By Aaron Earls
A growing number of Americans call themselves “spiritual” but are hesitant to describe themselves as “religious.” The number who reject all faith labels and beliefs, however, remains small.
More than a quarter of Americans (27 percent) say they are spiritual but not religious, according to Pew Research. That’s up from 19 percent in 2012.
Almost half of Americans (48 percent) agree they are both spiritual and religious, but that’s down from 59 percent in 2012.
Only 6 percent say they are religious but not spiritual.
The increase of spiritual-but-not-religious Americans stretches across demographics. Growth occurred among men, women, whites, blacks, Hispanics, Democrats, and Republicans, in every age range and at every education level.
Some could interpret this as Americans rejecting religious beliefs en masse, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
While the number of Americans who describe themselves as “religious” has fallen 11 points in the last five years, those who say they are “spiritual” has remained steady—dropping only 3 points, from 78 to 75 percent.
Those who refuse both labels saw only a small increase, up 2 points from 16 to 18 percent.
And most of the spiritual-but-not-religious population say they are part of a religion. Around two-thirds identify with a religious group.
Slightly more than a third (37 percent) of spiritual-but-not-religious Americans say they are unaffiliated with any religion. A similar number, however, claim to be Protestants (35 percent). Fewer identify as Catholics (14 percent) or as members of another religion (11 percent).
Despite saying they are not religious, more than half (54 percent) of the spiritual-but-not-religious say religion is at least somewhat important to them.
Church attendance is one of the dividing factors between those who accept the “religious” label and those who don’t.
The more often people attend church, the more likely they are to say they are both spiritual and religious.
More than half (55 percent) of those who attend weekly or more accept both labels. However, that drops to 31 percent for those who attend monthly or yearly and only 13 percent for those who attend seldom or never.
It’s the opposite for those who say they are spiritual but not religious.
Only 17 percent attend weekly, while 32 percent attend monthly or yearly and half (49 percent) attend seldom or never.
- 3 Ways to Engage the Spiritual, But Not Religious Millennial
- Nones No More: Only Half of Those Raised Irreligious Stay That Way as Adults
- 4 Surprising Groups Not Showing Up on Sundays
- Who Are the Unchurched and How to Reach Them
Aaron is the senior writer at Lifeway Research.