Religious affiliation is falling in America

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By , KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — For the first time, according to a Gallup poll, less than 50% of Americans say they belong to a church, synagogue or mosque.

While religious affiliation membership is dropping, Dr. Melissa Wilde, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania says another group is growing — the "religious nones."

She recently told the KYW Newsradio In Depth podcast that "nones" are not necessarily atheists or agnostic.

"The majority of them believe in God and the majority of them consider themselves to be at least spiritual, but often religious, but have increasingly disaffiliated from formal religious organizations," she explained.

Wilde said she's seen this phenomenon firsthand.

"The students that I've taught in my sociology religion course, it's not something that they necessarily talk about right away, anymore," she said, "maybe because a growing proportion of Americans are not religious and that might be something that therefore they're more hesitant to discuss."

Wilde believes many of the changes have to do with underlying shifts in America.

"It's really clearly connected to politics, in the sense that it's people who are politically liberal and have a negative view of the role of religion in American politics today, as a result of issues such as abortion and homosexuality," she said.

The professor also compared this shift to how many businesses have been operating since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

"As companies and other businesses decide that, actually, their employees working remotely is not bad and it looks like people are actually working more, not less without having to commute, et cetera," she speculated, "I think it's possible that they’ll conclude the same thing in relationship to churches, that if people are attending virtually, you don't need the same size buildings, you don’t necessarily need as many buildings."

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