Data Tracker

Losing our religion: Report shows spike in Californians shunning church

By Phillip Reese - preese@sacbee.com

Angels played by Lucy, Olivia and Sarafina during Christmas Eve services and a Christmas pageant at Trinity Cathedral in Sacramento, Calif., in December 2013.
Angels played by Lucy, Olivia and Sarafina during Christmas Eve services and a Christmas pageant at Trinity Cathedral in Sacramento, Calif., in December 2013. mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

More than one in four California adults say they have no religion, a sharp rise from just a few years ago, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.

The state is at the vanguard of a national trend: The proportion of Americans unaffiliated with any faith rose from 16 percent in 2007 to 23 percent in 2014.

Young adults are driving the numbers. For instance, just 56 percent of adults nationwide between the ages of 18 and 34 identify as Christian, compared to almost 80 percent of Baby Boomers.

In California, about 27 percent of adults don't subscribe to a particular faith, up from 21 percent in 2007.

Catholics remain the largest religious family in California, but the proportion of Californians identifying as Catholic is declining. "Mainline" Christian denominations are shrinking fast in the state. Fewer Californians identify as United Methodists, Presbyterians (PCUSA), Lutherans (ELCA) or other mainline denominations.

"Evangelical" churches grew slightly between 2007 and 2014 in California.

The total share of California adults identifying as Christians fell by 8 percentage points between 2007 and 2014. Slightly less than two-thirds of the state's adults identify as Christians.

These charts show changes in Californians identifying with a particular faith tradition between 2007 and 2014, and the percentage of residents in each state nationwide that say they have no religion.

 

Notes: "Unaffiliated" or "no religion" in the charts above apply to those who identify as agnostic (5% of Californians), atheist (4%) or "nothing in particular" (18%). About two-thirds of those who identify as "nothing in particular" say religion is not important to them; one-third say it is important to them. Several people have written in to say that they go to a non-denominational church, and asked where they fit in. Non-denominational churches are generally considered evangelical by the Pew Research Center.

Note: Top chart corrected on 5/15 to note increase in Calfornians identifying as members of religions outside Christianity.

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