U.S. church membership falls below 50% for first time in history

by Joel Abbott · Mar 29th, 2021 3:49 pm

Last Updated Apr 7th, 2021 at 1:36 pm

Churchgoers in America are now in the minority for the first time, according to a Gallup poll that has tracked religious attendance for eight decades.

In 1937, the poll found that 73% of individuals said they belonged to a church, mosque, or synagogue. This number stayed consistent through the end of the 20th century, remaining at 70% in 1999.

By 2018, the number had dropped to 50% and dropped further to 47% in 2020.

"The decline in church membership is primarily a function of the increasing number of Americans who express no religious preference," Gallup said. "Over the past two decades, the percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion has grown from 8% in 1998-2000 to 13% in 2008-2010 and 21% over the past three years."

Gallup said the rest of the drop was caused due to "a decline in formal church membership among Americans who do have a religious preference."

The poll also highlighted how Americans have become increasingly less affiliated with a traditional religion – down to 36% of millennials from 66% of those born before 1946.

Gallup noted that the decline is seen across all subgroups, but is smallest among politically conservative individuals.

"In addition to Protestants, declines in church membership are proportionately smaller among political conservatives, Republicans, married adults and college graduates," said the organization. "These groups tend to have among the highest rates of church membership, along with Southern residents and non-Hispanic Black adults."

Gallup also said that the trend is leading to a "conservative" estimate of thousands of churches closing each year.


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