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Life and Religion

Religion in America at all-time low
Study finds that Americans are losing their religion
Published Thursday, March 21, 2013
by Michaela L. Duckett

It appears that Americans and religion are increasingly parting ways.

In 1990, only 8 percent of Americans claimed to have no religion. In 2012, that number jumped to 20 percent according to a recent study.

A recent survey found that religious affiliation in the United States is at its lowest point since polling began in the 1930s.

Researchers found that 20 percent of Americans claim no religious affiliation – a significant jump from 1990 when all but 8 percent of respondents identified with some sort of organized faith.

“This continues a trend of Americans disavowing a specific religious affiliation that has accelerated greatly since 1990,” said University of California–Berkeley sociologist Mike Hout, lead author of the study.

Along with fellow UC Berkeley sociologist Claude Fischer and Mark Chaves of Duke University, Hout analyzed data on religious attitudes as part of the General Social Survey, a biannual poll conducted by NORC, an independent research institute at the University of Chicago.

The General Social Survey has been tracking major social and cultural trends in American society since 1972, when only 5 percent of those polled claimed no religion.

Hout and Fischer are also authors of the 2002 General Social Survey study, which first identified a significant rise in the number of “unchurched” Americans.

The “no religion” category refers to individuals who are not part of an organized religion but are different from “atheists,” or those who do not believe in God.

Atheists made up just 3 percent of those interviewed last year, and 8 percent of participants in the study said they were raised with no religion.

Responses in the survey were to the question, “What is your religious preference? Is it Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, some other religion or no religion?”

An analysis of the results suggested the following:

* More whites claimed “no religion” (21 percent) compared to African Americans (17 percent) and Mexican Americans (14 percent).

* Men are more likely than women to claim “no religion” (24 percent of men versus 16 percent of women).

* Liberals are far more likely to claim “no religion” (40 percent) than conservatives (9 percent).

* More than one-third of 18-to-24 year olds claimed “no religion” compared to just 7 percent of those 75 or older.

* Residents of Midwestern and Southern states were least likely to claim “no religion” compared to respondents in western, mountain and northeastern states. But midwesterners and southerners are catching up, Hout said.

* Educational differences among those claiming “no religion” are small compared to other demographic differences.

*About one-third of Americans identify with a conservative Protestant denomination, one-quarter are Catholics (although 35 percent were raised Catholic) and 1.5 percent are Jewish.

Additional parts of the survey, which look at other issues such as attitudes about gun ownership and how tax dollars should be spent, are being released in the coming weeks.


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