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Losing our religion: Religious recession on the rise

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MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) -

It's a growing trend that's sweeping the nation. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, one in five adults no longer affiliates with a religion. That's not to say the group does not believe in God. Of the 46-million unaffiliated adults in America, two thirds say they believe in God, with more than one third classifying themselves as spiritual, but not religious.

The study found that most of the unaffiliated are white, unmarried men under the age of 30. About three in 10 of the religiously unaffiliated have at least a college degree.

Nearly every religion has seen a drop in affiliation in the last 10 years, but the Protestant religion has seen the sharpest decrease.

Religious leaders are now left to figure out why their congregations are showing up in smaller and smaller numbers. 

"We need to listen. It's a shame we can't do exit interviews because when people leave, they don't tell us they're leaving," said Pastor Jason Bybee, with the Mayfair Church of Christ.

Rabbi Elizabeth Bahar with the B'nai Shalom Synagogue echoed the same sentiments.

"If they do come, they're coming less frequently and they're not supporting financially, so how can we sustain ourselves into the future?" she asked.

This study delves into some theories about what may be at the root of the cause of the rise of the unaffiliated. One theory is political backlash. Several scholars say that young adults have turned away from organized religion because they believe it is one and the same with conservative politics. Since the largest portion of the unaffiliated is under the age of 30, this falls in line with that theory.

The religiously unaffiliated have become one of the most reliably Democratic constituencies in recent elections. The theory also falls in line with a political find. In the 2008 election, 75 percent of the unaffiliated voted for President Barack Obama.

Seven out of 10 of the unaffiliated believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases, and nearly 75 percent believe same-sex marriage should be legal. One could conclude that the emergence of the legalization of same-sex marriage in many states is a product of the increase in religious affiliation.

This movement is being described by religious leaders as a "religious recession." They believe just like the economic recession, religion will bounce back too. They point out that many religions have been around for thousands of years, and throughout the centuries have had to go through changes.

The difficult task for leaders now is evolving with these changes and convincing people that not only is a relationship with God important, but a community of leaders as well.

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