A new poll recently published highlights the secular trend sweeping the country given that one in five Americans now describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated.
The survey, conducted by The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life in conjunction with PBS’ Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, found that one-fifth of Americans – and nearly a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today. This marks the highest percentages that have ever been recorded by Pew Research Center polling.
What makes these numbers even more unsettling is the understanding that the shift away from organized religion has been steadily increasing over the past decade or so, with the most dramatic results occurring in the past five years.
Since 2007, the percentage of respondents that have claimed to be religiously unaffiliated increased from 15 percent to 20 percent of all U.S. adults in 2012. Those religiously unaffiliated individuals include more than 13 million atheists and agnostics which represent almost six percent of the U.S. population and also nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation at all.
The polling data does show the greatest shift of the religiously unaffiliated occurring with younger generations; specifically millennials aged 18-22. 34 percent of respondents in this age category held no religious affiliation compared with less than five percent of individuals born from 1913-1927. The survey also found that nearly three-quarters of adults who responded- 74 percent- stated that they had grown up with some sort of religious affiliation.
The survey showed that this age group and others are becoming less religious than the general public when considering things like attendance of religious services and the importance of religion they give to their lives.
The shift towards un-affiliation with organized religion, while shocking, does not have to be taken negatively. The survey found that of those respondents who stated they were religiously unaffiliated, more than two-thirds- 68 percent- revealed that they believed in God, with 21 percent saying that they pray every day. 58 percent explained that they had a deep connection with both nature and the earth.
In addition, the majority of respondents who claimed they were religiously unaffiliated felt that churches and other religious institutions were beneficial to the local community and made a positive impact in the lives of the poor and disenfranchised.
This survey included data a nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center that was conducted from June 28 to July 9, 2012. The survey used responses collected from both landlines and cell phones from a sample of 2,973 adults.