The number of those who check “None” for their religious affiliation has doubled in the last 20 years, the latest Pew Center survey shows.
Major religious denominations (from Baptists to Catholics to Lutherans) are loosing their members, and the number of people, who identify themselves as atheists, agnostics, and those who simply say they believe “nothing in particular”, has reached 19%, when compared to 6% in 1990.
According to 2008 survey, the number of Nones reached 15%. By 2010, another survey, the bi-annual General Social Survey, bumped the number to 18%.
USA Today reports, to conduct the survey sociologists questioned 19,377 people, who were to answer which religion they do support. And it worth mentioning that the unexpected rise of the “Nones” defies the usually glacial rate of change in spiritual identity.
Barry Kosmin, co-author of three American Religious Identification Surveys, tried to explain why None has become the “default category.”
He suggests, “Young people are resistant to the authority of institutional religion, older people are turned off by the politicization of religion, and people are simply less into theology than ever before.”
Mark Chaves, professor of Sociology, Religion and Divinity at Duke University, says that increasing number of Nones also depends on demographics.
There are two factors, or so-called ‘forces’, which stop the decreasing of atheists and ‘no particulars’. First of all, they are disproportionately young, often single, and highly educated — the groups with a low birth rate.
Secondly, “the number of believers who immigrate to the USA from particularly religious nations, such as Catholics from Mexico, fluctuates with government policies and economic issues”, Chaves explains.
By the way, Gallup’s most recent confidence survey showed that the nation is also losing confidence in religious institutions.
Such a low confidence can be easily explained as several of the institutions have recently drawn attention through corruption, sex scandals, and a strengthening alliance with partisan politics.
“While various sex abuse scandals involving U.S. clerics have likely played a role in Americans’ growing skepticism about the church and organized religion, the decline in confidence does not necessarily indicate a decline in Americans’ personal attachment to religion,” said Lydia Saad of Gallup.
“The decline in confidence does not necessarily indicate a decline in Americans’ personal attachment to religion.”
“The percentage of Americans saying religion is very important in their lives has held fairly steady since the mid-1970s, after dropping sharply from 1952 levels,” she added.
Co-author Jonathan Merritt added, “I have concluded that religious leaders need to understand the importance of avoiding partisan politics or they will literally end up preaching to the choir.”
The results of the poll are based on interviews conducted June 7-10, 2012, with a random sample of 1,004 adults, aged 18 and older, living all over the United States.
Gallup’s survey showed 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage point.
“In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls,” the researchers say.