While the number of Christians in the United States has been declining, particularly among the millennials, the population of
atheists and agnostics has been growing exponentially.
Among the religiously affiliated groups only the
Muslims and Hindus have recorded a significant rise,
albeit modestly from their small base, according to a
landmark new report.
The 2014 US Religious Landscape Study, published
by the Pew Research Center and released this month —
a follow-up to its first comprehensive study of religion
in America in 2007 — the percentage of Christians
dropped nearly eight percentage points during the period between 2007 and 2014. In other words, the survey
of more than 35,000 Americans found that that the
percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe
themselves as Christians dropped from 78.4 percent in
2007 to 70.6 percent in 2014.
Over the same period, the study found, ‘the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated —
describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in
particular’ — has jumped more than six points, from
16.1 percent to 22.8 percent.’
It noted, ‘The share of the public identifying with reli-
gions other than Christianity has grown from 4.7 per-
cent in 2007 to 5.9 percent in 2014... gains were most
pronounced among Muslims — who accounted for 0.4
percent of respondents in the 2007 Religious
Can you speak to the finding that besides the agnostics and atheists, the only significant increases albeit
modest, among the religiously affiliated
groups, were among Muslims and Hindus?
Greg Smith, associate director of religion
research and lead researcher on the study:
That’s certainly a very important finding in
the study — which is that members of non-Christian faiths are growing. They are growing from a small base and their growth
hasn’t been as dramatic as what we see for
the religiously unaffiliated population. But
they are certainly growing noticeably.
We see that the percentage of Americans
who identify with Islam as well as the per-
centage of Americans who identify with
Hinduism has grown significantly just in
the past few years. Perhaps it is also worth
is that religious groups that have a large
number of adherents who speak other lan-
guages might, if anything, be undercount-
ed, and that might be particularly true for
Muslims, for Buddhists, perhaps less so,
for Hindus. But I just point that out
because it’s important to bear in mind that
these groups have large numbers of people
who speak languages other than English
Inside an interfaith memorial service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston in 2013.
‘The big engine of growth is fertility and immigration’
Pew researchers Greg Smith, Alan Cooperman and John Green discuss the
US Religious Landscape Study with Aziz Haniffa/India Abroad.
America’s changing religious landscape
Aziz Haniffa reports on Pew Research Center’s latest report.