The Northeast has 20% of the religiously unaffiliated in the country. This translates into about 9.2 million people who do not identify with any particular religion. In comparison Western United States has a much higher percentage of the religiously unaffiliated, 30% of the “Nones,” meaning about 13.8 million people. The South has 28% of the Nones while the Midwest has 22%.
Today, the Pew Center is releasing the results of their “’Nones’ on the Rise” study done in cooperation with PBS-TV’s Religion and Ethics News Weekly. The project also drew upon previous PEW, General Social Survey and Gallup studies. According to Pew, the number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow. In 2007 15% of the nation said that they had no religious affiliation. “One-fifth of the United States public—and a third of adults under thirty—are religiously unaffiliated today,” the Center says. The telephone survey of 2973 adults conducted last summer asked, “What is your current religion, if any?” Nones are those who answered “nothing in particular,” atheist” or “agnostic.”
However, the northeast, including New York, is the most religiously affiliated region of the nation and has the smallest number of atheists (21% of the national total versus the West which has 33% of the atheists). The relatively high religious affiliation in the Northeast indicates that the rise of postsecular New York City is part of a greater regional trend.
John Green, an advisor to the project, told A Journey through NYC religions, that the New York City area is likely to have fewer religious “Nones” because of the vitality of religions among the region’s immigrants. “Context matters,” he said. “In the northeast there are more immigrants, a high proportion who are religiously affiliated.” Nationally, Green pointed out that the Nones tend to be young and white.
The proportion of Nones among Hispanics is not growing, and among African Americans growing at a much slower rate than among Whites.
% of Nones among ethnic/racial groups
Whites 15% 20%
Hispanics 16% 16%
African Americans 13% 15%
A Journey has found that many of the new evangelical churches in the city are also benefitting from a noticeable trend of religious reconfirmations among migrants from other parts of the United States. The more religious context in the city makes it socially more acceptable for native New Yorkers to try out religious options.
The religiously affiliated and unaffiliated do not differ much in their educational or income levels.
Having no particular religious affiliation does not mean non-religious. The majority of Nones in the country are religious or spiritual in some way. Two-thirds say that they believe in God or a higher spirit, and one in five pray every day. Most esteem churches and other religious organizations for their benefits to society through their strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor. The younger Nones are not hostile to religion but do part ways with religious involvements in politics and opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.
According to PEW, the Nones are becoming as an important building block for the Democrats as the evangelical Christians are for the Republicans. Green says, “The unaffiliated vote may have been the difference in 2008” that provided Obama victory.
Nones seem to be less engaged with durable social institutions. People without religious affiliation are significantly more likely than the general public to say that they don’t find it important to belong to a community that shares their values and beliefs. 31% say that a shared value community is not important. In contrast only 16% of the general public share this devaluation of the importance of community. Regardless of age, Nones are less likely to be married. In other surveys PEW has also found that Americans who are not active in religious organizations are also less likely to be involved in all types of voluntary and community groups. In fact Nones may be increasingly isolated from experiencing any religious social life, at least as measured by worship attendance. In 2012 29% more Nones than in 2007 seldom or never attend worship services.