The oft-heard statement, “America is a Protestant Christian Nation” is no longer correct according to finding released Oct. 9 by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
While the survey’s findings show the former Protestant majority slipping to 48 percent of those expressing a religious affiliation, one in every five surveyed ― 20% ― expressed no religious affiliation, an increase of some 15 percent above data collected five years ago.
Taken in context with those who identify themselves as being religious, the “Nones,” as they have been dubbed, place third behind Evangelical Protestants (26.3 percent of the respondents), Catholics (23.9 percent) and just ahead of Mainline Protestants at 18.1 percent.
Delving deeper into the 18.1 percent of the more than thirty-five thousand respondents who defined themselves as a “Mainline Protestant,” Methodists led the way with 5.4 percent, followed by Lutherans at 2.8 percent and those did not specify a particular denomination, 2.5 percent (see table Mainline Protestant Churches.)
Baptists and Presbyterians tied for fourth position with 1.9 percent each of the overall sample while 1.1 percent of those surveyed overall see themselves as members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A..).
The survey has a margin of error of plus/minus six percent.
The Pew study, conducted in person and via telephone ― both landline and mobile ― between June 28-July 9, 2012 in tandem with the PBS show Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, also underscores long-term trends that have been tracked for at least four decades by organizations such as Pew, Gallup and General Social Surveys (GSS.)
For example, a GSS study shows Protestant affiliations dropping from 62 percent in 1972 to 51 percent in 2010 while “Nones” rose from seven percent to 18 percent during the same period.
The complete study is available online at http://www.pewforum.org/Unaffiliated/nones-on-the-rise.aspx
Jim Nedelka is a radio news reporter in New York and an elder at West-Park Presbyterian Church in Manhattan.