Statistically, Americans are increasingly choosing ‘No Religion,’ so much so, that in three decades, the number of persons who ascribe to no religion has risen 266 percent. In total, that’s roughly one-third of the US population.
Comparatively, Catholics account for twenty-three percent, Evangelicals account for twenty-two percent of the US population, and those who ascribe to nothing account for twenty-three percent. The astounding rise in ‘no religion,’ has grown two-hundred and sixty-six percent since the year 1991.
Statistically, the ‘no religion’ category, labeled by statisticians as ‘nones,’ when added with the other two; Catholicism, and Evangelicalism, make up the three largest religious groups in the United States.
The data set, which acquired its first statistics in 1972, is collected by the General Social Survey and offers a comprehensive look into the evolving face of religion in America.
Further, the number of persons who identify as Protestant Christian in America has fallen sixty-two percent since 1982, and now only accounts for roughly ten percent of the US population.
According to Ryan Burge, a political science professor at Eastern Illinois University, who analyzed the data, experts have several running theories as to why the number of ‘nones’ has risen so drastically.
One of the most popular theories among experts is that, historically, persons who identified as religious, may not have been religious at all; instead, they were following cultural norms of the day. Further, as society normalizes the ‘nones,’ it is becoming increasingly culturally acceptable to identify as such.
However, experts are also questioning as to why so many persons are leaving religion in general, according to Burge;
‘The big questions is what next in terms of what religion is going to look like in America,’ he said. ‘Secularization theory argues that as countries become more industrialized and prosperous, then the throwing off of religion becomes more normalized.’
Burge has seen the overall shifts first hand in his role as a pastor at an American Baptist church.
‘My church is on the decline,’ he said. ‘We had 50 (congregants) in 2005, and now we have 15. We’re probably going to have to close (in a few years).’
‘Mainline Christianity is dying,’ he added. ‘It’s at least going away. It makes me feel more comfortable that it’s not my fault or my church’s fault. It’s part of a bigger trend that’s happening.’
General Social Survey. “Religious Social Changes.” General Social Survey. . (N/A): . .