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Rise of Americans Rejecting Church and State

A study, titled “Exodus: Why Americans are Leaving Religion — and Why They’re Unlikely to Come Back,” polled 2,201 in early August and found there was a 400-percent increase from 1991 to 2016 in the number of adults who claim to be “religiously unaffiliated.”

Likewise, the survey reveals the number of young people ages 18 to 29 who are unchurched has risen fourfold from 1986 to the present, with 39 percent now falling into the “nones” category.

Secularism has expanded so rapidly that now one fourth of all adults in the United States affirm they have no religious affiliation, according to the poll. For the first time in history, the unchurched bloc is bigger than any single religious denomination. Catholics now take second place to the “nones,” making up 21 percent of the adult population.

Daniel Cox, PRRI’s research director and co-author of the study, addressed this unprecedented rise of secularism.

Historically most people consider this country a Christian nation, or a country where Christianity has been central. We may be entering a period where that is no longer true. … I wouldn’t say we are destined to become a completely secular country by any means, but we are venturing into uncharted waters in terms of our religious identity.

Even though this group makes up one fourth of potential voters, with two thirds of them supporting a Clintonian presidency — high in socialist programs and low in Christian morality — only 12 percent are expected to vote.

Cox emphasized this untapped political potential of the nones. “For me the big question is ‘will this group come out in November and really throw their weight around?’ They could have considerable impact on the political direction of the country but have so far chosen not to do so.”

The study further broke down the adults claiming no religious affiliation into three groups:

58 percent are “Rejectionists” who claim religion harms society

22 percent are “Apatheists” who feel religion doesn’t help them but may help society

18 percent are “Unattached believers” who believe religion does help them personally

But all three segments of this group refuse to be apart of any denomination. Roxanne Stone, chief editor of the nonprofit Barna Group, which studies the faith and trends of millennials, highlights that young people today simply are not joiners. “There’s a growing sense of disillusionment with institutions, and this plays into why they don’t want to vote.” She points out that the faith of young people in government and other institutions has waned.

In an ever-increasing mobile society, Stone also offers the insight that people join institutions for a sense of community, which they now get through their smart phones. “They weren’t going to church necessarily out of belief, but for community. But there are millions of apps for finding friends now.”

James Muthoka
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