Nonreligion winning out over major religious denominations

September 22, 2009

A new study released today by Trinity College shows that the number of nonreligious, or "Nones," including avowedly atheist and agnostic people, is growing in the United States. The lead researcher, demographer Barry Kosmin, says that trends suggest that one in five Americans will be nonreligious in 20 years. (Check out my interview with Kosmin on Point of Inquiry about The Scientific Study of Secularism .)

Interestingly, the number of Nones who are avowedly atheist has remained consistent over time. Great line from Kosmin about this in today's USA Today:

"It's not as though dozens of people at the Methodist Church read (atheist Richard) Dawkins and suddenly decided God doesn't exist."

A few other interesting facts about the rising tide of nonreligious, or Nones:

  • Just because you are nonreligious or a None doesn't mean you lack belief in God. 51% still believe in a "higher power."
  • The majority of Nones are male.  
  • Most Nones come from people between churches or who are skeptical of organized religion. Fewer come from "natural growth," which is when children of Nones become Nones themselves.

The real take-home message of the report is that the unchurched or the Nones are no longer a fringe belief group in the United States. They are not just on the coasts. They are very middle-America, and there are more of us, in all our diversity, now than ever before.

Read the USA Today article from today on this topic, People with 'no religion' gain on major denominations .

Or check out the Catholic News Agency's take, New study examines 34 million American adults with no religion .