The Public Religion Research Institute has released its latest snapshot of the American religious landscape with data from 2020. It shows that America is still majority Christian, and that, despite shrill voices of the most aggrieved, Americans broadly enjoy healthy religious liberty.
Overall, America is still overwhelmingly Christian. Only 5.75% of Americans practice a religion other than Christianity.
The second-largest belief system is not a religion at all. More than 23% of Americans are “Nones” or religiously unaffiliated, meaning they check “None of the above” when asked to identify their faith from a list.
The rise of the Nones has been the topic of much discussion in recent years, but this latest report shows that rise has slowed.
In fact, over the past two years, the percentage of Americans who claim no faith has declined from 25.5% to 23.3%, a steeper drop than white evangelicals in that period.
There is a clear generational trend in the data. Among Americans 65 and older, the largest religious segment is white evangelicals. Among Americans 18-29, the largest segment is Nones. And the age groups in between show a steady transfer between the two. White evangelicals are the oldest cohort in the nation, with an average age of 56. Non-Christians are much younger on average. The three youngest categories are Muslims (33), Hindus (36), and Buddhists (36).
Religious minorities are small, but seem to be growing among younger generations. The nation will almost certainly be more pluralist in the next few generations than it was in the last few.
All of this shows us that for all the disruption and debate among religious communities from politics and pandemic, Americans still value religious expression.
The takeaway is encouraging. Our Constitution protects our freedom to practice a faith, and most Americans do so. They attend prayers on Friday, synagogue on Saturday, or church on Sunday without threat of violence or discrimination.
The religious makeup of our nation has certainly shifted over the course of American history. It will certainly shift in the future. But we can be encouraged that those shifts are happening under the banner of liberty and justice for all, which itself is likely one reason why faiths of all kinds do flourish here.