Pew Review

By George Kane

george head smallThe number of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated is growing rapidly, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center that was released on October 9. That report states:

In 1972, only 7% of the adults in America were religiously unaffiliated. That number now stands just under 20%. In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15%, an increase of about a third. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).

Of those who responded to the question of their religious affiliation with ‘None,’ 12% call themselves atheists and 17% call themselves agnostics. Although two-thirds of people without religious affiliation say they believe in a god, 88% of them are not looking for a religion, indicating that they have permanently severed their ties with religion. Since the report lumps atheists with these god-believers into the same category, it unfortunately does not provide a demographic picture of atheists. It does, however, provide a few interesting facts.

America remains a highly religious nation when compared to the nations of Western Europe. Fifty-eight percent of Americans say religion is very important in their lives compared to only 17% in Britain, 13% in France, 21% in Germany and 22% in Spain. The report notes that the United States is the principal exception to the general rule that religious belief is high in nations with low per-capita GDP, and low in nations where “existential security” is high.

The entire 80-page report, “Nones” on the Rise: One-in-Five Adults Have No Religious Affiliation, is available as a free download.

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