New Pope Or Not, Americans Are Losing Their Religion

The number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has more than doubled since 1990, study says.

A new survey shows religion in America hit an all time low last year, with 20 percent of respondents saying they have no religious affiliation. 

Researchers at UC Berkeley and Duke University publicized their analysis of the biannual General Social Study this week, showing the number of non-religious Americans more than doubled since 1990, when just 8 percent of poll respondents claimed no religious affiliation.

It’s important to note that irreligion is not the same as atheism. As researchers point out, the survey language carefully distinguished between “no religion” and “atheists,” a label only three percent of respondents chose to identify with. In fact, 59 Americans said they definitely believe in God.

"One thing striking is the trend in terms of renouncing religious affiliation you might say continues to move up at a regular pace, while there is hardly any perceptible trend in the percentage of people who express atheist or agnostic beliefs," Claude Fischer, a UC Berkeley professor, told The Huffington Post.  

The study also cross-examined religious and political affiliation, showing a sharp discrepancy between liberals and conservatives regarding organized faith. 40 percent of liberals claimed “no religion,” as opposed to 9 percent of conservatives. According to the study’s authors, this follows a trend that’s been growing since at least 2000, when Fischer and his colleague Mike Hout, found that “a growing alliance between the leadership of conservative religious denominations and politicians promoting a conservative social agenda was pushing political liberals from conservative denominations away from organized religion.”

The study also found that more Americans in the Northeast (23.9%) and West Coast (24.9) chose no religious affiliation than the Midwest (18.7%) and South (14.6%).

[h/t/ The Huffington Post]

Steven Hsieh is an editorial assistant at AlterNet and writer based in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter @stevenjhsieh.