A new survey shows that the Great Decline of religion in America continues. Since 2012, the U.S. has about 7.5 million Americans who are no longer active in religion.
Last week, the 2014 General Social Survey (GSS) was released. The GSS is the gold standard for sociological surveys. Funded by the National Science Foundation this multi-million dollar study gives us the most accurate data on American society — including religion.
Here are three measures that show that the percentage of Americans who left religion increased between 2012 and 2014, reaching its highest level in decades. (Next week, I’ll present an the 2014 update of my annual index of religiosity that goes back to the 1940s). An important point to remember as you see the data: each percentage point increase represents a growth of 2.5 million adults.
For the three graphs, we see between a one and three point rise in secularity since 2012, with 7.5 million more people never entering a church or other worship service than just two years earlier.
1. The “nones’ are growing
When asked their “religious preference”, nearly one-in-four Americans now says “none.”Up until the 1990s, this group of so-called “nones” hovered in the single digits. The 2014 GSS showed that the so-called nones are 21 percent. How large is this group of nones? There are nearly as many Americans who claim no religion as there are Catholics (24 percent). If this growth continues, in a few years the largest “religion” in the U.S. may be no religion at all.
The number of Americans who never darken a church door is also at a new high. Over a third of Americans (34 percent) never attend a worship service (other than weddings and other ceremonies). This is a 3.4 point increase from just a few years earlier. Put differently, the group of Americans who don’t attend church grew by a rate of over ten percent in two years.
Is this just a departure from organized religion? Even with people no longer identifying with religion or attending worship services, they still pray. But the percentage who never pray is also up slightly. Nearly one-in-six Americans never prays.
Bottom line: The number of Americans who are no longer active in religion reached a new high in 2014. Since 2012, about 7.5 million Americans more Americans don’t attend attend church. Millions also stopped identifying with any religion or praying.
Correction: An earlier version of this post included estimates that were calculated without the proper sampling weights. The figures and reported percentages have been corrected. The revised post makes clear that the 7.5 million figure is among those who no longer attend church, which has increased 3.4 percentage points; estimates of those with no religion and those who never pray are higher than in 2012 but not three points higher as previously reported.