News headlines this week proclaimed, “a common reply to religion in the US is ‘none'” and “29% of Americans have no religion,” based on the latest statistics from the Pew Research Center – What the numbers really mean.
If Americans should have learned one thing by now with news headlines, it’s that there’s a whole lot of spin going on to provoke your emotions to get you to read. Some things aren’t necessarily untrue, but use clever wording to imply something else or provoke a reaction.
One article trending massively in the past two days from major news agencies, first written by the Associated Press, had the headline: “What’s your religion? In the US, a common reply now is ‘None'”
Newsweek wrote: “Americans who identify with no religion now account for 29 percent of population: poll“
The Daily Wire proclaimed: “Nearly Three In Ten Americans Have No Religion, Up 10 Percentage Points In 10 Years.”
But once you get past the attention-grabbing headlines, you have to scrutinize the details to get the real story.
Such is the case with several recent headlines from articles which used the latest 2021 findings by the Pew Research Center on the religious landscape in America.
To avoid the spin by mainstream media, let’s go directly to the source, the Pew Research Center 2021 statistics on America’s religious landscape. You can download the full report here.
The original article was entitled: “About Three-in-Ten U.S. Adults Are Now Religiously Unaffiliated.”
What’s vitally important to pay attention to here are the words “religiously unaffiliated.”
The Pew report does not say that nearly 1/3 of US adults have no religious beliefs, have no faith, no spirituality, aren’t Christians, or practice another religion. It also does not say that one-in-three US adults are atheists or agnostic.
As surveyed by Pew Research, this specific statistic means that 29 percent of US adults don’t belong to a particular church or identify with a specific denomination.
What is undeniable, something the Pew Research Center studies have been indicating for several decades now is the steady decline of religion overall in the United States and around the world.
In 2007, 78 percent of US adults identified with Christianity. In the past fifteen years, that number has plummeted by 15%, to reach an all-time low of only 63 percent of Americans identifying with Christianity, among all denominations.
At the same time, 16% of US adults had no particular religious affiliation in 2007, with the number approaching double in 2021 at 29 percent of Americans being religiously unaffiliated.
The number of US adults identifying with other religions has barely changed in 15 years, starting at 5% in 2007, notching up to 6% in 2021.
Another statistic the misleading headlines would have you believe is that 1/3 of Americans have become agnostic or atheist. But the numbers for both of these groups are low and have not changed in five years.
From 2017-2021 4% of US adults claimed to be atheists, while 5% identified as agnostic.
The numbers of both groups have doubled in the past 15 years, starting in 2007 when only 2% of US adults identified as atheists, and 2% identified as agnostic. The numbers began doubling around 2014-2015.