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US Becoming Less Religious Says Pew Study

  • VOA News

FILE - People from different faiths pray during an interfaith vigil for the victims of the Tennessee shooting, at Olivet Baptist church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, July 17, 2015.

FILE - People from different faiths pray during an interfaith vigil for the victims of the Tennessee shooting, at Olivet Baptist church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, July 17, 2015.

A newly-released poll on Americans’ religious beliefs shows a modest shift downward in the number of adults who believe in God, pray daily and regularly go to church.

The 2014 Religious Landscape Study, released Tuesday by The Pew Research Center, found that the percentage of Americans who say they are “absolutely certain” God exists fell from 71 percent in 2007 to 63 percent in 2014.

Despite the declines, Pew said there is a “great deal of stability in the U.S. religious landscape,” saying that for those who claim a religion, there was no “discernable drop” in their commitment to the religion.

And the belief in God remains strong compared to other advanced industrial countries, Pew said.

The study found, for example, that 77 percent of adults said they were affiliated with a religion, down from 83 percent in 2007.

Furthermore, those who said they believe in God remained at 89 percent compared to 92 percent in 2007 when the last survey was done.

Additionally, 60 percent of those surveyed believe the Bible or other holy books are the word of God, with 31 percent saying those books should be interpreted literally.

“People who say they have a religion — which is still the vast majority of the population — show no discernible dip in levels of observance,” said Alan Cooperman, director of religion research at Pew.

“They report attending religious services as often as they did a few years ago. They pray as often as they did before, and they are just as likely to say that religion plays a very important role in their lives,” he added. “On some measures there are even small increases in their levels of religious practice.”

Pew said that decreases in religious beliefs were likely a result of a growing number of “Millennials” -- young people born between the early 1980s and early 2000s -- who say they don’t belong to an organized religion, and older, more religious Americans dying off.

So-called “nones,” those who don’t belong to a religion, make up 23 percent of the adult population compared to 16 percent in 2007.

Still, 61 percent of “nones” said they believed in God.

One barometer that moved considerably was same-sex marriage, with 54 percent of Christians saying homosexuality should be accepted by society, up from 44 percent in 2007.

On evolution, still a point of contention among some Americans, 62 percent of Americans say humans evolved over time, with 34 percent saying they did not believe in evolution.

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