Americans' faiths in flux as more reject their given religions
Amherst, New York (March 3, 2008)—The most detailed estimates to date of Americans' religious affiliations reports that a significant portion of U.S. citizens claim "none of the above," placing the unaffiliated second only to Roman Catholics in number. Monday's release of the 35,000-respondent U.S. Religious Landscape Survey from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows that 16.1 percent of Americans have no particular religion at all, while 23.9 percent identify themselves as Catholic. The next largest "belief group" is Evangelical Baptist at 10.8 percent. All other denominational groupings show in the single digits or less.
The study also shows the number of Americans who identify as atheist or agnostic has risen from 3.2 percent to 4 percent, while a "remarkably high" 44 percent have rejected the religion placed on them in childhood.
"People are finding out that what they've been handed in youth doesn't work, or isn't important enough to defend when confronted with marriage or some other life situation that forces them to examine it," said Paul Kurtz, founder of the Council for Secular Humanism. "But when the shuffling is done, this study shows that three people are dropping religion altogether for each one gaining a faith."
The study also confirms the previous 2004 Pew Forum-University of Akron study findings that those who identify as strictly secular comprise more than 10 percent of the population, only on a much larger scale.
"The breakdown is interesting, in that it distinguishes between the vaguely religious and those who fall squarely in the secular camp," Kurtz said. "But I would venture to say that there is a significant number of Americans who sympathize with secularism, but who may still be nominal members of religious organizations. It's apparent that a significant percentage of the population identifies with secularism, and I trust politicians will bear this in mind."
The Council for Secular Humanism is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization promoting rational inquiry, secular values and positive human development through the advancement of secular humanism. The Council, publisher of the bimonthly journal Free Inquiry, has a Web site at www.secularhumanism.org.