Thursday, May 14, 2015

Post-Christian America, part 3

We've seen that 1-in-5 Americans, and 1-in-3 among those under 30 years old, claim no religious affiliation. Similarly, we've seen that nearly half of all Americans (47% in 2014) and most of those under 30 (55%) do not attend worship services.

Lastly, let's take a look at how the percentages of those who are atheistic, agnostic, or vaguely theistic have changed over time. The data do not extend back as far for this item but most the secularizing shift has been more pronounced in the nineties and 2000s than it was in the seventies and eighties.

The atheistic, agnostic, and vaguely theistic categorizations are based on the following responses, respectively, to the command "Tell me which statement comes closest to expressing what you believe about God": "I don't believe in God", "I don't know whether there is a God and I don't believe there is any way to find out", and "I don't believe in a personal God, but I do believe in a higher power of some kind".

The following graph shows the percentages of respondents who are atheistic, agnostic, or vaguely theistic, for all respondents and for those under the age of 30, by year:

Not surprisingly, the results parallel quite closely those gauging a lack of religious affiliation over time, with 1-in-5 Americans (and 1-in-5 young adults) now believing in, at most, an undefined higher power.

GSS variables used: YEAR, AGE(18-29), GOD(1-3)(4-6)


Anonymous said...

tangentially related: a new pew report has lots of data on the subject the decline is mostly from mainline protestants and Catholics, the report also has completed for each faith Mormons average 3.4 children.

Curt said...

Having no formal institution is not the same as not being a Christian. If anything, secular humanism is a Christian sect.

sykes.1 said...

Sorry, but to be a Christian you have to accept either the Apostles' or Nicene Creed. Secular humanists and Unitarian/Universalists are not Christians.

Christianity from its beginnings is also a community. Unless you are part of some sort of organized Christian church, you are not a Christian.

Audacious Epigone said...


Yeah, propitious timing. I'm going to look at it this weekend. At least I got this mini-series of posts off before the pew report so it, heh.


That it's difficult to imagine modern leftism without harking back to the Christian morality it grew out of doesn't mean that modern leftism is a Christian sect in any behaviorally meaningful sense (which is sykes point). It's not much more informative than pointing out that Islam is a Jewish sect or Christianity is a pagan sect.

silly girl said...

This looks about like a chart of people under 30 who are either 1st or 2nd generation Americans.

Anonymous said...

It would be helpful to have a separate line showing the change for those 30 years and older. It appears that the line would be close to flat. The PEW data going back to 2007 shows only a 3% increase among the non-religious from 2007 to 2013 among baby boomers and earlier (born before 1964).

Jim Bowery said...

"Belief in a personal God" is decisive. Those, like myself, who have had an intense experience that can most properly be called "salvation", qualify under the "belief in a personal God". However, in my case, it was my youthful departure from a fundamentalist Christian denomination to be part of no "community" at all that seemed a necessary prerequisite. A surprising number of people who claim to have been denominational "born agains" have had no such experience.

Indeed, it is an aspect of my belief aka faith that the insistence on "community" as a prerequisite for "Christianity" has gutted the religion of its essence:

Disintermediating theocracy in favor of the organic descent of the Individual from his Creator.

The residual evolutionary advantage enjoyed by Christian denominations has been declining as young people depart in favor of a larger "community" of Mammon to which "Christian" pastors relegate their education hence biological sustenance.

Luther had an inkling of this.

I think Nietzsche was trying to say something about this problem in "The Anti-Christ".