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America Is Becoming Less Christian, Less

Religious
American Religious Identification Survey Finds Major Denominations Losing
Members
By Dan Harris
March 9, 2009

America is still a predominantly Christian Dramatic Shift in Way Americans


nation, but it’s becoming both less Christian Worship
and less religious, according to the results of “I dropped out of the Catholic faith years ago.
the new American Religious Identification However, it doesn’t mean I have stopped
Survey. believing in God,” said Carmen Rivera.
According to the poll, which came out today, The study finds that more people are
the percentage of Americans who define exploring spiritual frontiers. Some 2.8 million
themselves as Christian has dropped from Americans now say they identify with new
86% in 1990 to 76% in 2008. religious movements like Wicca, paganism or
In one of the most dramatic shifts, 15% of spiritualists. Catholic strongholds in New
Americans now say they have no religion – a England and the Midwest have faded as
figure that’s almost doubled in 18 years. people have moved toward the Sunbelt.
Americans with no religious preference are “We are becoming a nation of spiritually
now larger than all other major religious anchored people who are not traditionally
groups except Catholics and Baptists. religious,” said Serene Jones, president of the
“What seems to be happening is there is a Union Theological Seminary in the City of New
decline in what we might call traditional brand York.
loyalty to the old denominations, specific While Americans may be leaving established
churches,” said Barry Kosmin, a principle denominations, the one major growth area in
investigator for the American Religious American Christianity is among evangelicals.
Identification Survey. Megachurches are booming, rising from 5 to
In the last 18 years, despite population 11.8% of the population.
growth and immigration, almost all religious And with the economy in free fall, many
denominations have lost ground. Mainline megachurches say they’re seeing increased
Protestants are down the most. Methodists, attendance. They’re praying that perhaps
for example, have gone from 8 to 5%. hard times will draw Americans back to their
Baptists are down from 19.3 to 15.8. And Jews faith.
are down from 1.8 to 1.2%. Copyright © 2009 ABC News Internet
Meanwhile, the number of atheists, while still Ventures
small, has nearly doubled from 900,000 to 1.6 http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?
million. Kosmin says that people may feel id=7041036&page=1
more comfortable admitting their lack of faith
at a time when atheist books, like Christopher
Hitchens’ “God Is Not Great: How Religion
Poisons Everything” and movies are getting a
lot of attention. Comedian Bill Maher took aim
at religion in his documentary film
“Religulous,” saying that he preaches “the
gospel of ‘I Don’t Know.’”
But researchers point out that just because
people are dropping out of organized religion,
that doesn’t mean they’re abandoning faith.
In an informal poll on Twitter today, we heard
similar sentiments.
“I no longer attend church, but still pray to
Jesus,” said Sean Whitney.