Religion Is on the Decline as More Adults Check ‘None’

Less than half of American adults attend church regularly, while 26% claim no religious affiliation

Ian Lovett

Oct. 17, 2019 10:00 am ET

Religiosity in the U.S. is in sharp decline, according to a study released by the Pew Research Center on Thursday, with the ranks of people who don’t adhere to any faith growing fast while church attendance has fallen steeply.

Christians make up 65% of the U.S. adult population, according the 2018-2019 study, down from 77% in 2009. At the same time, those who don’t identify with any religion—often known as “nones”—now make up more than a quarter of the population, compared with 17% a decade ago. Only 45% of adults said they attended church at least once a month, down from 52% in 2009.

The data reflect a seismic social reordering that has seen the population shift away from Christianity and toward religious disaffiliation.

Some “nones” are atheists or agnostics, while others consider themselves to be spiritual but don’t adhere to a particular religious tradition.

Every age group, racial group and region of the country is less Christian than a decade ago, according to the study.

Less than half of millennials, the youngest demographic group in the study, identify as Christian; 40% of them are unaffiliated. The oldest demographic group, born between 1928 and 1945 and known as the Silent Generation, is 84% Christian and 10% unaffiliated.

Protestants fell to 43% of the population, down from 51% in 2009, while Catholics fell 3 percentage points, to 20%. Other Christians—neither Catholic nor Protestant—make up the other 2%.

Within the 26% of U.S. adults who are religiously unaffiliated, atheists grew to 4% of the overall population from 2%; agnostics grew to 5% from 3%, and those who identify as “nothing in particular” rose to 17% from 12%.

Non-Christian religions largely held steady. Jews remain at 2% of the population and Muslims are at 1%.


What do you think has contributed to the rising number of people who do not identify themselves as affiliated to any religion? 

What do we need to be doing differently in light of this information? Without a “knee jerk” reaction, how do we respond to our increasingly secular culture? What do you think the church needs to do that we haven’t been doing?

My opinion…I don’t think our increasingly secular culture today is saying “no” to Jesus. I think our culture is saying “no” to how we typically present him. Jesus and his teachings are inherently compelling but more often than not historic Christianity has been focused on what we are against rather than what we are for which typically presents a view of Jesus that isn’t very appealing. We have a lot of work to do in order to build bridges with the “Nones,” but I truly believe the Jesus movement will prevail even at the expense of institutional preservation. 

But here is my challenge…the vast majority of designated “Nones,” said they would attend a service of worship if only they were invited by someone they know. Isn’t that interesting? Do you know anyone who self identifies as a “None?” May I encourage you to invite them to Chapel Hill? 

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