More Americans Turn Their Backs on Organized Religion
Nearly one in three Americans identifies as being spiritual rather than religious, a shift from 18.5 percent to 33 percent over two decades, according to a new NORC study. Researchers examined data from three sets of surveys—NORC’s General Social Survey, the Fetzer 2020 Study of Spirituality in the United States, and the International Social Survey Program—of nearly 93,000 people from 1998–2020. They report that while religion and spirituality are overlapping transcendental domains, the majority of respondents saw them as distinct. Spirituality was viewed as unstructured, personal, and informal with religion being the opposite.
“The coherent worldview and consistent profile of those who identify as being more spiritual than religious suggests that they are more than just a group rejecting religion. Only time will tell whether this change will be fundamental and enduring.”
Respondents who identified as more spiritual tended to be college educated, pro-science, clustered in urban areas and on the coasts, Democrat and liberal-leaning, more altruistic and supportive of governmental social programs, younger, and lonelier. While younger generations were more spiritual, there was an increase in spirituality across all age groups over time. While the more spiritual differed notably from the more religious on the definition—or even the existence—of a supreme being, 81 percent believed in an afterlife.
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