US Protestants lose majority status

2012-10-09 17:29

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.


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.


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.


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."


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.

  • vernon.samuel.7 - 2012-10-09 18:11

    'Christianity will shrink and vanish' - John Lennon (1966)

      terrance.brandon - 2012-10-09 18:38

      "Heaven and Earth will pass away , but my Word will never pass away." - The Lord Jesus Christ (eternally)

      vernon.samuel.7 - 2012-10-09 18:42

      Yeah, but we kind of have televised proof of what Lennon said. All that we have are doctored scrolls as proof of what Christ said. And that aint really proof, is it?

      crracker.crackerr - 2012-10-09 19:10

      @ terrance.brandon Some honesty from you will help. No surprise - especially now with the availability of the interner - that lies like the one you pander here in your comment may be adding to the decline in the number of believers. See just how unreliable the reported words of Jesus really are in the passages posted below. And how they are prefaced by the usual emphatic assurances "truely" and "verily". So as if the predictions had already lost their credibility at the stage when the gospels were written (and of of course copied from the original (many) false source material and needed some serious reinforcement. Today we know the prophecies attributed to Jesus did not materialize. Yet some of you will come on public forums and pretend your belief sytems based on the bible are credible.

      crracker.crackerr - 2012-10-09 19:10

      Once again the usual dishonesty from the believers. "When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for TRULY, I say to you, you WILL NOT HAVE GONE THROUGH ALL THE TOWNS OF ISRAEL BEFORE the SON OF MAN COMES." (Matt. 10:23, "27For the SON OF MAN is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done. 28TRULY, I say to you, THERE ARE SOME STANDING HERE who will NOT TASTE DEATH UNTIL THE SEE THE SON OF MAN COMING IN HIS KINGDOM." (Matt. 16:27–28) "33So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34TRULY, I say to you, THIS GENERATION will not pass away until ALL THESE things take place." (Matt. 24:33–34) "…he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else. It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible." —C. S. Lewis, The World’s Last Night and Other Essays (New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1973), 98.

      kobus.hattingh.5 - 2012-10-09 19:16

      Well said Terrance. And Cracker, I suggest you read a bit more concerning escatology before jumping to your own conclusions. might give you more perspective on the verses you quoted.

      crracker.crackerr - 2012-10-09 19:37

      @ kobus.hattingh.5 Now tell me exactly what are those verses (and MANY MORE saying and implying the exact same, namely that Jesus would return during the first century) doing in the bible if they don't mean what they say. Why would the god-inspired bible not be plain and clear instead of sowing more discord. The verses are as clear as can be. Here is your opportunity to clear the misunderstandings. I do not intend going to other sites when I have the clear wording of the bible in front of me in clear language saying what it says. I am aware of the tactic here by some to refer to other sites and then later claiming that the issues I have raised have been dealt with. No, don't fall for that silly trick. I can refer you to other sites as well for a list and quoted verses therein which say and confirm exactly the same message as in the verses I qoute here. Now what do those verses actually say that they are not supposed to say? Those interested in a full list of the predictions and he actual wording of the passages can go to

      zaatheist - 2012-10-09 19:55

      Crracker Surprise, surprise. Kobus says you don;t know what you are talking about and that he knows better how to interpret the Buybull than any of his fellow 30000 different cultists. Sorry Kobus, more and more people are learning just what a load of BS the god and Jesus myth is. "eschatology!!!!!!!!!!!" Wow. Jeez! haha! Just like theology. The study of nothing at all. Don't you mean escapeology? Tell me Kobus. What does you god actually do and when does he do it? PAH! Fiddlesticks.

      crracker.crackerr - 2012-10-09 20:12

      @ zaatheist They try to sound important with their nonsense. Yet, here I post three passages saying exactly the same - no margin for so-called interpretation or contextaulization - and I ask a very straighforward question. What do the passages say or not say that conflicts with the clear wording they are couched in? What misunderstandings are it that we the commoners labour under? I would have thought that the bible should be open and explicable to ALL the common souls all over the world. But it isn't. Everything in it requires learned explanations. No wonder the religious authorities tried so desperately to keep the bible private. The fact is that many so-called learned theologians agree that the predictions in the passages I refer to in the above comments did not materialize. Actually we all can see it for ourselves. I am tired of seeing the dishonesty of the religious nuts and liars on this forum everyday. But what can one do? They are spreading so much lies and misery that one just can't ignore what they are up to.

