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Religious “nones” now outnumber all religious groups

More Americans now identify as religiously unaffiliated than as being part of any individual religious group. More than one in four U.S. adults now identify as religiously unaffiliated, or nones, compared to just 16 percent in 2007, outpacing Catholics (23 percent) and evangelical Protestants (24 percent), according to a Pew Research study.

More than half of all so-called nones believe in some form of higher power. Although barely one-tenth have faith in “God as described in the Bible,” more than half believe in some “other high power” altogether. Nearly half said that some form of spirituality is important to them personally. The millions of religiously unaffiliated Americans are broken down into three main groups:

  • Agnostics (20 percent),
  • Atheists (17 percent), and
  • Those who believe “nothing in particular” (63 percent).

Nones also nearly evenly split between men (51 percent) and women (47 percent) and, as Pew notes, are “younger than the population of Americans who identify with a religion.”

READ: 7 church trends to watch for in 2024

When asked directly why they are not religious, two-thirds of nones said they question a lot of religious teachings or don’t believe in God. Many also bring up criticisms of religious institutions or people, including 47 percent who said that one extremely or very important reason why they are not religious is that they dislike religious organizations. And 30 percent said bad experiences they’ve had with religious people help explain why they are nonreligious.

The emergence of young, well-educated nones in recent decades continues to shape the social fabric and contours of the United States, particularly given the religiously unaffiliated’s low levels of civic engagement, volunteerism and voting compared with their religious peers.

“We know politically, for example, that religious nones are very distinctive,” researchers said. “They are among the most strongly and consistently liberal and Democratic constituencies in the United States.”

In 2022, a Pew survey found that most U.S. adults saw the rise of religious disaffiliation negatively, with 45 percent affirming that the United States should remain a “Christian nation.” The percentage of self-identified nones in Pew’s latest poll dropped slightly from a pandemic high of more than 30 percent in the last couple of years.

–Dwight Widaman | MV

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