- Of the four scenarios predicted by Pew, three show Christians to have fallen below 50% of the U.S. population by 2070.
- In the most plausible scenario, per Pew, the non-religious population will make up 48% of the US by 2070.
- In the most plausible scenario, Christians will make up 39% of the population by 2070.
Projections indicate that Christians could lose majority status in the United States by 2070, according to models released Tuesday by the Pew Research Center.
The study modeled four different hypothetical scenarios, each representing a different degree of “switching,” which the Pew Research Center defined “as a change between the religion a person grew up in (in childhood) and their current religious identity (in adulthood). age). ).”
Pew said his models examined one scenario in which switching rates remain the same, two scenarios in which switching rates accelerate, and one in which switching rates stop completely.
The number of Americans who identify as agnostic, atheist or not affiliated with a particular religion has grown dramatically since the 1990s, according to the research center.
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Each scenario starts with the religious makeup of the country in 2020, as estimated by the Pew Research Center: 64% Christian, 30% non-affiliated, and 6% members of all other faiths.
In three out of four scenarios, Christians will make up less than 50% of the country by 2070.
Scenario No. 1: Christian population no longer majority, retains plurality
In this scenario, young Americans (aged 15-29) are leaving Christianity and joining Christianity and other religions at a similar rate as in recent years. According to the Pew Research Center, the proportion of Christians decreases by a few percentage points each generation, eventually falling below 50% by 2060 and reaching 46% by 2070. Yet they represent the largest religious group in the country.
Members of other religions will increase to 13% of the population by 2070, while 41% of the United States will have no religious affiliation in this scenario.
Scenario No. 2: Nearly half of the US was not religiously affiliated by 2070
Young Americans are gradually moving out of Christianity with each generation before the pace begins to slow in this scenario.
Here, the number of Christians will fall below 50% of the population in 2050 and to 39% in 2070. The percentage of Americans who have no religious affiliation will rise to 48% by 2070 and the percentage of Americans who belong to non-Christian religions will rise up to 12%.
Scenario No. 3: US largely secular by 2070
By 2070, 52% of Americans in this scenario will not follow a religion, with switching increasing at a constant rate. The percentage of Americans who are Christian drops to 35% and the percentage of Americans who belong to a non-Christian religion makes up the remaining 12%.
Scenario No. 4: Christianity Retains Small Majority in 2070
This scenario seems unrealistic based on recent trends, as it assumes Americans will abruptly stop abandoning religion after 2020.
Still, Christianity could see a 10% drop by 2070 as older American Christians die, according to Pew Research Center. The religiously non-affiliated would make up 34% of the country and members of other religions would make up 12%.
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Which scenario is most likely?
Pew Research Center said that scenario No. 2, in which Christianity falls below 50% of the population by 2050 and to 39% by 2070, “best illustrates what would happen if recent generational trends in the US continue, but only until they reach the border. from what has been observed around the world, including in Western Europe.”
Data from dozens of countries around the world shows that most people aged 30 to 49 who reported being raised Christian are still Christian, meaning the Christian retention rate in those countries hasn’t fallen below 50%, Pew said. Research Center. Scenario No. 2 Models for a Christian Retention Rate of 50% or More in the US
Pew noted that each scenario assumed current demographic trends — migration, births, and deaths — remained constant.
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