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One-fifth of all Americans have no religious affiliation

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 9th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The number of American citizens who have no religious affiliation is growing rapidly. One fifth of all Americans list no religious affiliation, and a substantial number of adults less than 30 years of age likewise remain unaffiliated with any church.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The unaffiliated have increased from just over 15 percent to just fewer than 20 percent of all U.S. adults in just the last five years. More than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics, nearly six percent of the U.S. public, as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation at 14 percent.

These Americans are even less religious in conventional measures, including frequency of attendance at religious services and the degree of importance they attach to religion in their lives.

The survey may be affected by a differing view of the words "religion" and "spiritual."

According to the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life, the survey found that many of the country's 46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way.

Two-thirds, or 68 percent of the respondents said that they believe in God. More than half, at 58 percent say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the earth, while more than a third, 37 percent classify themselves as "spiritual" but not "religious." One-in-five or 21 percent say they pray every day.

The unaffiliated, with few exceptions say they are not looking for a religion that would be right for them. They increasingly think that religious organizations are too concerned with money and power, too focused on rules and too involved in politics.

The lower the age group, the less likely people are to be affiliated.

Popularly known as "nones," the growth in the number of religiously unaffiliated Americans is largely driven by generational replacement, the gradual supplanting of older generations by younger ones.

A third of adults under 30 have no religious affiliation (32 percent), compared with just one-in-ten who are 65 and older (9 percent). Young adults today are far more likely to be unaffiliated than previous generations were at a similar stage in their lives.

This report contains capsule summaries of some leading theories put forward by scholars in an attempt to explain the root causes of the rise of the "nones." These theories run the gamut from a backlash against the entanglement of religion and politics to a global relationship between economic development and secularization.

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