreds of different responses (after all, everyone’s religious experience is a bit different), but many of them shared one of a few common themes.

About half of current religious “nones” who were raised in a religion (49%) indicate that a lack of belief led them to move away from religion. This includes many respondents who mention “science” as the reason they do not believe in religious teachings, including one who said “I’m a scientist now, and I don’t believe in miracles.” Others reference “common sense,” “logic” or a “lack of evidence” – or simply say they do not believe in God. 

But there are other reasons people give for leaving behind their childhood religion. One-in-five express an opposition to organized religion in general. This share includes some who do not like the hierarchical nature of religious groups, several people who think religion is too much like a business and others who mention clergy sexual abuse scandals as reasons for their stance.


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Five Key Findings on Religion in the U.S.

(By Frank Newport, Religion remains an integral part of most Americans’ lives, but Gallup’s ongoing research shows how this has changed over time. The following are five important findings about religion in the U.S.:

1. America remains a largely Christian nation, although less so than in the past. Seventy-four percent of Americans identify with a Christian religion, and 5% identify with a non-Christian religion. The rest of the U.S. adult population, about 21%, either say they don’t have a formal religious identity or don’t give a response.

The dominance of Christianity in the U.S. is not new, but it has changed over time. The U.S. has seen an increase in those with no formal religious identity (sometimes called “nones”) and a related decrease in those identifying with a Christian religion. Since 2008, when Gallup began tracking religion on its daily survey, the “nones” have increased by six percentage points, while those identifying as Christian have decreased by six points. The 5% who identify with a non-Christian religion has stayed constant.

In the late 1940s and 1950s, when Gallup began regularly measuring religious identity, over nine in 10 American adults identified as Christian — either Protestant or Catholic — with most of the rest saying they were Jewish.

2. The trend away from formal religion continues. The most significant trend in Americans’ religiosity in recent decades has been the growing shift away from formal or official religion. About one in five U.S. adults (21%) don’t have a formal religious identity. This represents a major change from the late 1940s and 1950s when only 2% to 3% of Americans did not report a formal religious identity when asked about it in Gallup surveys. The increase in those claiming no religious identity began in the 1970s, with the percentage crossing the 10% threshold in 1990 and climbing into the teens in the 2000s.


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Research: Unchurched Will Talk about Faith, not Interested in Going to Church

By Bob Smietana, LifeWay.

Americans who don’t go to church are happy to talk about religion and often think about the meaning of life.

They’re open to taking part in community service events hosted at a church or going to a church concert.

But only about a third say they’d go to a worship service, if invited by a friend. Few think about what happens after they die.

Those are among the findings of a new online survey of 2,000 unchurched Americans from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. The survey, conducted in partnership with the Wheaton, Illinois-based Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, found more than half of Americans who don’t go to church identify as Christians.

But they are mostly indifferent to organized religion, says Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

“Unchurched Americans aren’t hostile to faith,” he says. “They just don’t think church is for them.”

Talking about faith isn’t taboo

For this survey, “unchurched” means those who have not attended a worship service in the last six months, outside of a holiday or special occasion like a wedding.

Among their characteristics:

  • Two-thirds (67 percent) are white
  • Just over half (53 percent) are male
  • About half (47 percent) have a high school diploma or less
  • Almost two-thirds (62 percent) went to church regularly as a child
  • About a third (32 percent) consider themselves nonreligious
  • One in 5 identifies as Protestant, 1 in 4 as Catholic

Few are turned off by conversations about faith, says McConnell.


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Pew: Churchgoers least likely to see science and religion in conflict

By Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Christianity Today.

religion-and-science_0-01The more you go to church, the less likely you are to see science and religion as incompatible, according to the latest Pew Research Center survey.

Half of Americans who attend religious services weekly said science and religion are often in conflict, less than the 54 percent who attend monthly or yearly, and far less than the 73 percent who seldom or never attend.

“It is the least religiously observant Americans who are most likely to perceive conflict between science and religion,” stated lead author Cary Funk in today’s report.

