Pew Results are in! Non-belief is on the rise, religion's on the decline

(To see the full report, visit the Pew Research Centers article America's Changing Religious Landscape)

While Christianity is still the head honcho as far as American beliefs go, these new results show that those unaffiliated with religion (the atheists, agnostics, and those who marked "none") have risen dramatically over the last seven years. Making the non-religious now the second most represented "belief" in town.

Here are the highlights:
  • In the last massive Pew Research survey in 2007, 78.4% of Americans described themselves as Christians. In the latest survey, the number dropped to 70.6% — Plummeting nearly 8 percentage points.
  • In the 2007 survey, the percentage of Americans identifying with non-Christian religions was 4.7%. These number went up to 5.9% — Rising 1.2 percentage points.
  • In the 2007 survey, the percentage of the religiously unaffiliated (atheists, agnostics, and "none's") was 16.1%. This has gone up to 22.8% — Rocketing up more than 6 percentage points.
  • Atheists rose from 1.6% to 3.1% and agnostics from 2.4% to 4%. Combined with the "nothing in particulars", there are now more "nones" than Evangelical Lutherans, United Methodists and Episcopalians all together in America. Making the religiously unaffiliated the second largest "faith group" (for lack of a better word) in America.
  • 36% of "none's" consisted of people born between 1990 and 1996.
  • Most Christians are women (55%) and most "nones" are men (57%). However, women's unbelief numbers are growing — 19% now say they have no religious identity.
  • Racial and ethnic minorities now make up 41% of Catholics (up from 35%), 24% of Evangelicals (up from 19%) and 14% of mainline Protestants (up from 9%).
  • Jehovah's Witnesses increased slightly from 0.7% to 0.8%.

What does all of this mean? It means, as usual, that humanity is progressing. To somewhat parrot the president of American Atheists, David Silverman, a lot of this probably has to do with prominent non-religious folk coming out of the closet and the internet. The internet may be especially important because it's given everyone (especially young, not-quite-so-indoctrinated people) open, easy access to information, along with it their ability to now communicate with different kinds of people with varying ideas, knowledge, and beliefs.

We now have the entire world at our fingertips and can rely on more than just our immediate family, friends, imagination, and environment to acquire answers to our biggest questions. Religions and superstitions are the crutches we rest on when we are faced with things we can't understand or explain. Today, we're capable of explaining and understanding more — including understanding that there are some things we can't understand.

As our knowledge continues to grow, our need for religion will become less and less necessary.

PewResearchCenter | America's Changing Religious Landscape