Millennials are giving up on organised religion

Younger Americans are increasingly unlikely to be part of an organised faith group.

The Pew Research Center has a massive new study on the religious makeup of the United States. The “2014 Religious Landscape Study” is based on a survey of 35,071 adults who were asked about their religious beliefs and backgrounds between June and September 2014.

One of the most striking results from the survey was that the fastest growing religious group in America is the “Nones”: people who don’t identify with any particular religion. In the 2007 version of the study, 16.1% of adults said they were unaffiliated with an organised religion, while by 2014, 22.8% identified as non-affiliated. This makes the unaffiliated the second largest religious group in the country after evangelical protestants.

Non-affiliated doesn’t necessarily mean non-religious: About 31% of the unaffiliated identified themselves as atheist or agnostic, while the remaining 69% simply said they identified with “nothing in particular”. Indeed, 30% of the unaffiliated responded that religion was important in their lives.

The study also found a huge generation gap among the unaffiliated. Younger groups were much more likely than their elders to have no religious affiliation, and while all generational groups had an increase in non-affiliation between 2007 and 2009, older millennials had the largest increase. Millennials who were too young to be surveyed in 2007 were even more likely than their slightly older peers to identify with no religious group.

This chart, which shows rates of non-affiliation for each of the generational groups identified by Pew based on birth year, illustrates the age gap:

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