NATION

Study: More Americans have no religion

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A new study shows the nation no longer has a Protestant majority and a growing number of people are not following a religion at all.

A new report by the Pew Research Center shows 20 percent, or 1 in 5 Americans, now have no religious affiliation. That's up 5 percent in just the last five years.

The young especially so: one-third under age 30 don't belong to any church.

"A lot of people have issues with birth control and things like that and gay rights, which Catholicism has issues with and a lot of religions do," says Krista Denovio, a Roman Catholic.

For the first time ever, the study found the percentage of Protestants in America below 50 percent.

"Many of the people I know don't attend church or have left their churches," says Lorrie Tripp, a Methodist.

The change is fueled by increasing diversity and secularization. Church scandals haven't helped, either.

But the rise of the "None's" has sharp "political" ramifications as well. Those who say they have no religion overwhelmingly vote Democrat, support abortion rights and support gay marriage.

It's not the just churches losing out, though. Empty pews mean less money for the schools and extensive social welfare programs they run.

"We have to make ourselves relevant in this day and age or we will actually die. I do believe that," says Rev. Dr. Herbert Nelson of Presbyterian Church USA. 

While younger generations traditionally rebel or experiment, this study found young people now overwhelmingly say they're not looking for a religion that's right for them, suggesting this could be a permanent decline and a real crisis for the churches.

 

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