Americans, it seems, are increasingly abandoning Christianity in favor of atheism, agnosticism and, to some extent, non-Christian faiths like Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.
According to the findings of a massive new survey carried out by the Pew Research Center, over the last seven years, the percentage of American adults who are religiously unaffiliated has jumped nearly 7 percent, pointing to a trend that is visible across race and gender divisions.
The survey, which recorded answers from more than 35,000 Americans, not only found a drop in the Christian share of the population — to 70.6 percent in 2014 from 78.4 percent in 2007 — it also saw a decline in their absolute numbers — to 173 million in 2014 from an earlier 178 million — driven mainly by declines among mainline Protestants and Catholics. Meanwhile, the unaffiliated — who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular” — rose to 22.8 percent of the American population in 2014 from an earlier 16.1 percent.
“More people know the facts, and more people realize they are not alone,” David Silverman, president of American Atheists, reportedly said. “It’s now impossible for an atheist to think he is alone in this world. They are automatically empowered.”
The survey also found a sharp generational gap between the unaffiliated and those professing the Christian faith. While the unaffiliated are getting younger — with their average age dropping to 36 in 2014 from 38 in 2007 — the median age of both mainline Protestants and Catholics has risen.
However, despite the decrease in religiosity, the U.S. is still home to one of the largest Christian populations in the world.
“Even as their numbers decline, American Christians — like the U.S. population as a whole — are becoming more racially and ethnically diverse,” the study, published Tuesday, said. “Racial and ethnic minorities now make up 41 percent of Catholics (up from 35 percent in 2007), 24 percent of evangelical Protestants (up from 19 percent) and 14 percent of mainline Protestants (up from 9 percent).”
These figures are in line with an earlier study by the Washington-based think tank, which forecast a rise in the population of religiously unaffiliated in many countries across Europe and North America. In the U.S., for example, their population is projected to grow from 16 percent in 2010 to 26 percent in 2050.