The face of religion in America is changing.
Self-identified Christians made up 63% of the U.S. population in 2021, down from 65% in 2019 and from 75% a decade ago, according to survey data released last month from the Pew Research Center.
Additionally, the same survey found that about three in 10 U.S. adults (29%) are religious “nones” — people who describe themselves as atheists, agnostics or “nothing in particular.” That is up from 16% in 2007, when the center’s researchers began asking about religious identity.
Christians now outnumber “nones” by a ratio of just over 2 to 1, the survey found, compared to 5 to 1 in 2007.
The Pew Research Center isn’t the only organization to note this change. A Gallup poll published last year found that in 2020, 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque, down from 50% in 2018 and 70% in 1999.
The 2020 numbers mark the first time in Gallup’s eight-decade history that fewer than 50% of poll respondents claimed membership in a house of worship.
The data also shows that church membership is “strongly correlated” with age: 66% of traditionalists (U.S. adults born before 1946) belong to a church, compared with 58% of baby boomers, 50% of Generation X and 36% of millennials.
In Utah, this shift away from religion can be seen through declining membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the state’s dominant faith. The Salt Lake Tribune reported in 2021 that over the previous three years, the church had lost 17,174 members — the equivalent of losing the population of Bluffdale.
Salt Lake County has been minority Latter-day Saint since 2017. As of 2021, church members account for 46.89% of its population, the seventh year in a row to see that percentage dip.
Despite this, a 2021 survey by the Springtide Research Institute found that Latter-day Saints ages 18 to 25 reported the highest participation in youth group activities; and 57% of Latter-day Saint respondents said they trust organized religion “completely” or “a lot,” compared to 35% of the national sample.
In a 2020 Pew Research Center survey, 24% of U.S. adults said their faith has become stronger due to the COVID-19 pandemic and 47% said it hadn’t changed much, while 2% said it was weakened. (Some 26% said the question didn’t apply to them.)
As those views on faith continue to shift, The Salt Lake Tribune wants to hear from readers of all faiths about why they choose to participate in organized religion.
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