      There is the Lamb - 2012-10-09 22:30

      @Crracker Quoting from Clarke's commentary: Matthew 10:23 ... Ye shall not have gone over (ended or finished, margin) the cities, etc. - The word te?es?te here is generally understood as implying to go over or through, intimating that there should not be time for the disciples to travel over the cities of Judea before the destruction predicted by Christ should take place. But this is very far from being the truth, as there were not less than forty years after this was spoken, before Jerusalem was destroyed: te?e??? ?a? µa??a?a?t?? are used by the Septuagint. 1Ch_25:8, for those who teach and those who learn. And t??? te?e???? is used by the apostle, 1Co_2:6, for those who are perfectly instructed in the things of God. Ovid has used the Latin perficio, which answers to the Greek te?e??? in exactly the same sense. Phillyrides puerum cithara perfecit Achillem. “Chiron Taught the young Achilles to play on the harp.” For these reasons some contend that the passage should be translated, Ye shall not have Instructed, i.e. preached the Gospel in the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come. The Greek divines call baptism te?e??s?? or initiation. See Leigh. Crit. sacr. Edit. Amst. p. 326, 328. Continued below

      There is the Lamb - 2012-10-09 22:30

      Dr. Lightfoot supposes the meaning to be: “Ye shall not have traveled over the cities of Israel, preaching the Gospel, before the Son of man is revealed by his resurrection, Rom_1:4; compare Act_3:19, Act_3:20; Act_5:26. To you first, God, raising up his Son, sent him to bless you, etc. The epoch of the Messiah is dated from the resurrection of Christ.” After all, the place may be understood literally; for te?e?? ta? p??e??, to finish the cities, is only a concise mode of speech, for te?e?? ?d?? d?a ta? p??e??, to complete the journey through the cities. To finish the survey, to preach in every one: - till the Son of man be come, may refer either to the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of pentecost, or to the subversion of the Jewish state. See Rosenmuller.

      There is the Lamb - 2012-10-09 22:33

      Matthew 16:28 There be some - which shall not taste of death - This verse seems to confirm the above explanation, as our Lord evidently speaks of the establishment of the Christian Church after the day of pentecost, and its final triumph after the destruction of the Jewish polity; as if he had said, “Some of you, my disciples, shall continue to live until these things take place.” The destruction of Jerusalem, and the Jewish economy, which our Lord here predicts, took place about forty-three years after this: and some of the persons now with him doubtless survived that period, and witnessed the extension of the Messiah’s kingdom; and our Lord told them these things before, that when they came to pass they might be confirmed in the faith, and expect an exact fulfillment of all the other promises and prophecies which concerned the extension and support of the kingdom of Christ. Continued below

      There is the Lamb - 2012-10-09 22:34

      To his kingdom, or in his kingdom. Instead of ßas??e?a, kingdom, four MSS., later Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic, Saxon, and one copy of the Itala, with several of the primitive fathers, read d???, glory: and to this is added, t?? pat??? a?t??, of his Father, by three MSS. and the versions mentioned before. This makes the passage a little more conformable to the passage already quoted from Daniel; and it must appear, very clearly, that the whole passage speaks not of a future judgment, but of the destruction of the Jewish polity, and the glorious spread of Christianity in the earth, by the preaching of Christ crucified by the apostles and their immediate successors in the Christian Church. This is not all, but I'm not going to post the whole thing in here.

