Thursday, March 14, 2013

Number of Americans Claiming No Religious Affiliation Continues to Increase

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In a trend that I believe is fueled by among other things the hysterical anti-gay rhetoric of the Christofascists and the failure of the Catholic Church hierarchy to punish anyone in the upper echelons of the Church for the worldwide aiding and abetting of child rapists within the Catholic priesthood, a new study showed that the number of Americans claiming no religious affiliation reached record heights in 2012.  The number now is at 20% of the population and growing.  More significantly, more than one-third of the 18 - 24 demographic claim no religion.  Before long the "No Religion" demographic will equal the size of the evangelical Christian base of the Republican Party.  The findings also include bad news for the Catholic Church which has had the most serious losses of any denomination.  Here are highlights from the report released by the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues at the University of California:

Twenty percent of American adults said in 2012 that they had no religious preference, according to the latest General Social Survey (GSS), a nationally representative survey of American adults. This continues a trend of Americans disavowing a specific religious affiliation that began in the 1950s but has accelerated greatly since1990. The GSS has asked adults the following question for forty years: “What is your religious preference? Is it Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, some other religion, or no religion?” The percentage answering “no religion” was 18 percent two years earlier in2010, 14 percent in 2000, and 8 percent in 1990. The upward trend in the “no religion” choice is very broad. While some types of Americans identify with an organized religion less than others, Americans in almost every demographic group increasingly claim “no religion” since the trend began to accelerate in 1990. 

The percentage preferring no religion has risen sharply since1990. In the 2012 data (released March 7, 2013), 20 percent of Americans answered “no religion” — that is an increase of 12 percentage points in 22 years.

Younger Americans are much less likely to state a religious preference than are their elders. Among 18-to-24 year olds, 32 percent prefer no religion; among people 75 years old and over,only 7 percent prefer no religion. The biggest gap in the age pattern is the ten percentage-point difference between 25-to-34 year olds, 29 percent of whom prefer no religion, and 35-to-44 year olds, 19 percent of whom prefer no religion. The younger age groups are changing significantly faster than older groups,  .  .  .  

Regional variation in stating no religious preference is both large and growing. In 2012, people in the Mountain and Pacific regions as well as those in Northeastern states more often answered no religion than did people in the Midwest, while the southerners expressed the most religious attachment. The range was from 28 percent in the Mountain states to 15 percent in the South.

The Catholic church experienced the greatest net exit within the generation. One-fourth of American adults were Catholic in 2012. If we were to compare that share with the current religion of Americans in the past, we would think there had been little change.  .  .   .All else being equal, the Catholic share of the U.S. population should be rising, not staying constant. For almost two generations Catholics had the demographic advantages of higher fertility and, just as fertility dropped, higher immigration began adding more Catholics to the population.  .  .  .  In the light of this information, we can see that the 24 percent who were currently Catholic in 2012 actually represented a serious loss of 11 percentage points (or about one-third of the pool of potential members) for the Catholic Church in America.

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