In a previous article on this blog on the decline of religion in English-speaking countries, I mainly concentrated on its decline in Australia, but also related what was happening in other nations. At the time, the most recent data from the United States, indicated that 18.2% of the population had no religious affiliation. This was even more pronounced among the 18-29-year-old demographic, with about 33% of them having no religious affiliation1.
In a subsequent article, I showed that the trend in declining religiosity was continuing in Australia, where in 2018 (using data 2 years more recent than the previous article), the most recent Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey indicated that about 40% of the populace had no religious affiliation. An even more recent survey by Roy Morgan taken in 2020 indicated that those with no religion had increased again and was at 45.5%2.
Now, the Pew Research Center has released new research which demonstrates that in the US the declining trend in religious affiliation is also continuing in the US. The Pew Research Center styles itself as a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, content analysis and other data-driven social science research3.
This new research shows that those who are religiously unaffiliated as a proportion of the population has increased to 29%. Christians (including Protestants, Catholics, Mormons and Orthodox Christians) continue to make up a majority of the US population but their share of the adult population is 12 percentage points lower in 2021 (at 63%) than it was in 2011 (75%). These religious ‘nones’ are people who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or ‘nothing in particular’ when asked about their religious identity. Christians now outnumber these religious ‘nones’ by a ratio of a little more than two-to-one. In 2007, when the Pew Research Center began asking its current question about religious identity, Christians outnumbered ‘nones’ by almost five-to-one (78% vs. 16%)4.
The recent declines within Christianity are concentrated among Protestants. Today, 40% of U.S. adults are Protestants, a group that is broadly defined to include nondenominational Christians and people who describe themselves as “just Christian” along with Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians and others. The Protestant share of the population is down 4 percentage points over the last five years and has dropped from 50% in 10 years. By comparison, the Catholic share of the population, which had declined between 2007 and 2014, has held relatively steady in recent years. As of 2021, 21% of U.S. adults describe themselves as Catholic, identical to the Catholic share of the population in 2014.
Within Protestantism, evangelicals continue to outnumber those who are not evangelical. Currently, 60% of Protestants say “yes” when asked whether they think of themselves as a “born-again or evangelical Christian,” while 40% say “no” or decline to answer the question.
Today, 24% of U.S. adults describe themselves as born-again or evangelical Protestants, down 6 percentage points since 2007. During the same period, there also has been a 6-point decline in the share of adults who are Protestant but not born-again or evangelical (from 22% to 16%)4.
Several of the people with whom I discuss topics such as this are under the impression that religiosity is increasing; however, the data in recent years demonstrates this is not so. I suspect the reason there seem to be more of the religious about is because they are becoming even more strident in the defence of their power and privilege, coupled with the fact they have taken over many branches of the Liberal Party. They are terrified of being looked on much like supporters of Collingwood, Melbourne Victory or indeed the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks; just another group of people who front up every weekend to wave and shout and sing.