The United States is a significantly less Christian country than it was seven years ago.
That’s the top finding — one that will ricochet through American faith, culture and politics — in the Pew Research Center’s newest report, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” released Tuesday.
This trend “is big, it’s broad and it’s everywhere,” said Alan Cooperman, Pew’s director of religion research.
Christianity still dominates American religious identity (70%), but the survey shows dramatic shifts as more people move out the doors of denominations, shedding spiritual connections along the way.
Atheists and agnostics have nearly doubled their share of the religious marketplace, and overall indifference to religion of any sort is rising as well. Only the historically black Protestant churches have held a steady grip through the years of change.
Remember the familiar map of American religion? The South: A bastion of white evangelicals. The Northeast: Cradle of Catholics. The Midwest: Nest of Mainline Protestants. The West: Incubator of “nones” — people who claim no religious brand label.
Well, scratch all that in the new topography.
The shrinking numbers of Christians and their loss of market share is the most significant change since 2007 (when Pew did its first U.S. Religious Landscape survey) and the new, equally massive survey of 35,000 U.S. adults.
The percentage of people who describe themselves as Christians fell about 8 points — from 78.4% to 70.6%. This includes people in virtually all demographic groups, whether they are “nearing retirement or just entering adulthood, married or single, living in the West or the Bible Belt,” according to the survey report.
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SOURCE: Cathy Lynn Grossman
Religion News Service