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Christians soon to be a minority, thanks to young ‘religious switchers’

A recent report from Pew Research Center predicts Christianity will no longer be the majority religion in the U.S. as soon as 2045, if current religious switching trends continue.

This report puts America on the same path as our neighbors across the pond who once also had Christian majorities.

“In Great Britain, for example, ‘nones’ surpassed Christians to become the largest group in 2009, according to the British Social Attitudes Survey, which surveys public opinion in Britian similar to how Pew does in America. In the Netherlands, disaffiliation accelerated in the 1970s, and 47% of adults now say they are Christian,” the authors of the report wrote.

In the report, Pew, a nonpartisan organization that surveys American public opinion, clarified that the study is a measure of religious identity, not religious practice. However, Pew has found in recent years that fewer Americans pray daily or consider religion an important part of their lives. Research Pew published in December 2021 found fewer than half (45 percent) of Americans pray daily.

The study also observed the phenomenon of religious switching, which Pew defined as “a change between the religion in which a person was raised (in childhood) and their present religious identity (in adulthood).” The current rate of religious switching is about 31 percent, meaning 31 percent of people who were raised Christian will become religiously unaffiliated by age 29.

Pew found this process happens most commonly between the ages of 15 and 29. A much smaller share of Americans (7 percent) change their religious views after age 30.

Pew credits religious switching for being the main driver behind the change in America’s Christian population, which was about 90 percent of the population in the early 1990s. Pew data now shows two-thirds of Americans claim to be Christians. The study also found fewer people who were raised without a religion are converting to Christianity.

The report gave four scenarios modeling how rates of religious switching, fertility, age and migration trends will affect the number of Americans who claim to be Christians. Every scenario showed the share of Christians will decline, even if rates of religious switching stop. However, Pew said there is no evidence to suggest switching will stop entirely.

Other studies have examined the reasons why young Americans leave church. One study found LGBTQ+ issues to be one driving force behind the reasons why young people leave Christianity.

Anna Beahm

Anna Beahm | abeahm@reckonmedia.com

I report on the intersection of religion and sexuality in America. Follow me on Twitter @_AnnaBeahm

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