National Baptist Convention

While a Pew Research survey found more than six-in-10 Black Protestants (63%) say they attend religious services at least once or twice a month, the number of African Amricans who consider themselves religiously unaffiliated is rapidly increasing.



The number of religiously unaffiliated Americans, commonly known as the “nones,” now constitutes 29% of American adults, according to a Pew Research survey released Dec. 14, 202. 

That’s up from 23% in 2016 and 19% in 2011.

Christians continue to make up most of the U.S. populace, but that share of the adult population is 12 points lower in 2021 than in 2011. 

“If the unaffiliated were a religion, they’d be the largest religious group in the United States,” Elizabeth Drescher, an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University who wrote a book about “nones” spiritual lives, said.

About 60% of “nones” say religion was at least “somewhat important” to their families when they were growing up, according to an Associated Press-NORC poll.

It found 30% of “nones” meditate and 26% pray privately at least a few times a month, while smaller numbers consult periodically with a religious or spiritual leader.

Shianda Simmons, a 36-year-old African American Lakeland, Florida resident, said she began identifying as an atheist in 2013. She grew up as a Baptist and attended church regularly. She says she left mainly because of the church’s unequal treatment of women.

“There are certain people I can’t tell that I am atheist,” Simmons said in an AP story on Pew’s findings. “It has made me draw away from my family.”

The owner of a beauty store, Simmons said she keeps her atheism “under wraps” from clients.

Mandisa Thomas also identifies herself as a Black atheist. In her childhood in Atlanta, she sang in a church choir but was not raised Christian.

“Within the Black community, we face ostracism,” Thomas, who founded Black Nonbelievers in 2011, said. “There is this idea that somehow you are rejecting your Blackness when you reject religion, that atheism is something that white people do.”

According to Pew, self-identified Christians of all varieties (including Protestants, Catholics, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Orthodox Christians) make up 63% of the adult population.

Christians now outnumber religious “nones” by a little more than a two-to-one ratio. In 2007, when the Center began asking its current question about religious identity, Christians outnumbered “nones” by almost five-to-one (78% vs. 16%).

The Pew study also found more than six-in-10 Black Protestants (63%) say they attend religious services at least once or twice a month, with monthly attendance peaking at 70% among Black evangelical Protestants.

Fully 56% of white evangelical Protestants also say they attend religious services at least once a month. Regular religious attendance is much less common among U.S. Catholics (35% of whom say they attend monthly or more often) and white Protestants who are not born-again/evangelical (28%).

Frequent religious attendance is low among religious “nones,” with 97% saying they attend a few times a year or less.

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