Christmas in America: Less Christian Than Ever
Is the United States a Christian nation? Well, a whopping 78 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians. But that’s less than ever before. And the number of people identifying as having no religious identity is at its highest point ever, as is number saying religion is “not very important” in their lives.
Gallup’s Frank Newport:
This Christmas season, 78% of Americans identify with some form of Christian religion, a proportion that has been declining in recent decades. The major reason for this decline has been an increase in the percentage of Americans claiming no religious identity, now at 13% of all adults.
The trend results are based on annual averages of Gallup’s religious identity data in America that stretch back over 60 years. One of the most significant trends documented during this period is the substantial increase in the percentage of American adults who don’t identify with any specific religion. In 1948, only 2% of Americans did not identify with a religion. That percentage began to rise in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Eleven years ago, in 1998, 6% of Americans did not identify with a religion, a number that rose to 10% by 2002. This year’s average of 13% of Americans who claim no religious identity is the highest in Gallup records.
There was a substantial drop in the percentage of Americans who said religion was “very important” in their lives between the 1960s and the 1970s — from 70% in 1965 to 52% by 1978 — but in recent decades, this “very important” percentage has remained relatively steady. The overall figure today — 56% — is slightly higher than it was 31 years ago.
There has been a slight tendency over the years for Americans to shift from a “fairly important” category to the “not very important” category in answer to this religious importance question. The percentage saying religion is not very important in their lives was routinely in the 12% to 15% range from 1978 through the early years of this decade. In more recent years, this percentage has drifted slightly upward, and is at 19% this year.
The bottom line is that the United States remains an overwhelming Christian nation and one where religion plays a much more important role than in virtually any other developed country. But more of us are non-religious than ever before, a trend that’s likely to continue.