The results of a new poll conducted by the highly respected Pew Research Center for Religion and Public Life (PRCRPL) was released on November 3rd. For many years the PRCRPL has followed the trends in various aspects of American society, especially concerning the religious identification, practices, and beliefs of different demographic groups. The latest report dated 2014 shows a continuation of troubling trends among Americans of diminishing levels of religious belief and commitment (the last previous poll was made in 2007).
The report contains a massive amount of information tracing religious and moral perspectives within American age groups, racial groups, religious self-identification groups, genders, and education levels. The full seven-page online report can be found at http://www.pewforum.org/2015/11/03/u-s-public-becoming-less-religious/ .
We will not try to cover the whole spectrum of the PRCRPL poll results in this column, however, we can sum up the general key findings comparing 2007 to 2014.
- The “Religiously Affiliated”
- The number of all adults who are “religiously affiliated” dropped overall from 83% in 2007 to 77% in 2014.
- 97% of the “religiously affiliated” profess to believe in God. This percentage was the same as the previous report.
- The percentage of the “religiously affiliated” who profess to pray daily went up from 64% in 2007 to 66% in 2014.
- The percentage of the “religiously affiliated” who attend religious services at least monthly dropped from 63% to 62%.
- The “Religiously Unaffiliated”
- The percentage of all adults declaring themselves “religiously unaffiliated” rose overall from 16% to 23%.
- Among “religiously unaffiliated,” belief in God (by any definition) dropped from 70% to 61%.
- The percentage of “religiously unaffiliated” who claim to pray daily went from 22% to 20%.
- The percentage of “religiously unaffiliated” who say religion is very important to them fell from 16% to 13%.
- In 2014, 9% of the “religiously unaffiliated” attend services at least monthly, down from 10% in 2007.
- Net Results among all U.S. adults
- Among all U.S. adults, belief in God dropped from 92% in 2007 to 89% in 2014.
- 55% of all U.S. adults in 2014 claim to pray daily, down from 58% in 2007.
- In 2014, 53% of all U.S. adults say that religion is very important to them. That is a drop from 56% in 2007.
- 50% of American adults in 2014 say they attend services at least once a month, down from 54% in 2007.
It is clear from these poll statistics that America’s slide into secularism is continuing. While the numbers are only slightly different from 2007 to 2014, the overall trends show a reduction in belief in God, the importance of religion, prayer, and church attendance among the U.S. population. The reasons for these trends are multifaceted, but it is fair to assume that the shrinking influence of churches and other religious organizations can account for much of them. It is also likely that many people are more forthcoming concerning their religious views than in past generations.
In any case, the trends present a serious challenge to those of us who are evangelical Christians to reach out to the lost masses in this country. It also means that we can expect even more opposition from the secular society to Christian values and moral standards. It will require even greater levels of commitment to Christ and we will have to defend our religious rights against attacks from secular antagonists.