A 2012 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, conducted jointly with the PBS television program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, reported that, for the first time in the surveys they have conducted, the Protestant share of the population has dipped significantly below 50%. They report that “the decline is concentrated among white Protestants, both evangelical and mainline.”   The survey also reports as its main finding a significant increase among those with no religious affiliation, now reaching nearly 20% of the population, and that the percentage of those who they seldom or never attend religious services but describe themselves as belonging to a particular religious tradition has significantly declined over the past five years. For a summary of the survey with statistics, click here.

The report includes a section containing brief summaries of some of the leading scholarly theories put forward to explain the root causes of the rise in the number of those who are religiously unaffiliated.  Click here for these summaries.

We’d be interested in your response to this report, and particularly your response to the theories that explain the rise in unaffiliated. We’d also be interested in your thoughts about what (if any) actions/strategies churches and presbyteries might pursue in response to these findings.


3 Responses to Why the Increase in the Religiously Unaffiliated?

  1. Larry Doughan says:

    After twenty years of ministry across generational lines in the upper midwest, I was not surprised by the statistics. What troubles me is the hopelessness which accompanies the realization once more that the world which surrounds me is not ravingly christian.

    I have found that for me personally I am unwise to focus on reaching the world or even a state or a generation. (Of course we need to consider the big picture.) I will continue to seek effective tools I can use to reach generation X, Y or Z with the Gospel.

    The danger for me though, is that if I allow myself to think too much on the big picture, I miss the opportunity to minister to the one I just met.

  2. Richard Cooper says:

    Christian values are no longer valuable. We have failed to teach the difference between humanistic ideas and values and biblical precepts. It is difficult having liberal values about abortion and adhere to biblical concepts of life in the womb. Homosexuality [and other sin] is abhorrence to God. Fewer marriages include misunderstandings concerning the value of marriage and the harm of sex outside of marriage. What is the value of the church and what do I get for being a member rather than just an attender [and rather than what should I contribute to the group]? We allow the illusion of community thru social networks to replace true Christian fellowship. Spiritually is an emotion rather than a life style.

  3. John Hendrickson says:

    While there is no single reason for the declining commitment to the faith, let along a particular denomination, there is one area that could understood as a major cause. It is education. Religious education and academic education, with the first underlying the second.

    For how many of recent generations has the message of the church been that the only “really” important thing is having faith in Jesus in order to get to Heaven? It hasn’t been that the Bible is the single authoritative source informing us how to live all of life and not just a manual on the need to sign up souls for Heaven. Add to that most educators teach academics as if God is irrelevant and has nothing to do with life and you get people who see no need for formal…