Growing numbers of ‘millennials’ who are unaffiliated or atheists are causing vast changes in the American religious landscape, report says
Declining levels of religious belief and practice among the generation of Americans born in the last two decades of the 20th century is shifting the US towards becoming a less devout nation, a major new survey has found.
The growing proportion of “millennials” – young adults now in their 20s and 30s – who do not belong to any organised faith is changing America’s religious landscape, says a report by the respected Pew Research Center, based on a survey of 35,000 people.
The religiously unaffiliated or “nones”, who include atheists and those who describe their religion as “nothing in particular”, have grown to 23% of the US population, compared to 16% at the time of the last comparable survey in 2007.
But three out of four Americans still have some religious faith, mainly Protestant denominations, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus. And 89% of US adults say they believe in God – including a significant proportion of “nones” – making America more religiously inclined than other advanced industrial nations.
Youth largely equates with a lack of religious activity, says the report. One in four millennials attend religious services on a weekly basis, compared with more than half of those adults born before or during the second world war. Only 38% of adults born after 1990 say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 67% of those born before 1945.
Overall, 55% of American adults say they pray daily, 53% say religion is very important in their lives and 50% attend a religious service at least once a month. Significantly, more women (64%) pray on a daily basis than men (46%).
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Francis stands firm amid a tide of Donald Trump-fuelled xenophobia in the presidential campaign but pontiff challenges some progressive views
Pope Francis has channelled the spirit of America’s founding fathers to make an impassioned embrace of immigrants and cultural diversity, insisting that newcomers to the United States must not be ashamed of their traditions.
Speaking on Saturday from the Philadelphia hall where rebels gathered in 1776 to assert their freedom from Britain, the pontiff told a crowd of thousands that immigrants brought “gifts” which helped to “renew” the US.
“I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to your new nation,” the pope said before an estimated 24,000 people gathered at Independence Hall. “You should never be ashamed of your traditions. Do not forget the lessons you learned from your elders, which are something you can bring to enrich the life of this American land.”
It was a strong rebuff to the Donald Trump-fuelled xenophobia roiling conservatives on the presidential campaign trail, and stalling immigration reform efforts in Washington.
While declining to fully indulge conservatives on issues across the spectrum of the modern US culture wars, the pontiff also challenged some progressive views by denouncing discrimination against religion and making a veiled criticism of abortion.
“Religious freedom certainly means the right to worship God, individually and in community, as our consciences dictate,” Francis said. “But religious liberty, by its nature, transcends places of worship and the private sphere of individuals and families.”