Fewer Than Half of Americans May Be Christian By 2070, According to New Projections

By Bob Smietana
pew projections
Christianity won’t disappear over the next 50 years in the US. But it may continue to decline, according to new Pew Research projections. (Photo by Eliecer Gallegos/Unsplash/Creative Commons)

America has long prided itself on being a country where people can choose whatever religion they like. The majority has long chosen Christianity.

By 2070, that may no longer be the case. If current trends continue, Christians could make up less than half of the population — and as little as a third— in 50 years. Meanwhile, the so-called nones — or the religiously unaffiliated — could make up close to half of the population. And the percentage of Americans who identify as Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and other non-Christian faiths could double.

Those are among the major findings of a new report from the Pew Research Center regarding America’s religious future—a future where Christianity, though diminished, persists while non-Christian faiths grow amid rising secularization.

Researchers projected possible religious futures for the United States using a number of factors, including birth rates, migration patterns, demographics like age and sex, and the current religious landscape. They also looked at how religion is passed from one generation to another and how often people switch religions — in particular, Christians who become nones, a number that has been increasing in recent years.

They projected four different scenarios, based on differing rates of religious switching — from a continued increase to no switching at all. 

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“While the scenarios in this report vary in the extent of religious disaffiliation they project, they all show Christians continuing to shrink as a share of the U.S. population, even under the counterfactual assumption that all switching came to a complete stop in 2020,” according to the report. “At the same time, the unaffiliated are projected to grow under all four scenarios.”

pew research projections
“U.S. Christians projected to fall below 50% of population if recent trends continue” (Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center)

Currently, about a third (31%) of Christians become disaffiliated before they turn 30, according to Pew Research. Twenty-one percent of nones become Christian as young adults. Should those switching rates remain stable, Christians would make up 46% of the population by 2070, while nones would make up 41% percent of the population. 

If disaffiliation rates continue to grow but are capped at 50% of Christians leaving the faith, then 39% percent of Americans are projected to be Christian by 2070, with 48% percent of Americans identifying as nones. With no limit placed on the percentage of people leaving Christianity and with continued growth in disaffiliation, Christians would be 35% of the population, with nones making up a majority of Americans (52%).

If all switching came to a halt, then Christians would remain a slight majority (54%), while nones would make up 34% of Americans, according to the projection model.

Non-Christian faiths would rise to 12–13% of the population, largely due to migration, in each scenario. Migration does affect the percentage of Christians, as most immigrants coming to the U.S. are Christians, said Conrad Hackett, associate director of research and senior demographer at Pew Research Center.

“Still the greatest amount of change in the U.S., we think currently and in the future, will come from switching,” he said.

Researchers stressed the report contained projections based on data and mathematical models, not predictions of the future.

“Though some scenarios are more plausible than others, the future is uncertain, and it is possible for the religious composition of the United States in 2070 to fall outside the ranges projected,” they wrote.

One reason for the decline among Christians and the growth among the nones in the models is age. While Christians have more children than nones, they are also older. Pew estimates the average Christian in the United States is 43, which is 10 years older than the average none.

“The unaffiliated are having and raising unaffiliated children while Christians are more likely to be near the end of their lives than others,” Stephanie Kramer, a senior researcher at Pew, stated in an email to media.

Using mathematical models, Pew has also projected the future of religion around the world. Those models were adapted for different regions, said Hackett. Muslims, for example, he said, tend to have the youngest population and the highest fertility rates, driving the growth of that faith. However, he said, in the Gulf states, migration has brought many Christians from other countries to the region as temporary workers.

pew research projections
“Young Americans are now less likely to become or remain Christian…and more likely to become of remain unaffiliated” (Graphic courtesy of Pew Research Center)

The current report takes advantage of the amount of data collected about the U.S. religious landscape. Researchers also looked at intergenerational transmission for the first time, said Kramer.

“The variables we use to study that were: What is the mother’s religion? And what is the teen’s religion,” she said. “If that was a match, we consider the mother’s religion transmitted.”

Researchers also looked at a relatively new trend of disaffiliation among older Americans. Sociologists have long focused on younger people, who are most likely to switch religions. But in the U.S. and other countries, older people are also starting to switch at growing rates.

