Smith’s comments supported Newport’s findings. He explained that two-thirds of everyone who was raised Catholic is still Catholic, a higher percentage than those who were raised “nones” and are still “nones.”
Furthermore, while the group distancing itself from religious identity is large and continues to grow as younger generations come of age and older ones disappear, Smith explained that this trend is not “necessarily an indicator of secularization.”
The “religious ‘nones’ are not uniformly secular, and to equate them with nonbelievers would be a real mistake,” he stated.
He noted that more than 70 percent of the “nones” do not identify as atheists or agnostic, and that four in 10 “nones” reported praying at least once a month.
However, these individuals do not necessarily identify as a group searching for particular religious practices, Smith warned, cautioning pastors against thinking that the “nones” are “just searching, just waiting, just looking for the religious organization or religious community that’s right for them.”
At the same time, he said, this “trend toward disaffiliation could have serious consequences for religious institutions and for the way that religion is practiced in the United States,” even if Americans as a whole maintain steady levels of religious practice and belief.