One of the biggest shifts in the past few years has been the increase in people who classify themselves as “None of the Above” when asked about their religious affiliation. While most experts expected the trend to continue into the near future (at least), preliminary data suggests the trend may actually be slowing.
(RNS) — For the past 25 years, the number of Americans claiming no religion has steadily ballooned as more and more people quit church, synagogue or mosque and openly acknowledged being a “none.”
The reality is particularly stark when looked at from a generational perspective. If 10% of people from the silent generation (born 1928-1945) consider themselves religiously unaffiliated, a whopping 40% of millennials (born 1981-1996) say they have no religion, according to Pew Research.
But this week, three political scientists who study religion have raised the possibility that the number of nones may be leveling off. Looking at a set of recent surveys, they suggest Generation Z, broadly defined as the 68 million Americans born after 1996, don’t look any less religious than the millennial generation that came before.
Americans once embraced their religious identities. They are now more willing to admit they don’t have one because it’s no longer socially desirable to declare an affiliation.
“A lot of marginally attached Protestants and Catholics who went once a year used to say they were Catholic or Protestant,” said Burge, a political scientist at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois. “But now it’s easier to say you’re a ‘none.’ So they say, ‘I’m not religious at all.’”
Because this social desirability bias waned considerably over the past decade, it became more acceptable for those marginally religious to report being unaffiliated, which likely contributed to the sharp uptick in nones over such a short time. Now, that group has largely already claimed that status, and those who remain affiliated are committed to their faiths and likely to remain more stable.
[Read the entire article here. It’s not very long and has a cool graph.]