      There is the Lamb - 2012-10-09 22:37

      Matthew 24:34 This generation shall not pass - ? ?e?ea a?t?, this race; i.e. the Jews shall not cease from being a distinct people, till all the counsels of God relative to them and the Gentiles be fulfilled. Some translate ? ?e?ea a?t?, this generation, meaning the persons who were then living, that they should not die before these signs, etc., took place: but though this was true, as to the calamities that fell upon the Jews, and the destruction of their government, temple, etc., yet as our Lord mentions Jerusalem’s continuing to be under the power of the Gentiles till the fullness of the Gentiles should come in, i.e. till all the nations of the world should receive the Gospel of Christ, after which the Jews themselves should be converted unto God, Rom_11:25, etc., I think it more proper not to restrain its meaning to the few years which preceded the destruction of Jerusalem; but to understand it of the care taken by Divine providence to preserve them as a distinct people, and yet to keep them out of their own land, and from their temple service. See on Mar_13:30 (note). But still it is literally true in reference to the destruction of Jerusalem. John probably lived to see these things come to pass; compare Mat_16:28, with Joh_21:22; and there were some rabbins alive at the time when Christ spoke these words who lived till the city was destroyed, viz. Rabban Simeon, who perished with the city; R. Jochanan ben Zaccai, who outlived it; R. Zadoch, R. Ismael, and others.

      There is the Lamb - 2012-10-09 22:38

      Continued from above See Lightfoot. The war began, as Josephus says, Ant. b. xx. c. 11. s. 1, in the second year of the government of Gessius Florus, who succeeded Albinus, successor of Porcius Festus, mentioned Act_24:27, in the month of May, in the twelfth year of Nero, and the seventeenth of Agrippa, mentioned Acts 25 and 26, that is, in May, a.d. 66. The temple was burnt August 10, a.d. 70, the same day and month on which it had been burnt by the king of Babylon: Josephus, Ant. b. xx. c. 11. s. 8. The city was taken September 8, in the second year of the reign of Vespasian, or the year of Christ 70. Ant. b. vi. c. 10. That was the end of the siege of Jerusalem, which began, as Josephus several times observes, about the fourteenth day of the month Nisan, or our April. See War, b. v. c. 3. s. 1, c. 13. s. 7; b. vi. c. 9. s. 3.

      There is the Lamb - 2012-10-09 22:39

      I hope this helps to clear things up a bit.

      There is the Lamb - 2012-10-09 22:47

      I haven't posted the whole comment on Matt. 24:34 either.

      There is the Lamb - 2012-10-09 22:48

      Oops, I see the Greek letters have been garbled.

  • andrew.austin.718 - 2012-10-09 19:02

    Religion seems to thrive in an environment of ignorance and indoctrination (except of course your own religion , which thrives on truth). Also, even the most ridiculous stories are more believable when everyone else around you believes them (of course I'm not talking about your own religion, which is not in any way ridiculous). So it would seem that since we are in the information age, and as more and more people are no longer religious, this environment is becoming hostile to religion, it it would not be surprising to see it decline at an exponential rate. As it declines, the faithful will become more radical, and in so doing marginalise themselves more and more, which will add to the trend .

  • zaatheist - 2012-10-09 19:34

    Brilliant but not unexpected news. "Pope Benedict XVI has partly dedicated his pontificate to combating secularism in the West. " Jawellnofine, Uncle Fester, how you going to do that? Send out some more pedopriests? You guys, who thrive on ignorance and fear, are are all on the way out. The internet is obviously the work of Satan.

  • crracker.crackerr - 2012-10-09 19:49

    @ kobus.hattingh Waiting. What is it that those passages I quote above say that they are not supposed to say? Or what is it they don't say what they are supposed to say? Don't try such dishonest tactics. Here is YOUR chance to rephrase those passages so they can say what you say they should actually say. Then we take it further from there.

  • Scippypowa - 2012-10-09 21:34

    Well. I predicted a few years ago that Christianity will be extinct by 2050. It's well on its way. Now I think it might happen sooner. Now if we can just find a way to stop parents who indoctrinate of their children to speed up the process

  • pages:
  • 1