The Pew Research Center released a report yesterday stating that the U.S. public is becoming less religious, though a closer look at that reveals a differentiation: While religiously unaffiliated people in the U.S. are becoming less religious (praying less or not at all, not attending religious services, etc.) those who are already affiliated with religious faiths or denominations are remaining faithful, and in some cases becoming more so.
Is the American public becoming less religious? Yes, at least by some key measures of what it means to be a religious person. An extensive new survey of more than 35,000 U.S. adults finds that the percentages who say they believe in God, pray daily and regularly go to church or other religious services all have declined modestly in recent years.
But the Pew Research Center study also finds a great deal of stability in the U.S. religious landscape. The recent decrease in religious beliefs and behaviors is largely attributable to the “nones” – the growing minority of Americans, particularly in the Millennial generation, who say they do not belong to any organized faith. Among the roughly three-quarters of U.S. adults who do claim a religion, there has been no discernible drop in most measures of religious commitment. Indeed, by some conventional measures, religiously affiliated Americans are, on average, even more devout than they were a few years ago.
The study looks at a time period from 2007 to present.
The portion of religiously affiliated adults who say they regularly read scripture, share their faith with others and participate in small prayer groups or scripture study groups all have increased modestly since 2007. And roughly four-in-ten religiously affiliated adults (41%) now say they rely mainly on their religious beliefs for guidance on questions about right and wrong, up 7 percentage points in seven years.
The study also suggests that in some ways Americans are becoming more spiritual. About six-in-ten adults now say they regularly feel a deep sense of “spiritual peace and well-being,” up 7 percentage points since 2007. And 46% of Americans say they experience a deep sense of “wonder about the universe” at least once a week, also up 7 points over the same period.
The Pew report, which explores religious practices, affiliations, age and stances on such topics as homosexuality, the Bible as the word of God, and the existence of hell, can be found here.
A video produced by Pew summarizes the statistics:
Photo: “Bible-706658” by James Chan – Pixabay. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons