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Christianity in Crisis? New Study Shows Big Drop in America

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A new study released by the Pew Research Center shows a rise in the proportion of Americans who are not affiliated with a specific religion, with a substantial decline in the overall proportion of self-identified Christians.

Despite the results, the United States remains a majority Christian country, with 70.6 percent falling under the Bible-based umbrella in 2014. This is a decrease of eight percentage points, though, from 2007 when the study found that 78.4 percent of the nation embraced Christianity.

Christians Decline as Share of U.S. Population; Other Faiths and the Unaffiliated Are Growing
Based on margins of error, Christianity lost between 2.8 and 7.8 million followers over the past seven years, with the largest drop observed within mainline Protestantism, a group of denominations known for embracing more theologically progressive ideals.

While there were 41 million mainline Protestants in 2007, that number dropped to around 36 million last year. This comes as denominations under that umbrella continue to splinter over the embrace of homosexuality and same-sex nuptials.

Catholicism, too, experienced a notable decline, with 23.9 percent of the country embracing the faith in 2007 and 20.8 doing so in 2014.

One of the other indicators that has gained a great deal of attention over the years is the proportion of "nones" — people who are either atheist, agnostic or are simply disconnected from a specific faith. This proportion moved from 16.1 percent in 2007 to 22.8 percent in 2014.

It's important to examine the "nones" in their separate subgroups, though, to see whether nonbelief is on the rise or whether there are simply more people saying that they no longer associate with a faith or denomination; these latter individuals are not necessarily nonbelievers.

Changing U.S. Religious Landscape
Consider that 1.6 percent of the population called itself "atheist" in 2007, though that proportion now stands at 3.1 percent.

Likewise, 2.4 percent considered themselves agnostic; that proportion is now at 4.0 percent, meaning that atheists and agnostics account for 7.1 percent of the population, up from 5 percent in 2007.

There has also been movement among those who claim no affiliation, increasing from 12.1 percent to 15.8 percent. And when it comes to people of faith who are not Christian, there's an increase from 4.7 percent of the population in 2007 to 5.9 percent last year.

Some experts have noted, though, that Christianity may not be losing ardent followers. Instead, some who were culturally Christian and who previously aligned with the faith — yet never truly believed — are beginning to stop their affiliation.

Read the entire Pew study here.

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Front page image via Shutterstock.com.

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