Fewer Americans affiliate with a religion

May 13, 2015

Americans who have no religious affiliation now make up the second-largest group in the nation, only behind Evangelical Protestants. A new survey by the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life found that people who do not identify with any religion make up 22.8% of the population, up from 16.1% in 2007.

Ronald Lindsay, president and CEO, Center for Inquiry
Credit Center for Inquiry

Ronald Lindsay is President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, an Amherst-based nonprofit group that promotes a secular society. Lindsay told WBFO News he is convinced the numbers signal a "tectonic" shift that indicates more Americans are rejecting religious doctrines.

"Certainly not all, but some of the stigma is falling away from saying that you’re not Catholic or Protestant or don’t belong to a certain church. I think it’s becoming less important for people.”

Lindsay said data indicates that the shift is most pronounced among Millenials, adding that the younger generation places a greater value on "autonomy and independence."

“ You have a very large percentage of Millennials who don’t  identify with any religious group, he said.  “They don’t find the old doctrines and dogmas meaningful to them.”

It should be noted that not all of the individuals who consider themselves religiously unaffiliated are nonbelievers. Some people who do not identify with an organized religion still view themselves as spiritual.

Despite the new survey, Lindsay expressed belief that there are still major barriers when it comes to ending prejudice against people who do not affiliate with a religion. For example, he pointed to polls that indicate that most Americans would not vote for an atheist  for president.

However, Lindsay believes that the "stigma" linked to being unaffiliated with a religion is changing.

"Certainly not all, but some of the stigma is falling away from saying that you’re not Catholic or Protestant or don’t belong to a certain church. I think it’s becoming less important for people.”