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A Look at the State of Religion in America

Surveys find fewer Americans believe in God, go to church
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted May 22, 2023 1:58 PM CDT
Number of Americans Sure God Exists Is Dropping
Michelangelo's fresco "La Creazione" ("The Creation") on the ceiling of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel.   (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri)

This is an interesting snapshot on the state of religion in America: As of 2022, not quite half of Americans have no doubt that God is watching over them, which is a little startling in that that number topped 60% in 2008, just 15 years ago. As the Hill reports, citing the General Social Survey conducted by the University of Chicago's NORC research group, about a third of Americans—34%—never go to church, but about three-quarters of Americans classify themselves as spiritual and believe in things like life after death. Not surprisingly, churches, in terms of membership and attendance, took a hit during the pandemic—as did belief in a higher power. Findings from a recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute also add some interesting findings. Highlights:

  • Most Americans are still Christian, and white Christians have stayed static at 42% over the last five years. It's worth noting: that number was 54% in 2006 and 72% in 1990.
  • Christians of color make up 25% of the nation's population.
  • Only 7% of Americans do not believe in God, per the Hill. "Belief is very stubborn in America today," say Ryan Burge, who studies faith at Eastern Illinois University. Another 7% are agnostic, meaning they think the answer is unknowable. The remainder believe but have doubts to some degree.
  • Mainline Protestantism is "collapsing," says Burge. Nondenominational Protestants, however, clock in at nearly 15% of Americans and "are the second-largest religious group in America today, after Catholics."
  • The percentage of those who are religiously unaffiliated has risen to 27% from 16% in 2006.
  • The number of Americans who worship in other houses—including Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Unitarian Universalist—has held pretty steady at 6%.
Check out the full NORC survey here, or the PRRI study here. (Or go here to meet "Heaven's receptionist.")

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