Aug 20, 2013 / 05:34 pm
An increase in the number of religiously unaffiliated in the U.S. does not necessarily mean that the country is growing significantly more secular, said experts at a recent panel.
Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup, explained during a panel discussion held by the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C., that the data indicates the rise in self-described “nones” is simply the “already unreligious who are just changing the way they label themselves.”
Claude Fischer, a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, added that despite these changes, “Americans have long been, and still remain, the most religious people among the peoples of the Western nations, both in faith and in practice.”
Also speaking at the Aug. 8 panel event were Michael Hout, sociology professor at New York University, and Greg Smith, director of U.S. Religion Surveys for Pew Research Center’s Religion and Public Life Project.
Panelists discussed a 2002 article based on data from the General Social Survey and a 2012 study by the Pew Research Center showing rises in the number of U.S. adults who do not affiliate with any religious tradition, also known as “nones.”
Fischer explained that the two studies should be taken in the context of American history, adding that “church membership and religious activity have waxed and waned and cycled over American history, but over the long run, over two centuries, both membership and activity have in net increased.”
He noted that even with the downward trend in religious involvement from its peak in the 1950s, “religious involvement is still higher than it was a century ago” and is a part of American life and community. …
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