Between 1944 and 2011 there was one cultural statistic you could count on: more than 90% of all Americans believed in God. Year after year, decade after decade, from the time of World War II to when President Obama announced the killing of Osama bin Laden, more than 90% of Americans consistently believed in God. Often, this percentage was as high as 98%, even weighing in at 92% in 2011.
It was like cultural wallpaper.
Until it wasn’t.
And, like so many other marks of our new post-Christian reality such as the rise of the “nones,” said belief in God has plummeted suddenly and sharply.
New polling from Gallup has found that from the aforementioned highs of 98% throughout much of the last eight decades, it decreased to 92% in 2011, then to 87% in 2013, then to 81% in 2022. That means that now nearly one out of every five Americans does not believe in God.
Gallup also found that belief in God has fallen the most “among young adults and people on the left of the political spectrum (liberals and Democrats).” Conservatives and married adults have held steady. Some have opined that this helps explain some of the political divides in our country.
Of course, it’s always enlightening to read further into what kind of “god” people believe in, as a generic belief in a god can mean very little. Gallup nets this out, noting that only 42% believe that the god they say they believe in hears prayers and intervenes. The number who either don’t believe in God, or don’t believe God hears prayers, jumps to nearly one out of every three U.S. adults. So, the theology behind the theism of many is actually what is known in theological circles as “deism,” the belief in a god or divine power who is detached, unconcerned and uninvolved.
I’m not surprised by these figures, nor am I surprised that belief in God in the U.S. remains relatively high in comparison to, say, Europe. There is a progression that many have observed: first, you stop belonging, then you stop believing. Only in the last few decades has the U.S. experienced the rise of the nones, something those in Europe and Canada saw happen much earlier. The rise of the nones is the belonging component; the fall in the belief of God is the subsequent believing component, which is why we are only seeing it surface now.
That means you can count on the decline in the belief in God to continue.
This article originally appeared here and is used by permission.