For years now, the fastest-growing religious demographic in America has been the “Nones” — those who don’t claim any religious affiliation at all. It’s been a source of consternation for religious leaders trying to woo Millennials and Gen Zers into houses of worship — institutions younger Americans have said they distrust. But new data suggests that this so-called “decline in religion” might — just might — be slowing down. It might even be reversing course.
Paul A. Djupe and Ryan P. Burge did some data analysis over at their Religion In Public blog, and the findings are intriguing. Starting around 1994, the rate of who identified as “Nones” exploded in America, soaring from just 5 percent to, now, around 30 percent. There have been more Nones in every subsequent generation, with the rate rising slightly among the Greatest Silent and Boomer generations and seeing its greatest growth among Millennials.
But it looks like that trend has tapered off among Gen Z. It’s an admittedly small and young sample size, but it’s still a striking graphic.
This isn’t the only poll to suggest the rise of Nones may have hit something of a ceiling. The 2018 CCES made a similar finding, according to Burge and Djupe. As they write, “in 2018, 42.8% of Millennials were nones (combining atheists, agnostics, and those ‘nothing in particular’), while 42.9% of Gen Zers were nones.”
Gen Z is still young — the oldest are just starting to graduate from college — so things could still shift as they age away from their parents. It’s possible that what we’re looking at is just a hiccup — not part of a larger trend. And that makes it extra difficult to figure out why the growth of Nones might be leveling off. But it’s definitely something worth following closely.