Bloggers like PatriotFreedom may insist that “America is a Religious Nation,” but the bare facts suggest otherwise. According to data collected by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, from 2000 to 2010 the number of congregants affiliated with American churches, mosques, synagogues and temples declined by 2,870,973. During the same period, the size of the American population rose by 27,323,699 people. In 2010, a majority of Americans were not affiliated with any religious congregation.
There are many other trends visible in the data; I’ll just mention a few. While the number of congregants declined by more than 2.8 million, the number of congregations rose by 7,786. This means that in 2010, American organized religious worship tended to take place in smaller groups of people.
From 2000 to 2010, the religious bodies that lost the most members were the largest, stodgiest organizations with the most old-fashioned religious traditions in America:
The Wesleyan Church: down 131,408 members — a decline of 34.4%
The American Baptist Association: down 77,599 members — a decline of 27.6%
The United Church of Christ: down 414,622 — a decline of 24.4%
The Presbyterian Church: down 689,586 — a decline of 22.0%
The United Methodist Church: down 402,408 — a decline of 3.9%
The Catholic Church: down 3,106,055 — a decline of 5.0%
Not all religious bodies diminished. Some grew, including the Unitarian Universalist Association, up 28,908 — an increase of 15.8%. But the overall trend in American society has been for people to disassociate themselves from religious institutions. Non-affiliation is the strongest religious freedom of all.