Data Tracker

Data Tracker: Fewer Californians report belief in God; more say they feel 'spiritual peace,' 'wonder'

By Phillip Reese - preese@sacbee.com

Members of the Shiloh Baptist Church worship, Sunday August 23, 2015.
Members of the Shiloh Baptist Church worship, Sunday August 23, 2015. sacbeephotos@sacbee.com

Californians are becoming more spiritual - they just aren't too sure that God exists, according to a large new study from the Pew Research Center.

About 54 percent of California adults say they are "absolutely certain" that God is real, down from 62 percent in 2007, according to the study, which was conducted in 2014 and released this week.

Only four New England states - Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont - had a lower percentage of adults totally certain of God's existence.

The number of Californians expressing confidence that God does not exist grew from 7 percent to 12 percent. (The rest of California expressed varying degrees of certainty in God's existence, or said they had no clue either way.)

The proportion of Californians who said they never or seldom prayed also grew between 2007 and 2014, as did the proportion of Californians who said that holy scripture is "not the word of God."

Despite those findings, about 57 percent of Californians said they experience "spiritual peace and wellbeing" at least once a week, up from 51 percent in 2007. And 47 percent of Californians said they "feel wonder about the universe" at least once a week, up from 42 percent in 2007.

The Pew Survey showed that, nationwide, young adults were behind much of the trend away from organized religion. The first part of the survey, released earlier this year, showed a sharp increase in California and nationwide of religious "nones" - those not affiliated with any religion.

This chart summarizes several key finding for California from the Pew data.

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