|Secularism Gaining Ground in US: Poll
March 9, 2009
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Secularism is gaining ground in the United States, eating away at the percentage of Americans who identify with the Protestant Christianity of the founding fathers, a poll published Monday showed.
The percentage of Americans who adhered to no particular religion jumped from 8.2 percent in 1990 to 15 percent last year, the third American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) conducted over 10 months last year by pollsters from Trinity College in Connecticut, showed.
When the survey was conducted in 2001, 14.1 percent of respondents said they were not religious.
"Americans are slowly becoming less Christian... The challenge to Christianity does not come from other world religions or new religious movements, but rather from a rejection of all organized religions," said a report of last year's survey, in which 54,461 people took part.
The percentage of Christians in the United States declined slightly between 2001 and 2008 from 76.7 percent to 76 percent, after seeing a precipitous fall since 1990, when 86.2 percent said they were Christian.
Most of the decline was seen in mainline Protestant religions, while the greatest growth was among people who identified only as "Christian", evangelical or born-again, or as non-denominational Christians, whom the study associates with mega-churches.
The number of so-called mega-church Christians has shot heavenward since 1990, when there were less than 200,000 non-denominational Christians, to more than eight million in 2008, the study showed.
Meanwhile, the percentage of people who identified as Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians/Anglicans or members of the United Church of Christ fell from 18.7 percent in 1990 to 17.2 percent in 2001, and just under 13 percent in 2008.
"It looks like the two-party system of American Protestantism -- mainline versus evangelical -- is collapsing," Mark Silk, director of the Public Values Program at Trinity College, which conducted the survey, said in a statement.
"A generic form of evangelicalism is emerging as the normative form of non-Catholic Christianity," he said.
Catholicism was the single dominant Christian religion last year, with 25.1 percent of survey respondents identifying as Catholic.
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