According to a massive study conducted by the PEW Research Center, religious belief in the US has declined since 2007, while general spirituality has risen.
by Jesse Mechanic
The PEW released the results of a survey of 35,000+ Americans today and while the results are not particularly significant, they are telling of a trend moving away from organized religion. Among the religiously unaffiliated, the number of US citizens who believe in God has fell from 92% in 2007 (when the study was last conducted) to 89%. A three percentage point drop is not large enough to draw any conclusions, but the number of the unaffiliated who are “absolutely certain” God exists has dropped from 71% to 63%, which is more indicative of a trend.
Christianity has also experienced a decline worth noting, with the amount of Americans who identify as Christian dropping from 78% to 70% in the last seven years. Moreover, the number of individuals who pray and regularly attend church services has also decreased moderately. Within those who are religiously affiliated, their level of faith and participation has stayed fairly consistent. In the same regard, however, the number of those who are entirely unaffiliated rose from 16% to 22%. The acceptance of homosexuality has risen throughout Christianity rather dramatically, which is likely the result of the transformation of the political and social landscapes as well as the more accepting approach of Pope Francis.
Other religions such as, Buddhist, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Jewish, Orthodox Christian and Protestant showed no significant change.
The results that seem to be pointed away from organized religion are largely due to the younger generation’s loss of faith -specifically those born between 1981 and 1996. As displayed below, the older the generation, the more religious the group tends to be as a whole. The younger generation’s decreased interest and participation could be the combined result of a more thorough science education as well as the increasing stigma around many elements of organized religion. It is also worth noting that for some, religion becomes more important with age -so this too could be a factor.
While religious affiliation as a whole may be on the decline, spirituality is on the rise across the board.
So what these results seem to signify are that Americans are less inclined to follow an organized religion, but we are still searching for some greater meaning to it all. The pervasive, anti-establishment craze that has been sweeping through the US needs to be examined as a potential factor here. One look at the success of Ben Carson and Donald Trump or the iconic statuses of Snoden, Assange and Manning and it’s evident that many Americans have a massive distrust for the establishment. And organized religion -especially Christianity- is about as large and powerful as an organization can get. There are undoubtedly a myriad of factors that are potential contributors to this shift in spirituality, and further examination is required to make any definitive statements. But what this does show is that Americans are becoming more independent in the way we approach larger questions of spirituality, which should serve to weaken the dividing lines that often accompany organized religion.
Jesse Mechanic is the Editor-in-chief of The Overgrown.