"Nones," or those with no particular religious affiliation, are on the rise in the United States, bumping down the number of Protestants to less than half the country's population.
According to the latest Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life survey, the number of non-believers in the US is up to nearly 20 percent, up from 15 percent five years ago.
These percentages include 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics, which is nearly 6 percent of the total American population, as well as nearly 33 million people (14 percent) who have no particular religious affiliation.
Subsequently, the number of Protestant adults in the US is now at an all-time low of 48 percent, the Associated Press reported. This is the first time Pew has found with certainty the percentage of Protestants is below 50 percent.
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“We think it’s mostly a reaction to the religious right,” Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam, who has written at length about the decline in religious affiliation, told the Washington Post. “The best predictor of which people have moved into this category over the last 20 years is how they feel about religion and politics aligning, particularly conservative politics and opposition to gay civil rights."
"Today, there's no shame in saying you're an unbeliever, no cultural pressure to claim a religious affiliation, no matter how remote or loose," Rev. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptists Theological Seminary in Louisville, told USA Today. "This is a wake-up call. We have an incredible challenge ahead for committed Christians."
A challenge, indeed: of those who consider themselves "Nones," only 10 percent are looking for a religion to ascribe to — 88 percent are happy to not believe.
“We are much more than churches give us credit for,” Lorna Stuart, a 74-year-old self-described "none," told the Post of people outside major denominations. “I mean as people. We are spiritual beings on a human journey.”
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