U.S. Religious Affiliation Declines, with 26% Unaffiliated in 2023

The US is experiencing a significant decline in religious affiliation, with the percentage of religiously unaffiliated individuals rising from 21% in 2013 to 26% in 2023. This shift has major implications for the country's social, cultural, and political landscape.

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U.S. Religious Affiliation Declines, with 26% Unaffiliated in 2023

U.S. Religious Affiliation Declines, with 26% Unaffiliated in 2023

The United States is experiencing a significant decline in religious affiliation, with the percentage of religiously unaffiliated individuals rising from 21% in 2013 to 26% in 2023, according to a recent study by the Public Religion Research Institute. This trend reflects a broader shift in the country's religious landscape, as traditional religious affiliations wane and the number of people identifying as atheist, agnostic, or 'nothing in particular' continues to grow.

The study highlights the accelerating pace of secularization in the United States. In 1965, 70% of respondents said religion was very important in their lives, but today, fewer than half of Americans (45%) hold this view. The decline in religious affiliation is attributed to younger generations not being brought up in a faith tradition or not attending church regularly. This shift is seen as a major change in American civic life and engagement, as Americans are less likely to be involved in groups and organizations where they learn to cooperate and mobilize on issues.

The rise of the religious right and its association with the Republican Party has also pushed some people, particularly young women, away from religion. While the U.S. has deep religious symbols and traditions, experts suggest the country may settle into a new equilibrium where religion is not completely expunged, as secular countries like Scandinavia have shown that a secular society can still be a functioning democracy.

Why this matters: The declining religious affiliation in the United States has significant implications for the country's social, cultural, and political landscape. As the number of religiously unaffiliated individuals grows, it may influence public policies, social norms, and the role of religion in public life.

The study also examines the shifting political dynamics, particularly the decreasing reliance of the Republican Party on the evangelical Christian bloc and the growing influence of the 'nones' - those with no religious affiliation. Former President Trump's campaign may be able to afford some erosion of traditional Republican support from evangelicals, as his base of support is increasingly coming from Republicans who are disinterested in organized religion. However, Trump's stance on abortion has driven a wedge between his campaign and religious voters, particularly evangelicals.

The Public Religion Research Institute's study underscores the ongoing transformation of the United States' religious landscape, with the percentage of religiously unaffiliated individuals reaching 26% in 2023. As traditional religious affiliations decline and younger generations move away from organized religion, the country faces significant changes in its social, cultural, and political spheres.

Key Takeaways

  • Religious affiliation in the US declined from 21% in 2013 to 26% in 2023.
  • Secularization is accelerating, with fewer than half of Americans viewing religion as very important.
  • The rise of the religious right has pushed some, especially young women, away from religion.
  • The declining religious affiliation impacts the US's social, cultural, and political landscape.
  • The Republican Party's reliance on evangelical Christians is decreasing, with Trump's base shifting.