Pew: Growing Number of Americans Now 'Spiritual but Not Religious'

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Posted: Sep 07, 2017 8:00 AM
Pew: Growing Number of Americans Now 'Spiritual but Not Religious'

A recent study by Pew Research Center found that just over a quarter, 27 percent, of American adults are now “spiritual but not religious,” a number that has grown by 8 percentage points in five years.

The survey did not directly ask people whether they labeled themselves as “spiritual but not religious,” but instead asked “Do you think of yourself as a religious person, or not?” and “Do you think of yourself as a spiritual person, or not?” They then combined the data from the two questions.

Amongst those who said they were spiritual but not religious, 37 percent were religiously unaffiliated, 35 percent were Protestant, 14 percent Catholic, and 11 percent were in various other faiths, such as Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism.

Most of those who were spiritual but not religious had low levels of religious observance, 49 percent said they seldom or never attend religious services and 44 percent said religion is “not too” or “not at all” important in their lives. However, 17 percent said they attended religious services weekly, and 27 percent said religion is very important to them. 

Americans who are spiritual but not religious, Pew noted, are “more highly educated than the general public. Seven-in-ten (71%) have attended at least some college, including a third (34%) with college degrees. In addition, they lean Democratic, with 52% identifying with or leaning toward the Democratic Party, compared with 30% who identify as or lean Republican. Those who are neither religious nor spiritual also are more likely to be Democrats (52%).”

Forty-eight percent of respondents said they were both religious and spiritual, 6 percent said they were religious but not spiritual, and 18 percent said they were neither religious nor spiritual.

Just 54 percent of U.S. adults think of themselves as religious – down 11 points since 2012 – but 75 percent say they are spiritual.

The study was “based on a telephone survey conducted April 25 to June 4, 2017, among a national sample of 5,002 adults ages 18 and older who live in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.”