Rising number of Americans are switching religions
Nearly a quarter of Americans say they used to follow a different religious tradition or denomination than the one they practice now — a percentage that keeps growing, a new survey says.
Why it matters: The jump in religion-switching comes as many Americans say they no longer believe in their initial religion's teachings — or, in many cases, disagree with a religion's stance against LGBTQ+ people.
- More Americans also are turning away from Christianity and are seeing themselves as unaffiliated with any religion or as religious "nones," even as some conservative Republicans seek to inject more religion into schools and public life.
By the numbers: The nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute survey of people across the country found that a quarter of Americans (24%) say they've changed religious traditions or denominations over their lifetime or recently.
- That's a 50% jump from 2021, when 16% said they had switched, the survey found.
- People who are members of other non-Christian religions (38%) or religiously unaffiliated (37%) were the most likely to say that they had switched from a different religious tradition.
- About one in four Protestants of color (28%), white evangelical Protestants (25%), and Hispanic Protestants (24%) say they previously practiced or followed another religious tradition.
The intrigue: The survey found that the Catholic Church had lost the highest percentage of followers (39%) to the group without a religious affiliation.
- Non-evangelical Protestants (28%) lost the second-most members.
Between the lines: A 2022 survey by PRRI's American Values Atlas found that only 64% of Americans identify as Christian — and the percentage has been dropping.
- That PRRI survey says nearly 27% of the general public is now unaffiliated with any religion — the fastest-growing segment.
Zoom in: Among those who switched, 56% said they changed because they stopped believing in the religion's teachings.
- About 30% said negative religious teachings about or treatment of LGBTQ+ people forced them to change.
- Only 17% said they switched because their church or congregation became too political.
Yes, but: Most churchgoers (56%) do not believe their current church is more divided by politics than it was five years ago, the study found.
- Only 13% say that their church is more politically divided.
- White non-evangelical Protestants (17%) and Catholics (17%) are the most likely to indicate that their churches are more divided by politics.
What they're saying: "There's essentially kind of a paradox happening. On the one hand, there is more religious churning. There are also more people in America who are becoming less religious, " PRRI CEO Melissa Deckman told Axios.
- "Among Americans who still go to church on a regular basis, they still seem to be pretty happy with what's happening in their churches."
Bottom line: Members of Gen Z — now ages 11 to 26 — are switching and shunning religion faster as young adults than other Americans. That's expected to continue.
Methodology: The Health of Congregations Survey was conducted Aug. 9-30 by PRRI. The poll is based on a representative sample of 5,872 adults (age 18 and older) living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia who are part of Ipsos' Knowledge Panel®.
- The margin of sampling error is ±1.86 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, for results based on the entire sample.