Jerry Johnston Interviews Greg Smith on the High Percentage of Religiously Unaffiliated22 September 2016
“One-fifth of the U.S.A. population – and one-third of adults under age 30 – are religiously
unaffiliated, which is the highest percentage ever in Pew Research Center polling.” One-fifth. Meditate on the gravity of that number. That number should bring the church to her knees. Do the numbers truly represent the religious landscape of America? Specializing in American religion and the primary researcher on the 2014 Pew Religious Landscape study, I asked the Associate Director of Research at the Pew Research Center, Greg Smith, to break down these shocking numbers,
“Who is it that’s changing? Is part of what we’re seeing here a case of people who are not particularly religious and who haven’t been particularly religious. Are they changing the way they describe their identity and no longer identifying with perhaps the faith they were brought up in? So in other words, to put it differently, is part of what you’re seeing, a lot of nominal Lutherans and Methodists and Catholics who weren’t very religious to begin with and now they’re just increasingly describing themselves as atheists or agnostics, are saying they have no particular religion? That’s part of it. That’s part of what we see happening. But another important part, maybe even a bigger part is generational. You’ve got people in their 40’s and 50’s and 60’s and 70’s who are quite observant, but they’re beginning to pass away and as they do they’re being replaced by a new generation of young adults that’s just far less religious than their elders.”
According to Smith, a disheartening contributor in the rising numbers are men and women leaving the church. The trend will continue unless checked by those within the church. Do you know men and women who have left the church? These disquieting numbers can be transformed by your efforts. Through the various resources we are developing, you can be equipped to answer the hard questions that face men and women today.