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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Doubling nothing

Although the percentage of Americans who claim no religious preference has doubled in less than 10 years, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, think it has less to do with attitudes toward religion than marriage and politics.

In 1991, 7 percent of Americans claimed no religious preference. By 1998, that figure was 14 percent.

The study found the percentage of Americans raised outside a specific religion increased 4 percent from the 1970s to the 1990s, but they claim this is just one factor in the increase of people indicating no religious preference.

"Prior to the 1990s, marriage contributed to the tendency of people who were raised without religion to take up a religion in adulthood, as the religion they adopted was nearly always the religion of their spouse," the authors state. The 90s brought a trend toward later marriages, a mating population including more people without religious preferences and diminished pressure on people to adopt their spouse's faith.

The study also found that people with weak attachments to religion and moderate to liberal political views were likely to renounce their attachment to organized religion as they found themselves at odds with the politics of the Christian Right.

For the full study, see www.asanet.org/pubs/previous.html.


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