White evangelicals are especially likely to say that science is compatible with faith: almost half (49%) agree, compared with 38 percent of all US adults. About three in ten (31%) black Protestants (two-thirds of whom identify as evangelical according to past Pew research), also said science and religion are mostly compatible.

But while almost 60 percent of Americans think science and religion often conflict, only 30 percent think science conflicts with their own religious beliefs, down from 36 percent in 2009. The drop was driven by the religiously affiliated, which fell from 41 percent to 34 percent; the religiously unaffiliated, or so-called “nones,” stayed constant at 16 percent.

“People’s sense that there generally is a conflict between religion and science seems to have less to do with their own religious beliefs than it does with their perceptions of other people’s beliefs,” Pew stated.

Evangelicals experience more personal conflict than the general public: 4 in 10 said their own beliefs sometimes conflicted with science. But even that number has decreased from 52 percent in 2009.

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Pew Report: Religion and Science — Highly religious Americans are less likely than others to see conflict between faith and science.

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Number of Muslims worldwide expected to nearly equal number of Christians by 2050

PF_15.04.02_Projections_promo640x320By the Pew Research Center.

The religious profile of the world is rapidly changing, driven primarily by differences in fertility rates and the size of youth populations among the world’s major religions, as well as by people switching faiths. Over the next four decades, Christians will remain the largest religious group, but Islam will grow faster than any other major religion. If current trends continue, by 2050 …

  • The number of Muslims will nearly equal the number of Christians around the world.
  • Atheists, agnostics and other people who do not affiliate with any religion – though increasing in countries such as the United States and France – will make up a declining share of the world’s total population.
  • The global Buddhist population will be about the same size it was in 2010, while the Hindu and Jewish populations will be larger than they are today.
  • In Europe, Muslims will make up 10% of the overall population.
  • India will retain a Hindu majority but also will have the largest Muslim population of any country in the world, surpassing Indonesia.
  • In the United States, Christians will decline from more than three-quarters of the population in 2010 to two-thirds in 2050, and Judaism will no longer be the largest non-Christian religion. Muslims will be more numerous in the U.S. than people who identify as Jewish on the basis of religion.
  • Four out of every 10 Christians in the world will live in sub-Saharan Africa.

These are among the global religious trends highlighted in new demographic projections by the Pew Research Center. The projections take into account the current size and geographic distribution of the world’s major religions, age differences, fertility and mortality rates, international migration and patterns in conversion.


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Religion gets the biggest piece of the charity pie, but its share is shrinking

givingBy Diane Stafford

Religious organizations received 31 percent of the $335.17 billion worth of American philanthropy last year, by far the biggest slice of the charitable giving pie.

But that nonprofit sector shouldn’t rest easy, says Patrick Rooney, chief researcher for the annual Giving USA report on philanthropy released (last month). Religion’s share of total donations has been steadily shrinking compared with other nonprofit sectors.

Rooney met with about 160 representatives from the Kansas City nonprofit community for a data dive into the distribution of 2013 donations. He noted that the recession, generational differences and political trends were changing the sources, amounts and distribution of charitable dollars.

Nationally, charitable giving rose about 3 percent from 2012, adjusted for inflation. At that recovery rate, it will be a least another year before total giving returns to its 2007 pre-recession peak, according to the report.


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China’s latest crackdown target: religion

chinaflagBy William McKenzie

(CNN) – Early on the morning of November 28, 2007, Jia Weihan was forced to think the unthinkable: Was her father really a bad man?

At the time, she was an 11-year-old attending a school in Beijing that taught her to respect the communist authorities. When 30 or so police officers arrived to arrest her father, she did not know what to think.

As it turned out, her father, Shi Weihan, the pastor of a house church, was simply trying to live out his religious beliefs. That should be a fundamental right, but in China – even the more economically liberalized China – it’s not.

Twenty-five years after Tiananmen Square – where on June 4, 1989, Chinese soldiers turned their guns on protesting students and activists – freedom remains elusive.

