The number of Americans who say they have no particular religion has grown rapidly in the last five years, a trend that researchers say has significant implications for coming elections and American culture more broadly.
A report released today by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 20 percent of Americans say they do not belong to any religion or are atheist or agnostic, the highest percentage ever recorded in Pew polls and about 5 percent more than those who said they had no religious affiliation five years ago.
Researchers attribute the growth in the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated – or “nones” as they are sometimes called – to changing patterns of religious participation and belief among younger generations and a “softening” of commitment to religion among some older Americans. People who rarely or never attend church are also more likely to say they are not affiliated with any religion than in the past.
A third of adults under 30 say they have no religion, a much higher percentage than is found among older generations or was measured among young people in past decades.