8 Stats About Religion in America

The United States is in the middle of an unprecedented spiritual, technological, demographic, political, and social transformation—moving from an older, mostly white, mostly Protestant, religion-friendly society to a younger diverse, multiethnic, pluralistic culture, where no one faith group will have the advantage. At the same time, millions of Americans are abandoning organized religion altogether.

Veteran religion reporter and author of Reorganized Religion, Bob Smietana, offers 8 stats about religion in America to assess the state of the American church and its future.

1. Less than half of Americans say they belong to a church or other house of worship.

That’s the lowest rate of congregational membership since the 1930s when data was first collected and is down from 70% of Americans who claimed a church alliance in the 1990s. (SOURCE: Gallup)

Infographic: less than half of Americans claim to be a member of a church.

2. Among the oldest Americans, those born between 1928 and 1945, 84% identify as Christians, while half go to church or attend worship services once a week or more.

Millennials, on the other hand, are far less likely to identify as Christian (49%) or go to church weekly (22%). (SOURCE: Pew)

3. The median worship attendance at a congregation in the United States is 65 people.

Half of US congregations draw 65 people or less for weekly worship services. The median in 2000 was 137 people. (SOURCE: FaithCommunitiesToday.org)

4. Currently, about three-in-ten U.S. adults (29%) are religious “nones.”

“Nones” describe themselves as atheists, agnostics, or “nothing in particular” when asked about their religious identity. (SOURCE: Pew)

How much reorganized religion has impacted our life? Take the quiz to find out. Image: church steeple.

5. Among Americans over 65, about six-in-ten (59%) identify as White Christians.

Data from a 2020 PRRI study found just one-in-five (19%) is a Christian of color. (SOURCE: PRRI.org)

6. In many denominations, immigrants are providing hopeful stories of growth in the face of other trends showing decline.

“While established, mostly white congregations in the U.S. frequently struggle to retain their members, immigrant Christians are creating a future picture of growing diversity and vitality,” says the Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson. (SOURCE: The Washington Post)

7. A 2021 study showed 3/4 of U.S. pastors indicated service attendance had declined after one year of the pandemic.

Most congregations saw worship attendance drop by at least 10%. For about 12%, worship was less than half of what it had been before the pandemic. 35% told Lifeway Research that attendance had dropped between a third and a half. (SOURCE: Lifeway Research)

8. 57% of churchgoers under 50 said they prefer to go to church with people who share their politics.

Forty-two percent said that they were open to attending services with people who had different views. That same survey found that half (51%) said that their political views matched the views of other people in the pews. Only 19% said that other people in their church had different views. (SOURCE: Lifeway Research)

So what do we do with this information? These and other stats are thoroughly explored in Reorganized Religion: The Reshaping of the American Church and Why It Matters by Bob Smietana. To continue reading from the book, download a free chapter by clicking here.

Bob Smietana

About the Author

Bob Smietana is an award-winning reporter and Pulitzer grantee who has become one of the most respected and well-known religion reporters in the country, with more than two decades experience in covering religion, spirituality, and ethics. He has served as a senior writer for Facts & Trends, senior editor of Christianity Today, and the religion writer at The Tennessean. He is currently a national reporter for Religion News Service, where his wire service stories — which attract wide readership from lay people, pastors and scholars — have appeared in both secular and religious publications, such at the Washington Post, USA Today, Christianity Today, and the Associated Press.

His reporting on a small Episcopal church saved by refugees inspired the 2017 Affirm Films feature “All Saints,” while his reporting on young serpent handlers inspired the 2013 National Geographic television series Snake Salvation. In April 2021, his reporting on Beth Moore’s breakup with the Southern Baptists was a top story at Christianity Today and the second most read story at the Washington Post. On the day it was published, it was cited on the front page of the New York Times and prompted a national conversation about women in the Southern Baptist Convention. Bob has also reported on the troubles of Christian finance guru Dave Ramsey, the challenges facing megachurches like Willow Creek, end-times cat worshippers, and even a Nashville cult funded by “How Great is Our God,” one of the five most popular worship songs in the country, which attracted millions of page views and readers.

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