A Gallup poll of Americans’ attitudes towards religion released on Christmas Eve found significant recent increases in those responding either that they have no religious preference, that religion is not very important in their lives, or that they believe religion “is largely old-fashioned or out of date.”
Only 78% of Americans now identify as Christian, while 22% describe their religious preference as either “other” or “none.”
Most of these changes have occurred since 2000 and represent the first significant shift since a sharp decline in religious adherence during the 1970s. Over the last nine years, the number with no religious preference has grown from a level of around 8% to 13%. The number for whom religion is not very important has climbed from just over 10% to 19%. And the number who believe religion is out of date and has no answers for today’s problems has jumped from slightly more than 20% to 29%.
These changes do not appear to have affected the majority of Americans who still consider religion “very important” in their own lives. That figure remains at 56% – roughly the same as for the last 35 years – while 57% still say religion has answers to most of the world’s problems.
The biggest difference is that in the late 1990s, up to 68% of Americans thought religion had answers to the world’s problems – even though only about 60% said religion was personally very important to them. It seems as though over the last ten years a significant number may have gone from believing that religion is a positive factor in the world, even if they’re not particularly religious themselves, to seeing religion in a far more skeptical or even negative light.