By Ryan Burge
The media have paid a lot of attention to the rise of the religiously unaffiliated in recent years, and for good reason. In 1990, just 1 in 20 adult Americans were not connected to a religious faith. Today, it’s closer to 1 in 4. The ripples of such a shift are still being sorted out by observers of American religion.
One of the most visible effects is that the pews are much emptier today than they were just 30 years ago. What does that decline look like, in the simplest terms?
To answer that question, I divided data from the General Social Survey into three groups: those who attended church or another house of worship once a year or less, those who attended nearly every week or more and those in the middle of the attendance spectrum, and I graphed the changes over time. The results are sobering for people of faith.
In the early 1970s, about 38% of Americans attended church nearly every week or more. A third rarely or never attended church, while the rest attended once in a while.
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