No Surprise Senior Citizens Most Likely to Be
Affiliated with Religion: Pew Research
Pew Research Center finds Americans trending away
from organized religion – 1 in 5 have no religious affiliation
Oct. 12, 2012 – Seldom do you see a poll that does
not find senior citizens at one extreme or the other. This time it is a
measurement of Americans who do not identify with any religion. It is a
growing trend – to be religiously unaffiliated – according to Pew
Research Center. But, seniors are not joining in – they are far less
likely to be “unaffiliated” than any other age group.
In the last five years the unaffiliated adults have
jumped from a little over 15% to almost 20%. About a third of U.S.
adults under 30 now say they are unaffiliated. But, among senior
citizens – those age 65 and older – only 9% have not religious
“The growth in the number of religiously
unaffiliated Americans – sometimes called the rise of the “nones” – is
largely driven by generational replacement, the gradual supplanting of
older generations by newer ones,” according to the executive summary of
the Pew report.
“These generational differences are consistent with
other signs of a gradual softening of religious commitment among some
(though by no means all) Americans in recent decades,” the report says.
Pew Research Center surveys conducted over the last
10 years, for example, find modest growth in the number of people who
say they seldom or never attend religious services, as well as a
declining number who say they never doubt the existence of God.
In addition to religious behavior, the way that
Americans talk about their connection to religion seems to be changing.
Increasingly, Americans describe their religious affiliation in terms
that more closely match their level of involvement in churches and other
In 2007, 60% of those who said they seldom or never
attend religious services nevertheless described themselves as belonging
to a particular religious tradition. In 2012, just 50% of those who say
they seldom or never attend religious services still retain a religious
affiliation – a 10-point drop in five years. These trends suggest that
the ranks of the unaffiliated are swelling in surveys partly because
Americans who rarely go to services are more willing than in the past to
drop their religious attachments altogether.
Unaffiliated still most spiritual in someway
A new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on
Religion & Public Life, conducted jointly with the PBS television
program Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, reports that many of the country’s
46 million unaffiliated adults are religious or spiritual in some way.
“Two-thirds of them say they believe in God (68%).
More than half say they often feel a deep connection with nature and the
earth (58%), while more than a third classify themselves as ‘spiritual’
but not ‘religious’ (37%), and one-in-five (21%) say they pray every
“In addition, most religiously unaffiliated
Americans think that churches and other religious institutions benefit
society by strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor.”