Religious 'nones' now as big as evangelicals in the US, new data shows

by Samuel Smith, Christian Post Contributor |
Attendees watch on during the 2019 Evangelicals for Life conference at the McLean Bible Church in McLean, Virginia on Jan. 16, 2019. | PHOTO: ERLC

The number of religious "nones" in the United States are now statistically equal than the number of evangelicals, according to a political scientist who analyzed data from the recently released 2018 General Social Survey.

The GSS, a biennial project run by NORC (National Opinion Research Center) at the University of Chicago, was released this week and showed how America's religious landscape continues to change.

Ryan Burge, a political science researcher at Eastern Illinois University, analyzed data from the survey. He used a Reltrad (religious tradition) classification code to compensate for the oversample of African Americans in earlier waves of data.

According to Burge's data, 23.1 percent of those surveyed were people of "no religion," while those who are evangelical — of any race, not just white — represented about 22.8 percent of the tally.

Despite a tiny resurgence in the 2018 data, white mainline protestants, which were once the largest U.S. religious demographic in the 1970s, were at just 10.8 percent of the tally, a far cry from 1975 when they were over 30 percent.

Catholic respondents fell slightly to 23 percent but continue to be one of the largest two religious demographics in the U.S.

The study comes as there has been a rise over the last decade-plus in the number of religiously unaffiliated individuals in the United States. According to Burge's data, the religious "nones" comprised just 5 percent when the GSS was first conducted in 1972. Today, religious "nones" are just under a quarter of the GSS data.

"The 'nones' are not slowing down," Burge told The Christian Post in an email. "Their share of the population is continuing to climb ~1 percent every two years and has done so for the past 15 years or so. If current trends keep up then they will be the largest group in the United States in the next five years, statistically."

While the share of "nones" continues to rise, the number of Catholics and Protestants have dwindled over the years. The two groups were once the two largest religious groups in the nation. In 1972, the two groups comprised over 25 percent of the GSS tally each.

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