Americans are recognized as one of the most religious people in the world. That's changing, and one result may be increased political polarization.
One in five adults say they are not part of a traditional religious denomination. That's 46 million Americans, a 20 percent increase since 2007. The trend is more dramatic among younger respondents.
The Pew Research Center said that for the first time fewer than half of Americans -- 48 percent -- call themselves Protestant. Catholics make up about a quarter of the population. Twenty-five percent said they seldom or never attend religious services.
Is this the secularization of society some religious leaders complain about? A form of new-age hedonism?
Perhaps not. Most of the "nones" claim to be spiritual in some way and 68 percent believe in God. More than half feel a deep connection to nature and the Earth. Twenty-one percent say they pray.
But the overwhelming majority -- 88 percent -- are not looking for an organized religion. Religious organizations, they say, are too concerned about money, power and rules and are too involved in politics.
Most of the "nones" identify themselves as moderate (38 percent) or liberal (38 percent) and lean toward the Democratic Party (63 percent). The Republican Party, in contrast, is becoming the party of white Protestants. White evangelical and mainline Protestants accounted for 57 percent of respondents who said they were Republican or leaned Republican.
Moderation has been the first victim of the growing connection between religious and political ties. The result has been more elected officials who represent what used to be the extremes of their parties.
The Pew report suggests that these religious trends are likely to become more pronounced in the future. That is not healthy news for democracy.