Where Did All The Christians Go?

A new and well researched study about the religious habits of Americans was reported by the USA Today earlier this week. Here’s how Barry Kosmin, the study’s primary author, summarized the findings: “The American population still self-identifies as predominately Christian but Americans are slowly becoming less Christian.” My guess is that this won’t come as much of a surprise to those of you who have been paying attention to recent trends including this survey out of Baylor or this one from Pew.

The new ARIS (American Religious Identification Survey) shows that…

The percentage of Americans identifying with no religious group has risen from 8% in 1990 to 15% in 2008. The unaffiliated number now exceeds all but Catholics and Baptists. The “nones” category was the only one to grow in every state in the union.

In 1990 86% of Americans identified themselves as Christians. That number has now dropped to 76%. Ninety percent of that decline is linked to mainline denominations including Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and the United Church of Christ. These groups were 18.7% of the population in 1990 are now down to 12.9%

The most growth within Christianity came from people who identify themselves as only “Christian” or “Evangelical/Born Again” or “non-deominational Christian.” Also, those attending a megachurch (over 2000 people in weekly attendance) have grown from 5% in 1990 to 11.8% in 2008.

The number of people who deny the existence of a personal God (25-30%) is almost equal to the number who self-identify as “Born Again” Christians (34%).

Baptists, the largest non-Catholic tradition, increased their number by 2 million since 2001 but declined as a percentage of the overall population.

Mormons grew enough to maintain their 1.4% of population.

Adherents of alternative relgions including Wiccans and pagans have grown faster this decade than in the 1990s.

If this much change occured between 1990 and 2008, then what can we expect in the next 25 years? Clearly the American religious landscape is changing.

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