Skip to content

Silverstein Weighs In on America’s Religious Shift in New York Times Article

July 5, 2023

The New York Times


Merril Silverstein

Many Americans’ religious identities now fall in the category known as “nones” when, just a half-century ago, nearly all Americans had some kind of affiliation, largely due to a combination of Christianity’s association with far-right politics and the fact that being unreligious has become more socially acceptable over time.

One of the main qualifications people seem to be looking for in their new spiritual communities is something that is less exclusionary than the denominations they were raised in. But it’s precisely the more “dogmatic” denominations and religious sects that are better able to keep adherents, according to Merril Silverstein, professor of sociology. He has studied five generations of the same Southern California families since 1971. 

Mormons and evangelical Christians were able to recreate themselves more strongly across generations in their sample than Jews, mainline Protestants and Catholics, Silverstein says. Meanwhile, “the secular, the anti-religious or nonreligious people are producing nonreligious, anti-religious children,” Silverstein says. It’s creating a new and more polarized religious landscape in our country than what we’ve had before.

Read more in the New York Times article, "The Largest and Fastest Religious Shift in America Is Well Underway."

Communications and Media Relations Office
200 Eggers Hall