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American religiosity and its recent decline

Research aims to quantify and explain drop in US religiosity. The current drop in the number of people in the United States identifying with a religion may not be permanent, but it is in some ways unprecedented, according to a new research study aiming to quantify the drop in religiosity the United States has experienced over the past several decades.


“Fewer people claim to be or identify as part of a religious community of any kind,” researcher Lyman Stone wrote in an April 2020 study by the American Enterprise Institute.

“From 95 percent or higher just after World War II to around 75 percent today, there has been a seismic change in Americans’ self-identified religiosity.”

For the past 50 years or so, religious membership has been in a decline “striking in its speed and uniformity across different measures of religiosity,” he said.

One of the biggest factors on decreasing religiosity has been secularized, public education, Stone argued.

“The decline in religiosity in America is not the product of a natural change in preferences, but an engineered outcome of clearly identifiable policy choices in the past,” he said.

Stone argued that the present decline in the percentage of “religious” people in the U.S. is not all that different in pace and severity from the decline experienced post-1700— around the time period identified as The Enlightenment, when many anti-religious ideas started to gain traction in Europe and elsewhere. 

Today, the total number of “religious” people in the U.S. as a share of the population has remained flat since 2005. Just 35% of the population attends religious services weekly— nevertheless, a high percentage compared to most countries in Europe.

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