One-in-five Americans have no religious affiliation, new survey reveals

Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Silhouette church with couple is standing in Sevilla
Photo Credit: Saulgranda/Getty Image
Washington: The number of Americans who don’t identify with a religion has grown, with a fifth of adults saying they are religiously unaffiliated, a new poll released found.

The survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life, conducted jointly with the PBS television programme Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, found many of the country’s 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way.

The religiously unaffiliated includes more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey indicated in the survey released on Tuesday.

The number of those who said they aren’t affiliated with a particular religion increased from just more than 15 percent to just less than 20 percent of all U.S. adults in the past five years, the survey indicated.

Survey suggests, in addition to religious behavior, the way that Americans talk about their connection to religion seems to be changing. Increasingly, Americans describe their religious affiliation in terms that more closely match their level of involvement in churches and other religious organisations.

 In 2007, 60% of those who said they seldom or never attend religious services nevertheless described themselves as belonging to a particular religious tradition. In 2012, just 50% of those who say they seldom or never attend religious services still retain a religious affiliation – a 10-point drop in five years.

Two-thirds of them say they believe in God and more than half said they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth. A third said they were “spiritual” but not “religious” and about a fifth said they pray daily. In addition, most religiously unaffiliated Americans said they think religious institutions benefit society by strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor.

These trends suggest that the ranks of the unaffiliated are swelling in surveys partly because Americans who rarely go to services are more willing than in the past to drop their religious attachments altogether.
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