The U.S. is a nation of religious drifters, with about half of adults restlessly switching faith affiliation at least once during their lives, a new survey has found.
And the reasons behind all the swapping depend greatly on whether one grows up kneeling at Roman Catholic Mass, praying in a Protestant pew or occupied with nonreligious pursuits, according to a report issued Monday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
While Catholics are more likely to leave the church because they stop believing its teachings, many Protestants are driven to trade one Protestant denomination or affiliation for another because of changed life circumstances, the survey found.
The ranks of those unaffiliated with any religion, meanwhile, are growing not so much because of a lack of religious belief but because of disenchantment with religious leaders and institutions.
The report estimates that between 47 percent and 59 percent of U.S. adults have changed affiliation at least once. Most described just gradually drifting away from their childhood faith.
The report, “Faith in Flux: Changes in Religious Affiliation in the U.S.,” sought to answer questions about widespread religion-changing identified in a 2007 Pew survey of 35,000 Americans.
The new report, based on re-interviews with more than 2,800 people from the original survey, focuses on religious populations that showed a lot of movement: ex-Catholics, ex-Protestants, Protestants who’ve swapped denominational families within Protestantism and people raised unaffiliated who now belong to a faith.