Rise of the religiously unaffiliated

A Pew survey released today finds that the number of people who identify themselves as religiously unaffiliated is now 20%, the highest it has ever been and a sharp rise from 15% just five years earlier.

Of course, this does not mean they are atheists or agnostics, whose numbers have shown a more modest rise from 3.7% in 2007 to 5.9% now. Most of the ‘nones’ say they are ‘spiritual’ in some way but interestingly about 88% of them say they are not looking for a church to join.

As usual, the young are leading the way, with 32% of those in the 18-29 age group saying they are unaffiliated.

Across the board, in almost all categories, the survey shows a steady decline in religious affiliation and participation in religious activities.


  1. invivoMark says

    “… more modest rise” from 3.7 to 5.9%? That’s a 60% increase in 5 years! That means by 2047, we’ll be 159% of the population!

    Of course, I’m not sure how much error there is in the measurement. Still, I think we’re a lot more vocal even than we were in 2007, so it’s not entirely unplausible.

  2. rork says

    30 years ago I predicted >50% unbelievers by 2001.
    After all, with books and other forms of information better educating the people, how could it be any other way?

  3. raven says

    30 years ago I predicted >50% unbelievers by 2001.

    Xians are predicted to go below 50% somewhere around 2030.

    The xian churches are losing 2-3 million members a year and that trend is pretty steady, according to the National Council of Churches.

  4. raven says

    I’ve actually tried to see if I can see the decline of US xianity in my own area. Which has more New Agers and Pagans than fundies to start with.

    Sort of but not really.

    One medium size church seems moribund.

    Several I know are struggling with low membership.

    On Sunday, the parking lots of a few that I pass by occasionally don’t have many cars. Oddly enough, one of them is the Mormon church.

    My parent’s church has a sunday school. Usually there are zero kids in it. All the church members are really old. This is partly because they live in an expensive area where young people with children simply can’t afford to live.

    It’s not great data but since cultural shifts are slow, it isn’t going to happen fast enough that most times that we can see it.

  5. says

    I’ve seen a lot of reference to the increase in the religiously unaffiliated. Something I don’t see mentioned much is the generational aspect of that increase. Many of those religiously unaffiliated people, even if they maintain a casual level of belief, are raising children without an effective religious indoctrination. I can’t help but think that the percentage of children raised by the religiously unaffiliated that end up atheist will be much more substantial than those raised by the religious.

    Additionally, I would suspect that many of them will be atheist by default because the beliefs they see around them just seem silly and irrational. And as important as the activist adamant atheist is today, it is an increase in the I don’t believe in god because it just seems silly and pointless population that will normalize atheism.

  6. Mano Singham says

    That is true and something I discussed a few years ago. Without the group reinforcement of beliefs that belonging to a religious group provides, people will increasingly realize that religious beliefs are weird.

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