It another sign that religion is declining in popularity in America, the number of people who claim “no religion” now outnumber Catholics and evangelicals, respectively, according to a recent survey.
For the first time, the Nones (those who profess no religion) now top Americans’ religious identity, according to the General Social Survey.
Political scientist Ryan Burge of Eastern Illinois University found that 23.1 percent of Americans now claim no religion. Catholics are at 23.0 percent, and evangelicals are at 22.5 percent. More than 2,000 people were interviewed in person for the survey. (However, the three groups are within the margin of error of each other, meaning it’s a statistical tie.)
“It is the first time we have seen this. The same questions have been asked for 44 years,” Burge told CNN. The quick rise of religious Nones began in the early 1990s and has grown 266 percent since 1991, he said. In the 1972 survey, only 5 percent said “No Religion.”
Burge estimates that Nones will be the largest group outright in four to six years.
Part of the change is due to the younger generations. The American Family Survey conducted in 2018 found: “For Millennials and even GenXers, the most common religion is no religion at all. The Nones claim 44 percent of the 18–29 age group, and nearly that (43 percent) among those who are 30–44.”
That is a large difference compared to older generations. “Among Americans older than 65, just 21 percent . . . say they are atheist, agnostic, or nothing in particular. However, even that 21 percent is a five-point rise from where the over-65 group was in 2015.”
“The decline in organized religion has wide-ranging consequences, from social isolation to attitudes about science and technology and, of course, to politics,” writes Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post. “Political candidates who can speak to people of faith as well as religiously non-affiliated voters who nevertheless look at politics as a value-driven endeavor will do well in today’s atmosphere. It should also serve as a warning to religious leaders that misconduct and inattention or disdain for the core tenets of faith will mean further decline in their congregants.”