On January 24, 2024, the Pew Research Center released 2023 data on American religious beliefs. It suggests that the rise of religious “nones” may be slowing. The “nones” are people who claim no religious affiliation, and they have been the fastest-growing religious belief group in America. In the past 50 years, “nones” went from less than 5% to 30% of all Americans. However, this latest report put the “nones” at 28%. Some of the other numbers reported are:
Nones are 17% atheist, 20% agnostic, and 63% nothing in particular.
Thirty years ago, 90% of Americans were “Christian,” and now that number is 60%.
69% of nones are younger than 50.
97% of nones attend religious services a few times a year or not at all.
56% say they believe in “some higher power” aside from the God of the Bible.
The Pew Research Center has a good reputation for gathering data, but still, there is no such thing as an infallible academic survey. Sampling is complex and affected by many variables, but Pew Research has worked hard to avoid pitfalls as much as possible.
The “Does God Exist Ministry” began in 1968 when we were concerned about American religious beliefs. We saw massive ignorance about the evidence for the existence of God, the validity of Jesus Christ as God’s Son, and the inspiration of the Bible. There is a tendency for churches to pretend that everyone believes in God. Believers have suggested that teaching about the evidence for believing in God, Jesus, and the Bible is a waste of time. There have even been attempts by religionists to shut down this ministry, and the refusal to look at science-based evidence has grown.
Our concern about American religious beliefs is why we offer free correspondence courses and a variety of video lessons on our website doesgodexist.tv. We want anyone with an open mind to see evidence from science and to share that with others. We encourage everyone to know why they believe what they believe. Understand that science is simply knowledge, and it strongly supports faith. If someone thinks there is a conflict between science and faith, they either have bad science, bad theology, or both.
One of the frustrations we face is the decline of faith in God. Along with that is the fact that many congregations and preachers don’t recognize the problem. We were encouraged to see Phil Sanders point out the problem in the November (2019) issue of The Search Light, the newsletter of SearchTV.org.
Here are some of the comments Sanders presented, and to which we say “Amen.” He pointed out the obvious fact that there are atheists who don’t believe in God. But he also noted that there are practical atheists who may or may not intellectually believe in God, but who leave no doubt by the way they live that God does not matter. He reminds us that research has shown that the “nones” are the fast-growing religious group in America today. They are the people who claim to have no religious affiliation and are, therefore, practical atheists.
Sanders also pointed out some disturbing data, including the fact that 26% of the American population has no religious affiliation, up from 17% in 2009. Those who describe themselves as Christians are 65%, down from 77% a decade ago. That trend carries across the board among churches. Congregations of the Church of Christ have lost 192,224 adherents in the past 12 years, an average of 16,000 per year. In 2018 there were 11,965 congregations of the Church of Christ in the U.S., and in 2006 there were 12,963. That is an average loss of 83 congregations per year, or one every 4.4 days. Since 1980 the decline has been 6.3%.
We have reported on the Pew Research Center’s survey in the United States which indicated that those who list their religious affiliation as “none” are increasing. (See more about that HERE.) New research indicates that those nones can be more religious than Christians.
In May of 2018, the Pew Research Center released a study of religious beliefs and practices in western Europe. Some of the things they learned are very surprising. The survey involved 25,000 people in 15 countries of Western Europe. Since Pew had previously gathered similar data in the U.S., they were able to make comparisons. In comparing the results in the U.S. and Western Europe, the Pew researchers found that:
1-Americans are more religious than Western Europeans. That isn’t too surprising. The questions asked included “Do you believe in God with absolute certainty?” and “Do you pray daily?”
2-American “nones” are more religious than Western European “nones.” This is more surprising since you would think that those who have no religious affiliation would be equally lacking in faith. However, many Americans who have given up on organized religion still believe in God, and they even pray to Him.
3-American “nones” are as religious as or more religious than Christians in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. That is the most surprising finding of all that nones can be more religious than Christians. Only 23 percent of European Christians say they believe in God with absolute certainty. In the United States 27 percent of “nones” have that much faith. Only eighteen percent of Christians in Western Europe pray daily. Twenty-percent of the “nones” in the United States say that they have daily prayer. In Western Europe, fourteen percent of Christians say that religion is very important in their lives. Religion is almost as important to U.S. “nones” where thirteen percent say that religion is very important.
According to Pew Research, even though Western Europeans identify as Christians, for them it is a cultural or ethnic identity rather than a genuine religious faith. Eleven percent of Western Europeans say they are “spiritual but not religious.” That allows them to keep the traditions of Christianity without a commitment to the doctrines and things they don’t like.