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Aging News & Information

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 affiliation.

 

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“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 religious organizations.

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 day.

“In addition, most religiously unaffiliated Americans think that churches and other religious institutions benefit society by strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor.”

>> Click to the executive summary and complete report.

 

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