In China, Tibetan Buddhists and Uyghur Muslims face worse conditions than at any time over the past decade, according to a report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The report warns that independent Protestants and Catholics face arrests, fines and the closing of their churches. The government recently bulldozed one large church in the city of Wenzhou.


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America remains among most positive countries on religion

religionBy Mark A. Kellner

America remains one of the world’s most positive about the role of religion in everyday life, a new survey reveals. According to a global survey of the impact of religion by WIN/Gallup International, 62 percent of U.S. respondents say religion plays a positive role in the country. Subtract the 29 percent who take the opposite viewpoint and you end up with a “net positivity” of 43 percent, one of the world’s higher ratings, and tied with Iceland’s 43 percent net positive figure.

Reprinting the WIN/Gallup news release, the San Diego Jewish World noted the American survey results and the pollster’s assessment, “This shows that the majority of U.S. respondents hold religion central to their values, something which is still reflected in the country’s politics — and something this poll would suggest is unlikely to change in the near future.”

According to WIN/Gallup, “In total there were nine countries whose net scores were negative when asked about religion, with six of those falling within Western Europe — Belgium, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden. Of these, Denmark was the most net negative at -36 percent, followed by Belgium at -30 percent, France at -22 percent, and Spain at -22 percent.”


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The courage to declare

christian1By Ed Koster

I graduated from Seminary 40 years ago, well equipped to distinguish between Presbyterians and Baptists and Methodists and Pentecostals and Episcopalians… Not that it was ever necessary to do so, for the prevailing mood at the time (certainly among Presbyterians) was that the very existence of all these denominations amounted to something of a scandal. If we were really serious about being Christian, there would be just a single church, all working together in the cause of Jesus Christ. COCU (Consultation on Church Union) was a great hope in my seminary days. Had I ever been asked why a person should be a Presbyterian rather than a Methodist (which never did happen), my response would have been that it makes no real difference.

We were just emerging from the Sixties back then, where institutions of all kinds were objects of great scorn, and the battle cry was “make love, not war.” I look back at that time and see the theme: nothing is important enough to fight over. In the succeeding years that seems to have developed into the notion that any claim that one idea is “right” and another is “wrong” is a serious breach of social decorum. The operating norm became everyone’s truth is true.

By the time I had entered seminary, in 1969, the United Presbyterian Church had already adopted the Book of Confessions, some effects of which were to dilute the notion that theological distinctions are important, and to reformulate our theological standards into the “essentials of the Reformed Tradition.” Today there is an overture (032) to the GA that would require a definition of the “essentials of the Reformed Tradition,” but it died for the lack of a concurrence. There is another (001), which needs no concurrence, that would require ordinands to pledge obedience to Scripture and the Confessions rather than being guided by them, but it would appear there is little chance it will pass.

We seem to be unwilling to say to the world that there is something distinctive about being Presbyterian. We seem to be unwilling to stand up and say that here is something different, something unique, a better way.

The really critical issue for this day, though, goes to another level entirely.


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WEA calls for prayer for Central African Republic

carflagBy World Evangelical Alliance

The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) is deeply concerned about the large-scale human suffering in the Central African Republic (CAR) with thousands being killed, up to 1 million people displaced and half of the population in need of humanitarian assistance. However, the WEA is also concerned that national and international media have incorrectly interpreted the root of the crisis in CAR as a religious conflict between Christians and Muslims, thus giving fuel to religious tensions in the country.

“The conflict in the CAR is not a religiously motivated conflict,” stated Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe, Secretary General of the WEA. “The WEA is deeply troubled by the fact that some fighters now refer to their religion to justify their heinous crimes, dividing the country along religious lines.”

The WEA supports and highlights the Bangui Declaration II that was produced on February 4 by church leaders representing over 80% of the Central African population. It states that a military-political crisis has torn apart the social fabric of the country and has brought unimaginable pain, suffering, and sorrow to the people. Socio-political disorder led a number Central Africans to enter into armed rebellion against the State.

The declaration goes on to explain the importance of not misinterpreting the fighting parties as rooted in their religious belonging.


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