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Study finds huge numbers of people are throwing away their ‘Christian’ identity

According to a new survey by the Pew Research Center, people in the United States who identify as “Christian” have declined sharply since 2007.

According to a new survey by the Pew Research Center, people in the United States who identify as “Christian” have declined sharply since 2007.

The stats show that between 2007 and 2014, the drop in Americans calling themselves Christians was by nearly 8 percentage points, from 78.4 percent to 70.6 percent. Additionally, the study found that the number of people who reject religion altogether, atheists, agnostics or those who identify with “nothing in particular,” has grown by more than six percentage points, from 16.1 percent in 2007 to 22.8 percent in 2014.

“The decline is taking place in every region of the country, including the Bible Belt,” said Alan Cooperman, the director of religion research at the Pew Research Center and the lead editor of the report.

From the New York Times:

The Pew survey, which included 35,000 adults, offers an unusually comprehensive account of religion in the United States because the Census Bureau does not ask Americans about their religion. Most other nongovernmental surveys do not interview enough adults to allow precise estimates, do not ask other detailed questions about religion or do not have older surveys for comparison.

The report does not offer an explanation for the decline of the Christian population, but the low levels of Christian affiliation among the young, well educated and affluent are consistent with prevailing theories for the rise of the unaffiliated, like the politicization of religion by American conservatives, a broader disengagement from all traditional institutions and labels, the combination of delayed and interreligious marriage, and economic development.

Over all, the religiously unaffiliated number 56 million and represent 23 percent of adults, up from 36 million and 16 percent in 2007, Pew estimates. Nearly half of the growth was from atheists and agnostics, whose tallies nearly doubled to 7 percent of adults. The remainder of the unaffiliated, those who describe themselves as having “no particular religion,” were less likely to say that religion was an important part of their lives than eight years ago.

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In contrast, religions like Judaism, Islam and Hinduism held steady in their numbers and even increased, reaching 5.9 percent of adults, up from 4.7 percent in 2007.

Jewish adherence was steady at 1.9 percent of adults, a statistically insignificant increase of 0.2 percentage points from 1.7 percent in 2007. Adherence to Islam grew faster than any other major religious affiliation, rising by 0.5 percentage points over the last eight years, but Muslims still represent just 0.9 percent of adults in the United States.

Some argue that the declining number of self-identified Christians could be the result of people associating Christianity with conservative politicians who lobby against gay rights and abortion.

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