Poll Shows Fewer of Us Claim a Religious Affiliation
According to Pew Research Center data, 20 percent of Americans claim no affiliation when asked about their religious preference, representing an estimated 100 percent jump over the past 20 years.
That figure, though, is misleading, according to Stuart Charmé, professor of religion at Rutgers-Camden, who believes the unaffiliated aren’t actually non-religious; they just don’t tie themselves to one specific denomination.
“The number of people who are actually completely uninterested in anything religious is, in the U.S., one of the smallest numbers of any industrialized country in the world,” Charmé said.
However, Charmé noted “something is changing” in American culture, and someone’s religious identity is no longer seen as something one’s born into and stuck with for the rest of their life. More people are switching from one form of religion to another — not always radically, but in some way.
“That means they are making the decision of how to affiliate religiously, not just based on the fact of birth, but on their personal decisions,” Charmé said. “Religion has become much more individualistic.”
With the explosion of the Internet, people are just a few clicks away from religions and sets of beliefs they may have never encountered. Users even have the option of attending religious services online.
On the other hand, because of technology, today’s millennials may be having a harder time focusing on religion. According to Charmé, social media could be shaping their identities and taking away some of the values that religion provided in the past.
Still, the end of religion in American culture is nothing to be concerned about, as the history of religion has always been one of change and adaptation. One of strongest indicators of religious strength is church attendance, and the numbers have remained rather steady over the past few decades.