“It’s not as large scale, but it’s still significant,” said Hackett. “And it’s contributing to the religious change that we have experienced and that we expect to experience in the years ahead.”

Hackett said that the projections do not show the end of Christianity in the U.S. or of religion in general, which he expects to remain robust. And most nones, while claiming no religion, do not identify as atheists.

Kramer said the U.S. appears to be going through a pattern of secularization that has happened in other countries, though “we may be a bit behind,” she added.

Other factors outside the model — such as changing immigration patterns and religious innovation — could lead to a revival of Christianity in the United States, according to the report. But none of the models shows a reversal of the decline of Christian affiliation, which dropped from 78% in 2007 to 63% in 2020, according to Pew research.

In the report, researchers note that “there is no data on which to model a sudden or gradual revival of Christianity (or of religion in general) in the U.S.”

“That does not mean a religious revival is impossible,” they wrote. “It means there is no demographic basis on which to project one.”

Bob SmietanaBob Smietana is a national reporter for Religion News Service.

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14 thoughts on “Fewer Than Half of Americans May Be Christian By 2070, According to New Projections”

  1. Neil Cameron (One Salient Oversight)

    If we take “Christian” in the narrow sense, that is, a person who has been born again by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, you’re definitely looking at much less than 50% already at the moment.

    All that will happen is that people who are “culturally Christian” or “nominally Christian” will bequeath a generation of people who won’t have any religion at all. This has been happening here in Australia for at least 50 years now.

  2. Christiana Daniels

    Thanks for the good news.
    I’ll add that to the list of other worldly good news like rising inflation, rising taxes to pay for inflation caused by Biden’s other good news projects like us paying off loans for tuition costs for kids not my own, paying for the needs of illegal immigrants who need room, board, medical care, cell phones, education, transportation etc..etc.., paying costs for 87,000 more IRS agents and so much more.

    On the other hand, the only Good News that matters above al else is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    1. Christina,

      Have you ever considered that what people are rejecting is Republican Jesus? And do you think the problem might also be the loud politicians who don’t resemble the Jesus Christ of the Bible?

      Weeks ago we had a mean spirited Colorado Congresswoman who has the support of the Who’s Who of the Religious Right stand up in front of thousands at Charis Bible College and claim that if Jesus had an AR 15 assault rifle he wouldn’t have had to die. Not one of those leaders denounced her.

      Last weekend near my home, there was a “Save America” rally where “patriotic Christians” were handing out this book:

      President Donald J. Trump, The Son of Man – The Christ
      by Helgard Müller

      During the presidency of President Donald Trump, it became evident to me that the prophecies about the Son of Man, as predicted by Jesus in the Bible were, to a significant extent, fulfilled at the hands of Mr Trump… Donald John Trump’s full name literally means: “The Ruler of the World, graced by Yahweh (the LORD) and a descendant of a Drummer.” Upon reading this book, the reader will be captivated when they realize how President Donald John Trump fulfilled most of the prophecies as the Son of Man. It speaks about End Time Prophecies and Biblical revelations regarding “President Donald J. Trump, the Son of Man. The Christ.”

      https://www.amazon.com/President-Donald-Trump-Son-Man/dp/1977249248/ref=sr_1_1?qid=1663159946&refinements=p_27%3AHelgard+M%C3%BCller&s=books&sr=1-1

      Do you think maybe American youth might have a hard time separating true Christianity from Christian National one or the true humble servant Jesus from fake Dominion Jesus?

  3. While part of me is concerned regarding the statistical trends, I think it’s also important that certain things must be considered and not forgotten. First, as followers of Jesus Christ, in communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ to others, it’s important that we communicate to others who Jesus is, what He did on the cross, why He did it, and thus how to be saved. Second, it’s also important to remember that it’s the work of the Holy Spirit to convict others of their sin, thus the need for Jesus Christ to save them from their sins (John 16:7-11). Third, even in a post-modern culture in the United States, the Holy Spirit can still do His convicting work. I think if these three things are done and kept in mind, then the statistical trends shouldn’t be a concern.

