More Americans Changing Religions, Embracing Atheism

But optimistic and hopeful are those who remain.

DETROIT ( – A new survey reveals an increasing number of Americans are switching religions, and even disaffiliating from organized religion altogether. However, the dwindling population of practicing individuals remains optimistic about the future.

According to recent data from the Public Religion Research Institute, the American Catholic population has itself not been immune to a wider shift towards irreligion. The PRRI report states, “Catholics, in particular, have seen a significant shift in the number who say religion is not important in their lives.”

In the United States, the number of religious “nones,” those who disclaim any religious affiliation, has significantly increased over the decades. In 2021, the Pew Research Center reported that approximately three in ten American adults identify as nones, nearly doubling the same metric from 2007. It further reported that Americans identifying as Christian decreased from 78% in 2007 to 63% in 2021.


The new PRRI study, titled “Religion and Congregations in a Time of Social and Political Upheaval,” surveyed over 6,600 adults from all 50 states.

For the one in four Americans who switched religions, the majority (56%) stated that they stopped believing in the teachings of their previous religion. Other reasons proffered for leaving their erstwhile creeds include negative teachings about the LGBT community (30%), growing up in an irreligious family (29%), scandals involving religious leaders (27%), traumatic events (18%) and excessive focus on politics by their church (17%).

Religious fervor is also waning stateside.

According to PRRI, “Today, 16% of Americans say that religion is the most important thing in their life, [and] 36% say religion is one among many important things.” But a mere 10 years ago, 20% of Americans considered religion the most important thing, and 43% regarded it as one among many important things.

Catholics, in particular, have been significantly affected by this trend. The survey highlights that among white Catholics, the percentage who consider religion unimportant doubled from 7% in 2013 to 16% in 2022. The trend is even more marked among Hispanic Catholics, with those holding religion to be unimportant rising meteorically — from 2% to 13%.

While the new survey indicates a decline in religious adherence, it also reveals that the remaining percentage of practitioners are optimistic and confident. “More than eight in ten churchgoers (82%) say they are optimistic about the future of their church,” the study reveals. It also concludes that “the rate of optimism is similar across Christian denominations.”

Across the spectrum of religious denominations, 88% of Hispanic Protestants, 86% of white evangelicals, 81% of black Protestants, 81% of Hispanic Catholics and 80% of white Catholics express optimism.

Hopeful Christians in America, although a minority, are running sharply athwart the prevailing trend of secularization. So perhaps a faithful remnant will continue animating America with the spirit of the gospel.

EDITORS NOTE: This Church Militant column is republished with permission. ©All rights reserved.

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