By now, you might have heard about the Pew Research Study of over 35,000 Americans asking them about their religious beliefs. The biggest takeaway is that since 2007 when the poll was last conducted there has been a drop in the number of people calling themselves Christian in the US, and an increase in the number of people who are not affiliated with any religion. There are a lot of great tidbits in there, though, so let’s talk about some of them.
First, Atheists almost doubled our representation in the population, moving from 1.6% to 3.1% of Americans. We officially outnumber Jewish folks now, who are a surprising (to me) only 1.9% of the population. Agnostics also increased to 4%.
There’s also a big jump in people who are not atheist or agnostic but who don’t identify with any religion. These people were also asked whether religion was important in their lives, and were less likely to say that it was than they were in 2007. These unaffiliated people, including atheists and agnostics, now make up 22.8% of the population. Aparently the increase has been across demographic groups of gender, age, and location, but with some more specific trends: Men are still more likely to be unaffiliated, millenials are less likely to have a religion, and the western US has seen more of an overall decrease in affiliation with religion.
The unaffiliated category is fed by ex-Christians. Christians represent 70.6% of the population today, down from 78.4% in 2007. That’s still a majority of the population, but down a significant amount. Mainstream protestant, historically black, and Catholic populations went down more than evangelical Christians, which is interesting. People are leaving, but very few adults raised outside of christianity have been converting into these faiths. 19% of adults in the US today are ex-christians.
Non-Christian religions have gone up slightly in representation, especially Muslim and Hindu faiths, probably because of increased immigration from areas of the world where those religions are popular. Muslims now make up 0.9% of the population, so we’re definitely going to be living under Sharia Law with fullscale oppression of christians any day now.
I feel really pleased about this whole thing. I like more people who are unaffiliated, and I love to see more atheists. I also like to see a little movement towards pluralism in the religions being practiced in the US. It gives me hope for the future that we’ll be able to have better, more nuanced conversations about our religious freedom than we are now.