The United States is becoming less religious, a development driven mostly by declining numbers of Catholics and Protestants. The change is notable because it crosses demographic, geographic and economic lines. In addition, the number of people who identify themselves as not religiously affiliated — the “nones” — is on the rise. Islam is growing rapidly worldwide, largely because of Muslims’ soaring birth rates and comparatively young population. American Muslims make up 0.9 percent of the U.S. population, up from 0.4 percent seven years ago. If global trends continue, the world’s Muslim and Christian populations will be about equal by 2050. Meanwhile, U.S. states are grappling with “religious liberty” issues. And internationally, Pope Francis is making waves among Catholics and non-Catholics alike as he speaks out on a number of controversial issues.
|Pope Francis greets the faithful at the Vatican on May 27 as he prepares to hold his weekly audience. The pope previously reaffirmed the church’s stance against gay marriage. (Getty Images/Giulio Origlia)|
More Christians live in the United States than in any other country, but the number of Americans who identify themselves as Christian is declining across the nation. According to the Pew Research Center, 70.6 percent of American adults (173 million) say they are Christian. That’s a drop of about 5 million adults, or 8 percentage points, since 2007, when Pew last surveyed Americans on their religious identity.
Although the decline is particularly pronounced among young adults, it crosses age, race, gender, geographic and educational boundaries, Pew found. “It’s remarkably widespread. The country is becoming less religious as a whole, and it’s happening across the board,” said Alan Cooperman, director of religion research at the Pew Center.