Study: Americans Becoming Less Christian, More Secular

Christianity in U.S. down from 78 to 71%
Atheist or agnostic up from 16 to 23%

NEW YORK (AP) — The number of Americans who don't affiliate with a particular religion has grown to 56 million in recent years, making the faith group researchers call "nones" the second-largest in total numbers behind evangelicals, according to a Pew Research Center study released Tuesday.

Christianity is still the dominant faith by far in the U.S.; 7 in 10 Americans identify with the tradition. However, the ranks of Christians have declined as the segment of people with no religion has grown, the survey says.

Between 2007 and 2014, when Pew conducted two major surveys of U.S. religious life, Americans who described themselves as atheist, agnostic or of no particular faith grew from 16 percent to nearly 23 percent. At the same time, Christians dropped from about 78 percent to just under 71 percent of the population. Protestants now comprise 46.5 percent of what was once a predominantly Protestant country.

Pew researchers said Christian losses were driven by decreases among mainline, or liberal, Protestants and Roman Catholics.

Mainline Protestants declined by about 5 million to 36 million between 2007 and 2014. Pew found 13 percent of U.S. adults are former Catholics. The study put the number of Catholic adults at 51 million, or just over one-fifth of the U.S. population, a drop of about 3 percent over seven years. In 2007, Catholics made up about one-quarter of Americans