News / USA

One in 5 American Adults Religiously Unaffiliated

A record one in five American adults identifies with no particular religion, according to a new study. And while many still believe in God, the so-called "nones" are a rapidly growing constituency that overwhelmingly votes Democratic.

The study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life looks at a group that has confounded faith leaders and political strategists alike, as it has rapidly grown in number in this deeply religious nation.

The "nones" - who include atheists, agnostics and people reporting no particular faith - now total 46 million people, according to the study.

Lest anyone think America is following a European-style secularization process, Pew researcher Greg Smith emphasized that nones are by and large still spiritual people. Most told the survey they still believe in God, and 20 percent said they pray every day.


“These are folks who are not necessarily non-believers, they're just not associated with any particular religious tradition,” said Smith.

The trend is most pronounced among young adults, a third of whom identify themselves as nones. Smith said he does not expect them to find religion - or at least religious affiliation - when they become older.

“Young people today aren't just more likely to be nones than their elders. Young people today are also more likely to be nones when compared with previous generations when members of those generations were young adults,” said Smith.

Analysts said the political implications are profound. Three quarters of nones voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 election. And the study suggests they are now the biggest religious constituency in the Democratic party, outnumbering Catholics, and mainline and evangelical Protestants.

And most sustain liberal attitudes - supporting legal abortion and same-sex marriage.

Still, Mike McCurry, press secretary for former President Bill Clinton, said the Democratic Party would be wrong to appeal to the "nones" as secular voters.

"You would want to appeal to them on the fact that they are searching for something spiritual or religious or filling some gap in their life," he said.

Indeed, religion is a powerful force in American politics. At the Democratic National Convention last month, leaders quickly reinstated the word "God" in the party platform after harsh criticism from right-wing commentators.

Some analysts say the rise in non-affiliation, however, is a backlash against political preaching in churches.

Michael Cromartie directs the Evangelicals in Civic Life program at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center research organization in Washington.

“I think the reason for decline in some of these places is again because they politicize the pulpit. And people don't go to church to get politics. They go for other, more important questions,” said Cromartie.

The Pew Forum conducted the study in partnership with an American public television show, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, which begins a three-part mini-series on the topic this Friday.

Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid