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Survey: Growing number of Black Americans opt to go unchurched
1-in-5 don't affiliate with any religion
Published Wednesday, February 24, 2021 7:00 pm
by Mattie Townson | Religion Unplugged

One in five Black Americans identify with no religion, according to a Pew Research study. The trend toward secularization is growing with each successive generation although many who don't affiliate with a religion still consider themselves spiritual. The study of 8,600 Black adults found that 97% believe in God or another higher power compared to 90% of Americans overall.

NEW YORK — One in five Black Americans are not affiliated with any religion and instead identify as atheist, agnostic or religious “nones,” according to a new Pew Research study.

The trend towards secularization is continuing to grow with each new generation, though many who don’t affiliate with a religion still consider themselves spiritual and try to live out various beliefs outside of religious institutions. About 28% of Gen Z is religiously unaffiliated, compared to 33% of Millennials, 5% of the Silent Generation 11% of Baby Boomers, according to the study released Feb. 16.

Pew polled 8,600 Black adults ages 18 and older, finding that Black Americans are still more religious than the U.S. public overall — with 97% claiming to believe in God or another higher power compared to 90% of the public overall.

Sixty-six percent of Black Americans attend Protestant churches at least sometimes. Only 6% identify as Catholic and 3% identify with other branches of the Christian faith, like Jehovah’s Witness. Another 3% identify with another religion completely, like Islam.

Sixty percent of Blacks who attend religious services attend a predominantly Black church with Black clergy and a fully African American congregation. Black church services are also more likely to be interactive — offering more outward expressions of approval, like a shouted “amen!” during sermons. Half of Black churchgoers say their services include speaking in tongues, a charismatic tradition.

Two-thirds of Black Protestants are likely to say that they attend predominantly Black congregations where the majority of the laypeople and clergy are Black Americans.
Only 25% of Black Americans attend multi-racial congregations, with even fewer attending predominantly white churches (13%).

While around 34% of religious Black Americans say it would be “very important” for their church to be majority Black, most, or around 64%, say it would be “not too important” or “not at all important.”  

Roughly three-quarters of Black Americans also say they see Christianity as a productive tool for fighting racial injustice in the U.S., and that it has played a valuable role in the struggle towards racial equality. Thirty percent of Black Americans say the Church has done “a great deal” in fighting racial inequalities.

But the majority of Black adults in the U.S. do not regularly attend church services. Young people (Gen Z, Millennials and Gen X) are least likely to attend church — and those who do attend church are less likely to attend predominantly Black churches.

Among all of the religious and non-religious groups, there is not a solid ideological divide. Black Americans tend to vote consistently Democratic whether or not they identify as religious.


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