US Protestants lose majority status

2012-10-09 17:29

(Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

New York - For the first time in its history, the United States does not have a Protestant majority, according to a new study. One reason: The number of Americans with no religious affiliation is on the rise.

The percentage of Protestant adults in the US has reached a low of 48%, the first time that Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has reported with certainty that the number has fallen below 50%.

The drop has long been anticipated and comes at a time when no Protestants are on the US Supreme Court and the Republicans have their first presidential ticket with no Protestant nominees.

Among the reasons for the change a spike in the number of American adults who say they have no religion. The Pew study, released on Tuesday, found that about 20% of Americans say they have no religious affiliation, an increase from 15% in the last five years.

Secular

Scholars have long debated whether people who say they no longer belong to a religious group should be considered secular.

While the category as defined by Pew researchers includes atheists, it also encompasses majorities of people who say they believe in God, and a notable minority who pray daily or consider themselves "spiritual" but not "religious."

Still, Pew found overall that most of the unaffiliated aren't actively seeking another religious home, indicating that their ties with organised religion are permanently broken.

Growth among those with no religion has been a major preoccupation of American faith leaders who worry that the United States, a highly religious country, would go the way of Western Europe, where church attendance has plummeted.

Pope Benedict XVI has partly dedicated his pontificate to combating secularism in the West.

This week in Rome, he is convening a three-week synod, or assembly, of bishops from around the world aimed at bringing back Roman Catholics who have left the church.

Political implications

The trend also has political implications. American voters who describe themselves as having no religion vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.

Pew found Americans with no religion support abortion rights and gay marriage at a much higher-rate than the US public at large.

These "nones" are an increasing segment of voters who are registered as Democrats or lean toward the party, growing from 17% to 24% over the last five years. The religiously unaffiliated are becoming as important a constituency to Democrats as evangelicals are to Republicans, Pew said.

Research

The Pew analysis, conducted with PBS' "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly", is based on several surveys, including a poll of nearly 3,000 adults conducted 28 June to 9 July 2012.

The finding on the Protestant majority is based on responses from a larger group of more than 17 000 people and has a margin of error of plus or minus 0.9 percentage points, Pew researchers said.

Pew said it had also previously calculated a drop slightly below 50% among US Protestants, but those findings had fallen within the margin of error; the General Social Survey, which is conducted by the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Centre, reported for 2010 that the percentage of US Protestants was around 46.7%.

Analysts disagree on whether the increasing numbers of nondenominational Christians should be counted as Protestant. Pew researchers do include independent Christians in their Protestant figure.

Reason

Researchers have been struggling for decades to find a definitive reason for the steady rise in those with no religion.

The spread of secularism in Western Europe was often viewed as a by-product of growing wealth in the region. Yet among industrialised nations, the United States stood out for its deep religiosity in the face of increasing wealth.

Now, religion scholars say the decreased religiosity in the United States could reflect a change in how Americans describe their religious lives. In 2007, 60% of people who said they seldom or never attend religious services still identified themselves as part of a particular religious tradition.

In 2012, that statistic fell to 50%, according to the Pew report.

"Part of what's going on here is that the stigma associated with not being part of any religious community has declined," said John Green, a specialist in religion and politics at the University of Akron, who advised Pew on the survey.

"In some parts of the country, there is still a stigma. But overall, it's not the way it used to be."

'Nones'


The Pew study has found the growth in unaffiliated Americans spans a broad range of groups: men and women, college graduates and those without a college degree, people earning less than $30 000 annually and those earning $75 000 or more.

However, along ethnic lines, the largest jump in "nones" has been among whites. One-fifth of whites describe themselves as having no religion.

More growth in "nones" is expected. One-third of adults under age 30 have no religious affiliation, compared to 9% of people 65 and older.

Pew researchers wrote that "young adults today are much more likely to be unaffiliated than previous generations were at a similar stage in their lives", and aren't expected to become more religiously active as they age.

- AP
Read more on:    us  |  religion
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
23 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

This is what South Africans Googled in 2014!

Find out who and what South Africans were most curious about in 2014!

 
 

I love summer.24

This hilarious song is your new holiday anthem
The world's least visited destination is breathtaking!
LOL treadmill fail!
Google’s top searches of 2014

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Any chance to explore the distant shores of things yet to be found will fascinate you. The challenge is dealing with the issues...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.