A new survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that Americans change their religious affiliation early and often, and the reasons they give for changing – or leaving religion altogether – differ widely depending on the origin and destination of the convert.
Key findings include:
- Most people who change their religion leave their childhood faith before age 24, and many of those who change religion do so more than once.
- Many people who have left a religion to become unaffiliated, the group that has grown the most from religious switching, say they did so in part because they stopped believing in the teachings of their childhood faith. Many also cite disillusionment with religious people and institutions as reasons for becoming unaffiliated.
- Many people who have left the Catholic Church say they did so because they stopped believing in Catholic teachings. This is true for half of Catholics who have become Protestant as well as two-thirds of Catholics who have become unaffiliated. Many fewer say they left because of the clergy sexual abuse scandal.
- In contrast with other groups, Americans who have switched from one Protestant denominational family (e.g., Baptist, Methodist) to another tend to do so because of changes in life circumstances, such as marriage or moving to a new community.
Read the full study here.