A majority of Americans identify with some sort of religion–mostly Christian. Yet, over time the trend has been decreasing according to new data coming out of a recent Gallup survey.
The American populous reached its religious peak around the 1970s. In those years, 90% of Americans identified with a fraction of Christianity while 6% held a non-Christian religion. But now In 2021, less than 70% of Americans identify with the Christian faith and more are turning to “non-religion”. Non-religious Americans were formerly a minority during the religious peak of the past but now make 21% of the population.
In contrast to Christianity in America, the number of Americans holding to a non-Christian religion has remained steady. This, suggests that the declines in representation are exclusive to the Christian faith and more Americans are moving into secular belief systems.
Similar data were reported in Gallup’s survey when Americans were asked how tightly they held their religious beliefs. The number of Americans who consider their religious beliefs “very important” has decreased by 21% since before 1970. Likewise, the number of Americans who consider their religious beliefs “not important” has increased to nearly a third of the population since the former lows of only 10%. This appears to translate to church attendance, falling to 29% from 49% since before the 1960s.
Official church membership (not merely attendance) has seen rapid declines as well. Historically, a majority of the population were formal church members, but “Church membership has been below the majority level each of the past two years.” Gallup finds.
The Pew Research Center has found similar trends in the American religious landscape via telephone survey. In a 2019 survey they reported the number of adults identifying as Christian declined by 13% since 2007, and the “religiously unaffiliated” increased by 10%. As of this this year, the trend continues in the same direction, “The secularizing shifts evident in American society so far in the 21st century show no signs of slowing.” according to The Center. Protestantism, which houses many “non-dom” Christians, has suffered more representation loss compared to Catholicism. Protestant representation is down 10% over the past 10 years while Catholics have retained roughly the same since 2014. Protestants surpass Catholics in total representation, but their decreasing trend is more steep.
Similar to Gallup, Pew Research Center found church attendance has been decreasing. Adults who attend church “once a month or more” has dropped by 9% since 2007. Adults who attend “a few times a year or less” has increased by the same margin. This increase in adults attending “a few times a year or less” isn’t likely a sign of Americans becoming more interested in Christianity, but rather, more are drifting away over time.
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