  4. The way evangelical leaders and evangelicals in general have equated being a christian with being a Trump supporter has caused me to want nothing to do with them or their “churches”. I suspect I’m not the only one. When they say lies such as the 2020 election was stolen and other conspiracy theories are truth and then turn around say say the gospel is truth, it tends to make one think it’s all a bunch of bs.

    1. Interesting perspective, Tim.

      I take it further and get weary of people pushing anyone in the political system, especially when both parties are so obviously under the control (to some degree or another) of those wealthy/elite/generational bloodlines that have been very open about their luciferian/satanistic ideology (aka – new world order) for centuries. They delight in human bondage and sacrifice in order to satisfy their god.

      Btw – how do you know the elections weren’t stolen? Care to share how much of your time and effort has been spent investigating this issue?

      If you have ever been around people in government you should know that the rule of thumb is as long as their lips are moving they are lying until sufficient evidence proves otherwise.

      With the amount of pastors/elders that pushed the covid agenda (and are not publicly repenting in light of the insurmountable evidence) it’s no wonder waves of people are losing interest in modern day Christianity.

    2. If one single man has the power to dissuade you from Christianity or an entire body of believers, he must be indeed very powerful. You are right to fear him.

  5. Hmmm! The early church started in countries where they were virtually zero believers and through the power of the Holy Spirit turned the world upside down. This should convict us a believers that we are missing something in our lives!

  6. Regarding the excerpt from the book by Helgard Muller…. it’s hard to imagine a person who is less like Jesus Christ than Donald Trump.

  7. It seems a lot of people consider politics to be an aspect of Christianity. Whereas your political position may be influenced by your Faith the 2 are not congruent. I would agree with Mr. Cameron from Australia in that many check the Christian box when they fill out some form their actual beliefs can and often are fall quite afar from what the Bible teaches. According to a study released by the Barna group last fall (2021) only about 6% of Americans hold with Biblical beliefs. Some of those would include the Divinity of Christ, the existence of the Holy Spirit, the Trinity and the reliability of Scripture as God Breathed and factual.
    Considering the above and the current increase of Christian and Jewish persecution and the possibility of Christ’s return I would say that true Christianity may not even last that long but morph into some amalgam which is what Revelations reveals. Consider the current position of the UMC, of which I am nominally a part. They are about to split because many accept the un-Biblical, unscientific infinite sex fallacy as well as other Satanic doctrine yet they would ALL call themselves Christian.

  8. Christ himself has said the road is narrow and few find it. In other words, true believers have always been a small group.

    1. Cynthia N,

      What happens to you when you quote directly from Jesus’s ministry when discussing a sermon or in a Bible study? I ask because in my experience these “Christian” groups no longer teach out of MMLJ (or cherry pick a brief quote to support their pov) and fully bringing Jesus into the conversation is usually met with a hostel response.

  9. Christianity is not ring fenced to tiny America and it’s Trump/Biden Democrat/Republican evangelical mega church political views.

    There is a big world out there where Christian’s are persecuted for having a bible app on their phone, rather than being offended by political small world American politics.

  10. Meredith Nienhuis

    Most Trump supporters are likely Christians or of good moral character (guilty as charged ;-), And voted for him because he promised to restore the American economy and provide employment for everyone – and he did!

    However, around the time of the 2016 election Trump was Falsely charged of colluding with Russia. It was a Lie born of the “loyal opposition” and has spawned Trump haters to this day.

    Although I was offended at the time, President Obama once opined that America was no longer a Christian nation. His words are truer these days. How long have many counted themselves “Christian” simply by church membership or by their good works. Surely America is anti-Christian for its promotion of transgenderism and gay marriage and sacrificing her sons and daughters to the Abortion Beast. A nearby school has a class this month on transgenderism, to second graders! The eyes of the world are on the “greatest nation on earth”, nations under Islam aptly say we are the great Satan.

    One is Christian only by believing in Jesus and His Work on the Cross, that by His blood we are saved and washed “whiter than snow.” America will not be “saved” by the apparent red wave in November, the Answer is Jesus! One must escape the “coming wrath” of God and the Lamb while the Lord tarries.

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