The Rise of the Non-Religious

Sam Rainer

March 11, 2009

The release of the American Religious Identification Survey has caused a flood of media and blog activity. Researchers at the Trinity College in Hartford, CT surveyed more than 54,461 people between February and November 2008. They found that the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as Christians has dropped from 86 percent in 1990 to 76 percent today.

The report expounded upon this sharp decline:

Ninety percent of the decline comes from the non-Catholic segment of the Christian population, largely from the mainline denominations, including Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians/Anglicans, and the United Church of Christ.

One of the key findings in the study referred to those who claim no religion: The percentage of Americans claiming no religion has increased from 8.2 percent in 1990 to 14.2 percent in 2001 to 15 percent presently. This rise of the non-religious has occurred in every state of the Union.

This study is yet another that demonstrates the decline of denominationalism. Most every major denomination has declined, but the rise of “non-denominational” ties is increasing:

Most of the growth in the Christian population occurred among those who would identify only as “Christian,” “Evangelical/Born Again,” or “non-denominational Christian.” The last of these, associated with the growth of megachurches, has increased from less than 200,000 in 1990 to 2.5 million in 2001 to over 8 million today. These groups grew from 5 percent of the population in 1990 to 8.5 percent in 2001 to 11.8 percent in 2008.

You can join some great conversations about this study here, here, and here. Feel free to leave a comment on this blog as well.

3 comments on “The Rise of the Non-Religious”

  1. Aaron says:

    Very interesting data, particularly the last point about Christians not identifying with a particular denomination. Given the rise of a number of prominent independent churches it’s not entirely surprising.

  2. toddyenglish says:

    This is very interesting. I wonder how much of this shift can be attributed to the last administration (which used religion as a platform to advance its own agenda)?

  3. Matt says:

    This is great news! I firmly believe that with the Christian faith dwindling as fast as it is, and the Islamic faith growing rapidly, the world will one day be split between the Non-Religious and Islam.

    To put it correctly, those with intelligence and rationality versus those who say ‘Believe what we believe or we will chop your heads off, and by the way we are a peaceful people’ – YEAH RIGHT!



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