Study shows nearly 20% of Americans don't affiliate with a relig - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

Study shows nearly 20% of Americans don't affiliate with a religion

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A new study finds nearly 20 percent of Americans do not identify with any religion.  

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows that the group of people who selected no religious affiliation on the study rose five percent from the 2007 study.   

Protestant numbers dropped five percent from 2007 while the number of people who identify as Catholic has stayed about the same since 1972. 

Young adults account for the largest number of people who do not identify with any religion; about one third of 18 to 30 year olds do not identify with any religion.   

Josh Nankivel, the president of Siouxland Free thinkers, is an example of one Sioux Falls resident who doesn't identify with any specific religion.   

Nankivel grew up in Sunday School at a Lutheran church outside of Sioux Falls.  But like many people cited in the Pew study, Nankivel found himself asking a lot of questions.  

"There wasn't enough evidence for me to believe these things even thought I wanted to and tried to," Nankivel said.   

Today he calls himself and agnostic and an atheist.  Dr. Richard Swanson, a professor of religion and philosophy at Augustana College, said people identify as non-religious for many reasons.   

Like Nankivel, some no longer believe in the ideals of their former religion.  Dr. Swanson said others feel forced out after problems occur in the church.   

Another reason is simply being a young adult.   

"In my twenties I actually went out and tried a lot of different religious.  I went to the Pentecostals and the Catholics and everything like that," Nankivel said. 

Some religious leaders said they weren't surprised that so many young adults are not affiliated with any religion.   

l think a lot of times, especially in that age bracket, people are searching, they're trying to figure out where they fit and how life is going to unfold for them ," Catholic Diocese Communications Director Jerry Klein said.  

Dr. Swanson said college students and young adults have been questioning their faith for years.

 "Some people in that group exit the church and re-enter. It happened in my generation, it happened in the generation before, it happened in every generation. Will that happen in this generation, we don't ever know," Dr. Swanson said.  

Jerry Klein said the Catholic Diocese sees it as an opportunity to reach out to younger generations.  Klein said they are using the web and social media to help connect with younger generations.

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